Tag:Northern Iowa
Posted on: March 27, 2010 12:05 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:07 am

Experience Trumps Enthusiam for Michigan State


In the last two months, I was privileged enough to see both Northern Iowa and Michigan State play basketball on their home courts. The vibes were distinctively different during those games, and tonight the very reasons why those experiences differed were almost precisely the same reasons the outcome of tonight's game was what it was. 

In case you missed it, Tom Izzo's Spartans -- sans big gun Kalin Lucas -- ended the University of Northern Iowa's dream tonight by dealing them a 59-52 loss and sending the Panthers back to Cedar Falls. Michigan State simply proved too much for the small school to handle.

Visiting each team on its home turf painted the picture that would ultimately seal this game's fate. UNI's small arena was rabid with a community who believed in their Panthers, knowing with each shot that their boys were capable of making waves, and that the rest of the world would soon find discover that for themselves. It was raucous and loud, exploding with support and confidence that this was their year.

Michigan State's home base, while similarly loud, had a bit of a different vibe. If UNI's McLeod center was a cockfighting ring, the Breslin Center is almost a cathedral of college ball, presided over by the beloved Tom Izzo with die-hard fans surrounding the court like bodyguards over their beloved Spartans. Seeing the Izzone in action is the precise portrait of a storied program's devoted followers. Michigan State, that classic program, inspires and instills reverence in the college basketball fan. Here was a school -- and a coach -- expected to take a rightful place in each year's postseason dance.

Ultimately tonight, that Spartan experience would crush the joyous partycrashing enjoyed by Northern Iowa in a close-fought game that, until the last two minutes, could have gone either way. But the ace in the hole would trump the joker in the deck, with guard Durrell Summers punching out at 19 points, and Michigan State steps forward to face Tennessee Sunday at 4:30. 

There's no doubt that right now Tom Izzo is talking to the press and saying wonderful things about the Northern Iowa Panthers -- not only because it's true that their run was amazing, but because that's what great, classic coaches do. Both of these teams deserved to be in this game tonight, for both very different reasons and very similar reasons, but both can't progress. That's not how this works, and the world says goodbye to the Panthers. But don't think they won't show up in "One Shining Moment." And just try not to get all tingly when they do.
Posted on: March 7, 2010 10:59 am

Missouri Valley Final is Coming


11:00 AM

I will be the first to admit..."Arch Madness" has been a disappointment.  With the exception of Drake's buzzer beater on the first night, one could have slept through the last five minutes of most of the games and awaken fully content in the fact that they have missed nothing of consequence.  But I have a good feeling about today.  I am of the belief that today's final between Northern Iowa and Wichita State will make up for the boredom of the last four days with a potential classic that will even wake up the drunk Creighton fans.

A lot is at stake today.  For Northern Iowa, entry into the NCAA Tournament is likely a given.  But what the Panthers need to start worrying about is seeding in the Big Dance.  If they can win the MVC and things play out in the major tournaments the way they hope, one could see a #6 or #7 seed in the cards and a real chance to make some noise.  Lose this game however and the seeding drops, potentially into the dreaded 8/9 game and dreams of the Sweet 16 become much tougher to turn into reality.

For Wichita State however, it is a chance to change history.  The Shockers are headed to the final of the conference tournament for the first time since 1987, and the history of underachievement in Arch Madness has weighed on the program.  This year the Shockers have been overshadowed in conference all year by their brethren from Cedar Falls and this is a chance to get the national attention that they have been lacking all year.  Add to all of that the fact that the Shockers can make it two teams from the MVC, and it is enough to even get their crazy mascot off his feet.

So there you have it...a battle at 2 pm on CBS (I am already a corporate shill) that could end up being the game of the day.  I have picked against Wichita State all tournament long and have actually been to a game this year in Cedar Falls...so I will take UNI, 68-62 in a battle.  Either way, expect Wichita State fans to make hand signals which will have college students everywhere laughing.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 12:26 am

Missouri Valley Holds Predictable Form on Day Two


12:00 AM

Did you ever watch old episodes of "Leave it to Beaver" when you were a kid?  If you did, you noticed that each episode had a general set playbook.  Beaver or Wally would get into some shenanigan and it would look as if something bad would happen.  Usually the issue might involve mischief at the hands of Eddie Haskell or Lumpy, but in the end, Ward and June Cleaver would help find a way to make everything right and we would all learn a lesson in the end.  The episodes took 25 minutes or so, but they easily could have been condensed into 45 seconds of action/cuteness by Jerry Mathers, thus preventing you from wasting your half hour.  Nothing was new in any episode, yet I always watched, perfectly comfortable in the predictable results and unbelievable lack of humor.

