UNI-Wichita State game "biggest ever" at McLeod Center - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UNI-Wichita State game "biggest ever" at McLeod Center

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The eyes of the college basketball world will focus on Cedar Falls Saturday.

The 18th ranked UNI Panthers host the 12th ranked Wichita State Shockers in probably the biggest game the McLeod Center has ever seen.

The game's been sold out for 10 days - not even standing room only tickets are available.

Those around the program think it's the biggest game to ever be played in the nearly 9-year history of the McLeod Center and maybe the biggest regular season conference game in school history.

Gary Rima is the longtime radio play-by-play voice of the UNI Panthers.

Panther basketball was the only subject on his Friday afternoon radio show on KXEL.

Interest is high.

"It's off the charts. As far as a regular season game, I've never seen the excitement level where it's at right now. The game's sold out. It's the hottest ticket in town," said Rima.

Just off campus at University Book and Supply, the hottest Panther shirt features President Obama's quote about Panther basketball during his visit to Cedar Falls this month.

Fans are asked to wear purple at Saturday's game - so the country might see fans wearing the shirt on national TV.

"I don't know whether President Obama intentionally wanted to help us out but we do appreciate what he said while he was here in Cedar Falls and we thought we'd take advantage of it and throw it on a shirt. It's been selling well. We just got it yesterday. We're excited to promote that concept to never count the Panthers out in March," said Doug Johnson, Vice President of University Book and Supply.

But first, let's talk January.

As the panthers practiced Friday afternoon for the big game, school officials expect people around the country to come in for the game with many more watching on TV.

They say it's the perfect opportunity to expose UNI to prospective students and new fans.

"It just gives people a reason to say, 'What is UNI?' then say I want to learn about it because how do they do what they do in basketball and is that a place I want to continue my studies so it has an institutional impact and I really believe the healthier the institution is the healthier the Cedar Valley as a region will be," said Troy Dannen, UNI Athletics Director.

Dannen says there are logistical challenges - mainly where to put the media and that parking lots will be full - but says that's a challenge every school would like to have.

Tip-off is at 3 p.m.

It will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Saturday will be the first time UNI has played in a game that features two AP top 25 ranked teams.

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