UNI Men, Women Picked For Third In MVC Basketball Races
With the start of the college basketball season just around the corner, expectations are fairly high for the men's and women's basketball teams at UNI.
Both squads are loaded with talent and have both been picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference race in the league's preseason poll. The men's roster will be bolstered by the return of Cedar Falls native AJ Green, who was tabbed as this year's MVC Player of the Year. Green missed most of last season with an injury.
Also returning for the Panthers is Austin Phyfe, who earned a spot on the MVC's second team.
UNI received received six first-place and 354 total points from a voting panel that included coaches, sports information directors and media. This year's squad returns nearly the entire roster from the 2020-21 season. Phyfe and Trae Berhow are among the league’s active scoring leaders, and Tywhon Pickford is the top active MVC player in rebounding.
The Panthers won four of their final five games overall last season. They beat Illinois State 65-60 in the opening round of Arch Madness in St. Louis before COVID-19 protocols forced the cancelation of UNI's MVC Tournament quarterfinal game against Drake, which was picked as this year's preseason favorite.
UNI has finished in the top half of the MVC standings 17 out of the past 18 years.
In the women's survey, UNI received 298 points and three first-place votes following a historic run to the semifinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) last season. This is the ninth consecutive year that Coach Tanya Warren's team has been selected to finish third or better in the MVC preseason poll. Senior guard Karli Rucker was also selected as a member of the preseason all-conference team.
The Panthers return all but one of their starters, along with 13 letter-winners, from a 2020-21 team that finished 17-13 overall. UNI's deep roster features several standout players: Rucker, a preseason all-conference selection and a three-time all-MVC honoree; freshman guard Emerson Green, an MVC all-freshman honoree; junior guard Kam Finley, a WNIT all-tournament honoree and Rockford Regional MVP; and freshman guard Maya McDermott, an MVC all-freshman honoree.
Warren is entering her 15th year guiding UNI. The Panthers have a 260-190 record under her leadership.
Missouri State was chosen to repeat as conference champions with 362 points and 35 first-place votes.