I thought of these old "Beaver" episodes today as I watched a rather ho-hum set of Quarterfinals in the Missouri Valley Conference.  On this very blog, I had hyped the day of "Arch Madness" as one of the better basketball viewing days of the year, full of great basketball, fan revelry and general March mayhem.  Instead the biggest highlight was the lack of points scored by Drake, the drunkedness of the Creighton fans and playing "which of these guys would Larry Bird have punched in the face?" with the Indiana State roster.  The games were rather predictable, and the favorites all held serve, setting up for what would seem to be a "must-watch" day in the Semifinals (although I am not falling for the MVC's sultry tricks again, so I wont make you stay home and watch).

Each game had one highlight:

Drake Couldnt Score:  Yes we dealt with this earlier, but it bears repeating.  Drake went 21 game minutes of action without scoring a field goal, and producing only three points in total in the 55-40 loss.  That is over a half of game action without one basket going through the hoop.  I have spent the day trying to wrap my head around this (and the fact that Keno Davis is apparently no longer the Drake coach...I didn't get that memo) and all I can decide is this.  If you are going to be out of town for a weekend and you need someone to come and hang out with your wife, invite Drake, because they have shown they can't score.  HEY-O!!!!!

Friday is Sam Maniscalco Day:  I expected the game between Creighton and Bradley to be a battle and to come down to the end, as two evenly matched teams squared off and threw body blows for forty minutes.  Instead, I got a free throw shooting marathon, in which Bradley outlasted Creighton 81-62, while shooting 27-28 from the free throw line.  The king of the charity stripe was Maniscalco, who scored a career-high 31 points on 18 of 19 free throw shooting in the victory.  Maniscalco (whose name emasculates all who speak it) had a previous high of 21 points on the season and in a game against Creighton last week, he scored only 3 points in 40 minutes of action.  But that game wasn't on Friday, proving that nothing pumps Sam up like the thought of finishing a game and getting home to see what Urkel, Balki and Uncle Joey are going to be up to on ABC.

Wichita State is Due:  I upset the Shocker masses (a sentence I rarely get to say) by picking against the boys from Wichita in their battle against Missouri State and for most of the game, I looked like I could be a wise sage.  The game was tight throughout and until a key Garrett Stutz three late, the #2 seeded Shocker team looked to be in trouble in its "closer than the score indicates" 73-63 victory.  However once again big shots and (repeat after me) clutch free throw shooting helped the Shockers move on and ruin the dreams of Missouri State fans everywhere.  Wichita State is now looking to make the conference tournament finals for the first time since 1987.  Can you believe that?  In 1987, Ronald Reagan was still President, and the Shockers havent even been to a title game since then?  If there was ever time to end a lingering 23 year jinx, Saturday is that day.

Illinois State is Hot:  I dont necessarily mean the state of Illinois, although it could be hot as well, but the ISU basketball team, which has now won 7 of its last 8.  Illinois State overcame the fact that it, like many in the crowd, was unaware that there were two "ISUs" in the conference and were thus able to focus and beat the kids from Terre Haute, 69-65 behind 17 points from Austin "One Tree" Hill.  The Redbirds now move on to play Wichita State and as I incorrectly predicted last night, Wichita State is due for a beating.  They havent made the finals since 1987 and if I have learned anything in life, it is that 23 years of consistency begats a 24th.  Take all your finances, mortgage your house, move the kids to military school and BET IT ALL ON INDIANA STATE.  Its happening this round, I know it....Wichita State is going down.

So there you go, a rather tame day of "Arch Madness."  However Saturday's semifinals pit the four best teams in the conference against each other and both matchups are repeats of good games from the regular season.  So if you get the MVC channel and can move the drunk Creighton fan out from in front of the television, catch the games tomorrow.  They will be stellar.

Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:30 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 5:43 pm

Drake Does the 21 Minute Walk of Shame


4:30 PM

Northern Iowa beat Drake 55-40 in the Missouri Valley Conference Quarterfinals.  That much is not surprising and really not all that interesting.  The UNI Panthers were led by Alex Koch and Lucas O'Rear (they make great names in Cedar Falls), who helped bully past Drake with a 29-2 run that took an 11 point deficit and turned it into a 16 point lead.  UNI now moves on to play the winner of Creighton and Bradley, which is being played now in front of an arena full of drunk Creighton fans who are just glad to be out of Omaha and partying in St Louis.

However what is interesting about the Drake defeat is that Mark Phelps' club went 21 minutes without scoring a field goal.  Yes you read that correctly, from the 8 minute mark in the first half to the 7 minute mark in the second half, Drake could not manage to make A SINGLE SHOT.  Not one.  Yes Northern Iowa is statistically the #2 defensive team in America and yes, they were at their best playing a tired Drake team on Friday afternoon.  But still...21 minutes of clock time without a basket?  For real?  21 minutes is a really long time and for comparison sake, here are some things that have occurred during a similar 21 minute time period:

1.  Stephen A. Smith recieved, and then had cancelled, two ESPN talk shows.

2.  Duke players slapped the floor 143 times

3.  Kansas Assistant Coaches invited four porn stars to sit courtside for the Big 12 Tournament

4.  Gregg Doyel received 58 pieces of hate mail and was able to understand 6 of them.

5.  Tom Crean was mistaken for Dwight Schrute four times.

6.  Dick Vitale's voice caused my dad to mute four television sets.

7.  Northern Iowa's Senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh had his name mispronounced by five announcers...and that is even before Verne Lundquist shows up for Sunday's game.

8.  Dick Cheney had three heart attacks.

9.  Rick Reilly phoned in two columns in which he told the heartwarming tale of one kid wiith a (insert disability/tragedy/eating disorder/sleep apnea) who has overcome his demons to show the "true meaning of sport.".

10.  Eight elderly people actually read a hard copy of a newspaper!

So as you can see, a lot can happen in 21 minutes, but for Drake, none of those happenings were actually putting points on the board against Northern Iowa.  I actually watched the vast majority of this game and I feel a better man for it.  But I am also certain that next year when I see "Drake" listed on any potential parlays, I will be taking the under.

Posted on: March 4, 2010 5:05 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2010 5:39 pm



5:00 PM

So after ten days of driving around the country and seeing college basketball at its best, we returned to our homes and tried to get on with the rest of our lives.  While college basketball is likely the best feature of life, there is the tiny rest of life such as paying bills, talking to our families and dealing with other humans that are not based in a Kia Rondo, that we had to deal with upon return.  While we will always have memories of Kansas, Michigan State, Northern Iowa and an empty North Carolina gym, it is time to move to the next facet of our lives and our CBS work.  So with that in mind, it is (wait for it):


Yes its the time of year when 30 of the 31 conferences (the Ivy League thinks it is so smart it doesnt have to have a tournament...well you take your top-notch degree and 6 figure paycheck and go somewhere else my friend!) play off for a chance to make it into the NCAA Tournament on an automatic bid.  In terms of sheer madness, nothing can beat it.  You have the little guy playing for its chance to get slaughtered by Kansas, the mid-major hoping to impress the Tournament committee one last time and the big conference powers playing for seeding.  Plus you get ten days of wall-to-wall basketball, with each minute providing highlights that you will remember for a lifetime (or at least until the next game begins). 

