What makes the concept of the tournament great is that any team is capable of getting the hot hand and winning the whole darn thing once it starts. What makes it madness is that any team is capable of getting the hot hand and winning the whole darn thing once it starts. The ‘March’ part is obvious.
No better example of that could have happened other than the game against Kansas and Northern Iowa Saturday. Kansas was picked by many to be the eventual champion; as a #1 seed that tends to come with the territory. Northern Iowa was listed as ‘No Iowa’ on the scoreboard during their first round matchup with UNLV. Prophetic?
Fans lucky enough to watch the matchup between the Panthers of Northern Iowa and the Jayhawks of Kansas were treated to a special game Saturday. Kansas just did not seem to have it, behind for much of the game. However, the sign of a champion is being able to adjust and overcome adversity, be it the other team or just poor play. A fierce comeback almost made Jayhawk fans happy, but a deadly three-point shot by the son of an Iranian Olympic volleyball player and a pair of free throws sealed their fate.
This could be another of those points where fans of expanding the tournament may proclaim that it is a good idea. Look at the #9 seed Northern Iowa team take down the best team in the nation; what a great game; how exciting for college basketball; imagine if it was a #17 seed against a #1- it could happen!
The same logic is what drives people to play the lottery, too.
Before people start saying crazy things they should take a look at the Panthers of Northern Iowa. These guys were no schmucks at all. On the season they ranked 17th in the RPI rankings and had cracked the top 25 (24) in the USA Today poll. On the season these guys were 30-4 and 15-3 in Missouri Valley Conference play. During the year they did not exactly take down any powerhouses, nor did they score a whole lot either (often scoring in the fifties most nights). However, when your defense is as stifling as what the Panthers play it does not matter how many you do score. Seven times during the regular season and in two of three conference tournament games they held opponents to less than 50 points.
That stifling defense combined with an extremely hot hand coming off a five game wining streak (and only two losses since January 24th) was enough to take down an overconfident Kansas team. Northern Iowa was not just any team that happened to get lucky, but a talented team that brough their A game when it mattered most.
Now does anyone really think that any team not in the tournament could really do that against Kansas? I think not.
Beer: Iowa Pale Ale from the Millstream Brewing Company in Amana, Iowa- loyal Panther fans are probably still downing a few of these after the big win Saturday. While heavy on the hops like most pale ales, this one is more mild and balanced thanks to a pale malt base. Extensive dry hopping with the Cascade hops help give it a bit of a citrus flavor to it that makes the taste rather unique and enjoyable. At 5.7% ABV you can enjoy a few of these and still remember the end of the game, too!