Being from Iowa, it doesn't take a lot to impress me or get me through. I'm a simple guy. I feel like a lot of Iowans are right there with me. We love our sports teams. Gosh, we're a passionate sports state. We don't have big professional teams. Iowa State, Iowa, UNI, and Drake are our pro teams. And we're proud of that. We see the kids that shine in the UNI-Dome come state playoffs and ball players down at The Well in March go on to star for our "pro teams" and we follow them through their careers. Root for them through their careers. But then it ends for them and they join us out in the working field. Sometimes they go on to have actual pro careers and that makes us puff out our chest a little more. But most don't and we're ok with that. They're ok with that.
This set up to be a special basketball season for Iowans. We were coming off a year where three teams made the NCAA Tournament last year. We knew Des Moines would be getting a Regional. The season had its ups and downs for Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI but once again, all three made the Tournament. And then they announced who was coming to Des Moines. Kansas. UCONN. Kentucky. Indiana. Wow! As if Des Moines hosting wasn't enough, it got four of the best programs in college basketball! I remember watching high school state basketball championships down at "The Barn"-Remember that place? I loved it. But watching games there as a kid, never in my wildest dreams would I imagine Jim Nantz and "ONIONS" himself coming to Des Moines to call basketball games. Not only did they come to Des Moines, their CBS crew raved about our Capital City. And so did many other reporters that were in Iowa to cover their teams. We really do live in a special place. Thank you to EVERYONE that made it possible for the Tournament to come here and many thanks to everyone that helped out during the games and along the way.
As I said earlier, three teams from the state of Iowa got in the Dance and ALL three made the Round of 32. The state of California, with 24 Division I programs, had 0 in the Round of 32. Remember when we were happy with ONE Iowa team getting called on Selection Sunday. Maybe we would get lucky and have 2. Not these days. That's why it was such a special weekend. Iowa State, headed to Chicago to meet up with an old friend. Iowa Senior Adam Woodbury, a kid that turned down UNC to play in his home state, hitting a buzzer-beater. And as we all know. Northern Iowa nailing a half-courter in one of the greatest shots ever in the Tournament. I was on Cloud Nine Friday night, all day Saturday, and early Sunday morning. Iowa would then fall to Villanova. Ben Jacobson's team looked like it was well on its way to the Sweet 16 before falling in heart-breaking fashion to Texas A&M. It hurt. There's no other way to put it. I felt awful for the Iowa and UNI players, coaches, and fans. Absolutely crushing.
But then I saw Ben Jacobson do post-game interviews with pure class and while the national media started to talk about what a joke UNI was down the stretch, I once again felt this enormous amount of pride sweep over me again. Here's a guy, a lot like you and me, take all the blame about his team not winning and advancing to the Sweet 16. The way UNI let that lead go, they could of crumbled in OT. They didn't. Despite that lost, the Panthers made Iowans everywhere feel proud. It's more than just a game, sometimes, ya know? Yea, that wasn't very fun. But the way those kids and coaches conducted themselves after the game is what Iowa's all about.
With all that, I'm willing to say that was the greatest weekend (including Thursday and Friday) in Iowa sports history. That's my opinion. If you disagree, that's ok. I'm young. Maybe there was one better, I don't know. But to me that was the best.
THANK YOU from a "March Madness Nut" who grew up in this state and loves this state. To the players, coaches, workers, fans, and everyone else who put this magical weekend together, thanks.
Go get them Iowa State, the state of Iowa is behind you all the way.