Now as far as I know, no one has ever tried to undertake the task of providing running commentary and analysis of every conference tournament in the land.  It is such an absurd goal that only fools and people who drive Kia Rondos would attempt it.  But we are just those fools.  To accomplish the task, we have brought back the four hearty souls from the road trip (Matt Jones, Drew Franklin, TJ Beisner and CM Tomlin) and added two other great writers, John Wilkersly from Kentucky Sports Radio and Mike Rutherford of Cardchronicle.com.  We have divided up the conferences in this manner:


  1. SEC
  2. Missouri Valley
  3. Big Sky
  4. Horizon
  5. Sun Belt


  1. Pac 10
  2. Conference USA
  3. America East
  4. MAAC
  5. OVC


  1. Big 12
  2. West Coast
  3. Atlantic Sun
  4. MAC
  5. Patriot


  1. ACC
  2. Atlantic 10
  3. Big West
  4. MEAC
  5. Summit


  1. Big Ten
  2. Mountain West
  3. Big South
  4. Northeast
  5. Southland


  1. Big East
  2. WAC
  3. Colonial
  4. Southern
  5. SWAC

If you are a fan of one of these conferences, these are the guys to take you through the coverage.  Some of them have already begun and for those, the coverage begins tonight.  So strap yourself in and get ready to see the Conference Tournaments covered in the most ridiculous manner possible, with more random facts on the MEAC than you could ever imagine.  Its "One Blogging Moment" and it begins now:

Posted on: February 19, 2010 1:04 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 8:46 pm

Destination Scouting Report: Cedar Falls, Iowa

By: Thomas Beisner

1:00 PM

Each morning, the CBS College Basketball Road Trip team will stop spooning each other in their Motel Six beds at the crack of noon, grab a couple of NCAA approved bagels and hit the road in pursuit of their next college basketball destination.  Though their dossier and agenda are to supposed to remain top secret, I went to high school with one of the writers from "Viva Laughlin" and CBS forgot to take back his keys.  Here is what he found…


Location:  According to Wikipedia, Cedar Falls, the home of Northern Iowa University, was originally named Sturgis Falls after William Sturgis, a sea-faring American hero from the 18th century.  It was renamed Cedar Falls later due to its close proximity to the Cedar River.  If these standards applied today, tonight’s game would be in Cracker Barrel Falls, Iowa.  (Confession:  Research shows there is not a Cracker Barrel within 100 miles of UNI…how is that possible?)

Traveling Distance:  Today our road warriors embark on a leg of the trip that is so short, Lorenzo Romar might recruit it to play point guard.  Traveling an estimated 271 miles in about 4 and half hours, the fiercest foe will not be the road, but the lingering Milwaukee hangover and Matt’s Jason Mraz playlist.

Mascot:  The Panther.  When I originally typed this, I accidentally wrote “Panter”, which of course is not the mascot.  That’s a contact in Rick Pitino’s black book.

School Colors:  Mostly white.  For this game, however, they'll be really white.

Forecast:  Despite the local weatherman's best efforts to heat things up with a little innuendo, it’s going to be cold.  Like sleeping with your best friend’s girl on the day his dog died and his parents split cold.  The temperature calls for a high of 29 degrees and, with two of the nation’s top-3 scoring defenses battling inside, the shooting might be just as icy. Both teams allow only 55 points per game (UNI: 55.1, ODU:  55.8) and aren’t too shy about shooting the three (UNI: 18 per game, ODU: 15).  However, rain is not expected in the forecast.  At least not from Old Dominion, who shoots 30% from downtown.  (That paragraph is dripping in more cheese than Milwaukee was, sorry.)

Notable Alumni:  Northern Iowa’s alumni list is littered with former football players including former NFL MVPs Kurt Warner and Bryce Paup, making them one of only two schools to have both a defensive and offensive MVP as an alum.  On the Old Dominion side, things are a little more eclectic as the Monarchs boast headband pioneer Chris Gatling, a Watergate burglar and the host of Cash Cab.  If we were awarding points for flat tops, UNI would be the runaway winner.  This is purely based on cultural impact, though, and the non-conference bragging rights go to Old Dominion.

Agenda:  Besides not freezing to death, the agenda is simple.  Soak up everything that is Northern Iowa University and get a first-hand look at two of the best mid-major (is that a dirty word in Cedar Falls?) teams in the country.  If seeing these teams up close helps us earn a couple extra bucks in the office pool in March, then so be it.  And if Drew tracks down this fellow CBSer and former UNI student, we'll apologize later.  Just don't blame it on the Viva Laughlin guy.  He's been through enough.

Cedar Falls, Iowa, let’s do this.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com