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Reasons to pay attention during this year’s NCAA basketball tournament

Mar 16, 2015

By ANDY KRUTSINGER

Mt. Pleasant News

March has arrived and that means it’s finally time for the greatest basketball tournament in the world. On Sunday evening, the brackets for the 2015 NCAA basketball tournament were announced and that means we’re just a couple of days away from the first round games.

This year, the state of Iowa will have its eyes glued to the TV to see how our teams do on perhaps the most widely anticipated tournament of our lifetime. (Or mine, anyway. I’m only 24.)

But I know that even in a state with four Division 1 college basketball schools, there are still a number of people that don’t plan on watching much of the tournament, which takes place over the next three weekends.

I know, I know, you have something important going on (work, vacation, your daughter’s ballet recital), but with today’s technology, there is really no reason not to at least know what’s going on.

So, this one is for you, hoops haters. Here are some reasons you need to get off your couch (to get snacks, and then get right back on your couch) and watch some college basketball over the next three weeks.

The Hawkeye/Cyclone/Panther state – As I mentioned earlier, there are four D1 basketball programs in Iowa. Three of those programs (Iowa, ISU, UNI) will be playing in the big dance this year and all three are favored in their first games.

Big deal though, right? There are 68 teams in the thing, that many Iowa teams are bound to get in. Wrong! This marks the first time since 2005 that three Iowa teams have made the tourney (never have there been four).

Getting a high number of teams in is actually more rare than you’d think. Just look across the Mississippi River at our neighbors to the east.

There are 11 D1 teams in Illinois. That’s over three times as much as Iowa. But guess how many teams from the land of Lincoln will be playing this year. None. That’s zero percent for you math nerds eating leftovers from “pi day” as you read this. (They’ll get the reference, everyone else just move along.)

We won’t pick on Missouri too much. They don’t have any dogs in the fight either, but they only have three teams to choose from.

Iowa vs. ISU round two — It’s never wise to look ahead in the NCAA tournament because things never play out like you want them to. But as an Iowan, it’s hard not to peek ahead at a potential Cy-Hawk sweet 16 showdown that would undoubtedly captivate the state.

If the Hawkeyes and Cyclones both win their first two games, the two teams would face off in the NCAA tournament for the first time in history. Even if you’re not a sports fan, Iowa and ISU fans around you would force you to care about this game (probably by cheering against whoever your friends like).

Three different men — They say a team is only as good as its coach. I know this isn’t true because of my lifetime winning record as a coach in the Hannibal YMCA youth soccer league, but some people still believe it.

The three Iowa coaches each have their own individual personality, which makes for a fun distinction between the teams.

Ben Jacobson (UNI) is quiet, seems friendly and doesn’t attract a lot of media attention.

Jacobson was “Mr. Basketball” in the state of North Dakota when he played and as a coach, he’s already racked up three Missouri Valley Coach of the Year awards, including one this year.

Fred Hoiberg (ISU) is the ultimate “good guy” and a media darling. His nickname is “The Mayor” and he might as well be, because he’s the most liked guy in the city of Ames.

He grew up in the town and has brought a ton of excitement to the program. Even the biggest of Hawkeye fans will admit with clinched teeth, that he is a great coach.

Fran McCaffery is the perfect villain. He pounds the scores table, he gets technical fouls and he vehemently dismisses question about his 7’1” center’s bad habit of poking opposing players in the eye.

The national media has grown to dislike McCaffery. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon put on a big smile last week when talking about Iowa’s first round exit in the Big Ten tournament on his show “Pardon the Interruption.”

Announcer Dan Dakich has taken multiple swipes at the team, using the term “gutless” a time or two.

But the media disdain for McCaffery has only made him more likable to the Iowa faithful.

The heroes — In 2010, Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh pulled up from three-point land to give the Panthers a four-point lead against the number one team in the country.

His shot put a dagger into the hearts of Kansas fans everywhere. His shot is now a part of basketball lore and can be seen in any credible “greatest NCAA tournament moments” video compilation.

The heartbreak — Farokhmanesh’s shot did a lot for the state’s tournament history, but we’re still on the losing end of the meyhem more times than not.

If you’re watching a March Madness mash up, be prepared to see the demise of three of the best teams in the state’s history. Here is a brief rundown of the carnage.

2001: Iowa State was champions of the Big 12. They won 12 of their last 13 regular season games and got a two seed in the NCAA tournament. They went into their game against 15 seed Hampton with a 25-5 record.

Hampton’s Tarvis Williams hit a game-winner with seven seconds left to upset the favored Clones and abruptly end one of the most promising seasons in the state’s history. It was only the fourth time in tournament history that a 15 seed beat a two seed and it has only happened three times since.

2006: Iowa’s “corn fed and senior led” Big Ten tournament championship team came into the dance as a three seed with a ton of potential. The Hawkeyes were one of the hottest teams in the nation.

The Hawks were up two with time running out when 14-seed Northwestern State’s Jermaine Wallace grabbed a long rebound in the corner and sent a three-pointer through the net with half of a second showing on the clock. The Hawkeyes were crushed and would go eight years without returning to the dance again.

2008: Fifth-seeded Drake was 28-5 and champions of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament. The dream season seemed to be ending when the Bulldogs were down 16 points in the second half against 12 seed Western Kentucky in the first round.

The team who had captured the hearts of the state made a huge run at the end of the second half to force overtime. After a free-throw put the Bulldogs in the lead with five seconds left in the game, the CBS announcers said “Drake, this may be your year.” Then, Ty Rodgers sent a 26-foot heave to the rim that ended the Bulldogs’ season in the most dramatic way possible. Drake hasn’t made it back since that day.

You might win money — Last year, Warren Buffett offered one billion dollars to anyone who correctly filled out a perfect bracket before the games started. It was a pretty safe bet, as a perfect bracket is nearly impossible and the feat has never been recorded.

This year, Buffett will not be putting his money on the line, but there are plenty of contests out there that will. I thought about doing something similar for this year with my fortunes, but the idea was quickly shot down by my entire family.

So postpone your doctor’s appointments, cross country trips and hot dates. Put on your black and gold, red and yellow, or purple, and tune in to see what this year’s tournament has in store for the three teams representing the great state of Iowa.

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