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Austin Phyfe mug

WAVERLY – For the first time in 11 years, the University of Northern Iowa men's basketball team was picked as the Missouri Valley Conference preseason favorite, the conference announced Thursday. 

The Panthers are the defending MVC regular-season champions. They were last picked as the preseason conference favorite in 2009-10. The Panthers went 15-3 that season to win the conference, won the MVC tournament and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 with wins over UNLV and No. 1 seed Kansas. 

UNI received 30 first-place votes. Loyola was picked to finish second and received 13 first-place votes. Bradley was picked third and received one first-place vote. 

Former Waverly-Shell Rock standout and UNI redshirt junior Austin Phyfe was a first team, preseason all-conference selection for the second straight season. He joins former Cedar Falls standout and UNI junior AJ Green in earning consecutive first team, preseason all-conference honors. 

Phyfe led the MVC in rebounding (8.2 rebounds per game), as well as field goal shooting (67.1%) last season. 

UNI hosts Missouri State on Dec. 30 at the McLeod Center to open the MVC portion of the regular season.