West Region: No. 5 Purdue (25-9) vs. No. 12 Northern Iowa (23-10)
When: Thursday, 2:30 p.m., EDT
Where: Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon
1) Consistently Decent. You hear all the time about how some programs are "consistently great," and others are mocked for being "consistently mediocre." Well, Purdue teams are consistently … decent, but rarely more. The most Big Ten titles in history—yet no Final Fours since 1980. Our last national title was 1932, with John Wooden shooting at peach baskets. And that infuriating trend has continued this season. A nationally televised, early-season matchup at home against Duke: a complete flop of a loss. Oh, but wait—a huge matchup with Michigan State in February? A blowout win. Two weeks later: a loss to Northwestern at home on senior night. Then a successful run to the Big Ten Tournament title. So who will we see in the NCAA Tournament? The overachieving, sky's-the-limit, 3-point-shooting, smothering defense Boilermakers? Or the unable-to-make-a-free-throw, ice-cold shooting, standing-around-on-offense, deer-in-headlights group? Rarely is there a team for whom neither a first round exit nor an Elite Eight appearance would be surprising, but that's what this Purdue squad is.
2) Boilermakers are supposed to be tough, but… ouch. All-Big Ten selection and Big Ten Tournament MVP Robbie Hummel has played all season with ... a broken back. Okay, okay, it's a hairline fracture of a vertebrate but it still sounds hellish. Chris Kramer, an in-your-pocket defender, had his nose broken violently by the wayward elbow of Michigan's Manny Harris in late January and only missed about four minutes of game action. Mainly because two other guys had the flu and freshman PG Lewis Jackson had a concussion. Sheesh. The Purdue football team takes fewer hits than this! (Insert your own joke here.)
3) We're goin' streakin! This team often starts three sophomores and a couple of juniors and only has two seniors who play significant minutes. Point is, they're still very young and, as such, are streaky as can be. On-fire stretches of three-point barrages are inexplicably followed by eight FG misses in a row. Obviously, if this happens at the wrong time, the party's over. The Boilermakers have had four winning streaks of four or more games this year—but only once have their losses not come in multiples. We all know how important guard play is in the NCAA tourney—in terms of being steady and less streaky—and the Boilermakers starting PG is a freshman. Whee! Please lower the bar and keep your hands inside the train. — Boiled Sports
1) Paper or Plastic? If you keep wondering why Northern Iowa sounds so familiar, it's because it's the alma mater of grocery bagboy turned Superbowl star Kurt Warner. And, in less exciting news, Detroit Lion Mike Furrey also spent time in Cedar Falls. Hey, they can't all be gems.
2) Ali, Boumaye! The player who secured UNI's position in the dance is Ali Farokhmanesh, a junior transfer from Kirkwood Community College. The 6' guard cooly stepped to the free throw line and knocked down two with six seconds on the clock, and the Panthers were going to the dance. Ali's teammates surrounded him and pounded him on the Farokhmanesh arching across the back of his jersey. OK, now that you have that image in your mind, take a look at Ali. Not exactly what you were expecting, eh?
3) The Dreaded O'Rear Admiral Farokhmanesh is not the only funny name on the UNI roster. They also have a 6'6" forward named Lucas O'Rear. O'Rear! Isn't that hilarious? Don't look at me that way. YOU try and find
three interesting factoids about Northern Iowa. — Eric Angevine (Storming The Floor)