Northwestern vs. Texas-Pan American basketball Preview

This is a pretty packed and crazy week - amidst all the awesome football nonsense, there's also TWO BASKETBALL GAMES. INCLUDING THE HOME OPENER. Northwestern athletics was a little bit over the top when they called this "the best week ever" - maybe they were just big fans of that awful show on VH1 - but they were on the right track.

First things first: What in the hell is Texas-Pan American, and why is it so damn Pan American?: I'm not really sure why it's so damn Pan American. It is i no way affiliated with Pan-American Airlines or the Pan-American Games, or the nation of Panama. Its a school in Edinburg, Texas, which is pretty damn much the closest to Mexico you can possibly be in the United States - think of San Antonio, then go about 225 miles south until you reach the 85-to-90 percent Hispanic Rio Grande Valley, and you'll be near Edinburg. So, hell if I know. Point is, they founded a college there, called it "Pan American College", then later decided to call it "University of Texas-Pan American" when it got taken over by the University of Texas. It makes no sense.

And while we're at it, what the hell is a Bronc?: A bronco is an untrained wild horse. You know, like the Denver Broncos? Or the Ford Bronco? Alright, take that, and just eliminate the o. That's it. It's the same thing. No word on why UT-PA chose to go with the shortened version that looks like you're leaving out a letter every time and not the one that everybody won't think is a typo. The sports teams at Rider University also go by the Broncs. They are also silly.

Are they good? To fully understand this, you have to know about the UT-PA basketball program, which I didn't until last year when I had to cover their game at NU. Basically, the old coach - as in the one who was fired last March - did a variety of overwhelmingly horrendous things that resulted in him getting fired and virtually every player on his roster not being allowed to play anymore. I'm not quite sure what it was, but the new coach, Ryan Marks had to find an entire new team. All the players currently listed as "seniors" have not played their entire careers at UT-PA, most of the juniors have not either. It's a hodgepodge of transfers and juco players. These problems haven't stopped, because of the 13 players on last year's UT-PA roster, eight are mysteriously no longer in the program, even though not all of them were seniors, and I can't find any explanation of this anywhere. It's pretty impressive to me that the guy even has an entire roster. So, long story short, Nah, son! The Broncs suck! They're 1-2, thanks to a win over Eastern Kentucky at some weird-ass tournament that Loyola-Chicago threw last week, but, that win was over Eastern Kentucky. There's not many categories in which the Broncs don't suck. Offensively, they're just awful - they shoot 32.9 percent from the field, with their season high thus far coming in the EKU win where they shot a blistering 39 percent from the floor - and defensively, the only reason their stats look alright is because they have a relatively slow pace. The glaring thing you notice about the Broncs is that they're not very tall: they start four guards (who range from 6-foot-nothing to 6-foot-3) and a forward (Matt Mierzycki, who is listed as 6-foot-6 and is the third-tallest player on the Broncs.) They only have one player listed as a center, 6-foot-9 freshman Enique Mason, who has not played yet for the team. I could have also written "they went 6-27 last year and little has changed" but this was more fun.

Who they got?: Nobody of note. In three games, the Broncs have had four players venture into double digits, so nobody's an offensive standout. Sophomore guard Aaron Urbanus managed a 21-point game against Eastern Kentucky when he shot 3-for-5 from downtown. I bring this up because it is the only shooting performance from the 3-point arc above 50 percent the Broncs have had in three games. Nobody has gone 1-for-1. Nobody has gone 2-for-2. Nobody has even gone 1-for-2. Just a lot of chucking - the team is shooting 28.6 percent from beyond the arc as a whole. The team's leading scorer last year was Jared Maree with 9.9 points per game, who, in three games, has managed to have 1-for-9 and 0-for-8 shooting nights, so, he's a volume scorer. Second-leading scorer from last year Luis Valera - pictured swatting Luka Mirkovic's stuff up there - was a junior last year, but is one of the people who has mysteriously vanished from the basketball earth, including UT-PA's roster.

Us and them: Northwestern is 5-0 all time against Pan American, which makes me wonder why NU plays this damn school so much. Last year's game at Welsh-Ryan was a close call, as a dismal first-half shooting performance saw NU down 23-21 to the Broncs at the half, However, NU pulled away, I guess, for a remarkably close 53-44 victory. The closeness of the game was not due to UT-PA's dominant offensive play: they shot 16-57 from the field, yeah, 16-57, got outrebounded 40-26, and committed 13 turnovers to 11 assists. This will be NU's second trip to Edinburg, which makes no sense.

Difference between the amount of times we've has been to the NCAA tournament and the amount of times they have: 0! YESSSSS. The Broncs have never been to the NCAA tournament. They won the 1961 NAIA Championship, and received an invite to the 1981 NIT, but, no trips to the big time. UTPA has actually produced six NBA players,including Luke Jackson - no, not that Luke Jackson, the one who was the fourth overall pick in 1964, of cousre - but none since 1986.

Where they be: The UTPA Fieldhouse is a remarkably non-descript place that seats 4,000 people and has nothing else interesting to say about it.

Good names: The clear winner is senior point guard Perry Petty. Perry's a senior, but is playing his first season with the Broncs - he started out at juco and was a relatively high-caliber recruit for Santa Clara. However, fed up with the "o" in the team name of the Santa Clara Broncos, he transferred after just one season to UT-PA, where he sat out last year due to transfer rules. Great name. Perry. Petty. Well done with the symmetry, parents.

Anything to look for?: A TV stream of the game would be nice. Also, a vision of the sadness on the faces of the radio announcers who had to travel to Edinburg, Texas to broadcast a Northwestern basketball game that they will easily win against a school with no basketball tradition that nobody will listen to on the radio because they didn't even get to broadcast it on WGN like they normally do.

Should NU win?: Easily. In fact, a 9-point victory like last year would be surprising. I'd like to see more Austin Nichols and Reggie Hearn than last time, too.

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