116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Sometimes, a picture really does tell a thousand words. Here's Sunday's New York Daily News:
But I'm a word guy, so here are some excerpts and links:
Let's start with the Daily News, and columnist Mike Lupica. I never thought I'd see a day when Lupica would mention the UNI Panthers, let alone any team from Iowa in any sport. But here's a portion of his Sunday column:
On Thursday, Farokhmanesh was supposed to be one of those one-shot wonders, the kind we always get in the first or second round of March Madness. Murray State had beaten Vanderbilt on this day and now Northern Iowa had a shot to beat Vegas. It wasn't a huge upset and really wasn't supposed to matter, because the winner of Northern Iowa-UNLV was going to get Kansas Saturday in Oklahoma City. Didn't matter to Northern Iowa. Farokhmanesh made a 3-pointer, and his team, out of Cedar Falls, Iowa, had made it to Saturday.
Ali Farokhmanesh was hot, even if only his own fans, and all those who had the Northern Iowa Panthers in their bracket, really noticed or cared. We get a lot of guys like this the first two days. We got a lot this year, as good and exciting a start as we have had to March Madness in a while.
But here is what Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa, out of the Missouri Valley Conference the way Larry Bird's Indiana State team came out of that conference a million years ago, weren't supposed to do: They weren't supposed to make it out of the first weekend. They weren't supposed to make it out of Oklahoma City and all the way to St. Louis. So nobody listened to Kansas coach Bill Self the other day when he said, "Northern Iowa can beat anybody in this tournament."
ESPN.com's Pat Forde is an unabashed Northern Iowa fan. He wrote about UNI two weeks ago, warning everyone this would be a dangerous NCAA tourney team.
Here is his piece after the Panthers' 69-67 shocker over Kansas Saturday in the NCAA's second round. A passage:
"We worked so hard for this all year, and to have a team that is not better than us come out and beat us, it's tough," said Kansas forward Marcus Morris.
Northern Iowa is free to dispute that assertion. On this day the Panthers were the better team, and on a day when Kansas missed 17 of 23 3-pointers, UNI definitely had the best shooter on the floor.
With that knockout 3 and two cold-blooded free throws to clinch the deal with five seconds left, Farokhmanesh dismissed the tourney favorite and sent title hopes soaring from Lexington, Ky., to Syracuse, N.Y., to Durham, N.C.
And, in this parity-permeated season, beyond just those locales. What the heck, why not Cedar Falls, Iowa?
Kelli Anderson of Sports Illustrated may have come to Oklahoma to write about Kansas, but she found a different story that was pretty good. You can read it here. Anderson wrote:
The Panthers' poise comes straight from their coach, Ben Jacobson, who maintains a zen-like calm that rubs off on his players. He rarely gets mad or yells at players for ill-considered shots, which is one reason Farokhmanesh only hesitated a moment before launching his lethal three with 35 seconds left. "Coach Jake probably should have screamed at us in the last minute; we turned the ball over so many times and in so many different ways, but that's just how Coach Jake is, he is so even-keeled on everything," said Farokhmanesh after the game. "He instills the confidence in us to take shots like that. Players don't want to worry about a coach yelling at them if they miss it."
When it was over, the Panthers didn't dog-pile after the game, as so many giant-killers do. There was hugging and jumping, and Eglseder popping his 53 jersey in front of the delirious UNI fans. But when the players returned to their locker room, they settled into their seats and composed their faces into pictures of serenity, to reflect Jacobson's usual countenance. "When he walked in and we were looking all calm, he got this look on his face, like, whaaat?" says junior forward Lucas O'Rear. "He went to give somebody a high-five, and we just lost it. We all went over and started laughing and jumping and hugging him."
Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star had a column Saturday morning warning Kansas people about UNI. It proved prophetic. Here is Whitlock's post-game piece.
Ali Farokhmanesh. We'll never properly pronounce his name, and we'll also never forget it. Farokhmanesh finished the Jayhawks with a bomb that silenced a partisan Kansas crowd at the Ford Center and ruined a remarkable season.
When it was over: Marcus Morris had to be helped from the court; Sherron Collins analogized the loss to the death of his first child in 2006; all of the Jayhawks filled locker-room towels with tears; and coach Bill Self admitted it was the toughest loss of a career defined by a great high and several tragic lows.
Northern Iowa 69, Kansas 67.
You can't compare this Kansas NCAA Tournament collapse to Bucknell in 2005 or Bradley in 2006. Those Kansas teams were very good, favorites to advance and led by Roy Williams holdovers.
But this Kansas team was great - three games better than any team in the Big 12, ranked No. 1 for most of the season, the Big Dance's prohibitive favorite and overall No. 1 seed and led by Self's all-time favorite Jayhawk, Collins.
Thirty-three victories, regular-season and postseason conference titles, the toast of college basketball from December to March, and a gutsy midmajor rocked the Jayhawks.
From the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (N.D.-Minn.), the old stomping grounds of Jacobson, is
this piece about the UNI coach that quotes one his two brothers, one of whom made the 26-hour round-trip by car from North Dakota to root on the Panthers. From the story:
The 39-year-old Jacobson, the 1989 valedictorian at Mayville-Portland High School and a standout point guard at the University of North Dakota, now is garnering attention for coaching openings at high major schools like Iowa and Oregon. Such a move could easily double his current salary of $290,000.
“He'll have some decisions to make,” Tim Jacobson said.
But the only decisions he's worried about now will be the on-the-court ones he will be making in this week's Sweet 16 game in St. Louis – the same place where his team won the Missouri Valley Conference championship two weeks ago.
For Doug Jacobson and his family, it means another trip to St. Louis. For now, they are savoring the memories of Oklahoma City – where they watched the team mass-hug Ben in the locker room before he could even begin his postgame speech.
“Basketball has been his joy since … forever,” Doug said. “To sit there and being able to watch what he loves doing and seeing those kids respond, it's just make you feel there is good stuff that can happen in this world.”