Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Will Northern Iowa Handle Success?

This is unchartered territory.

Entering the NCAA basketball tournament last week, few outside of the mid section of the country had ever heard of the University of Northern Iowa Panthers.

But that all changed in just two hours. The Panthers two-point victory over No. 1 ranked Kansas removed their status from a lesser known Missouri Valley conference team to basketball rock stars. Now the whole college basketball world recognizes this Cedar Falls, Iowa squad.

ESPN is calling, Dan Patrick too. How about New York newspapers. TV outlets. Interviews, stories, publicity and more publicity. It's crazy.

The whole state of Iowa is taking about the Panthers too. This from a state that has two teams in two power conferences (Iowa and Iowa State). Everybody supports Northern Iowa these days. Purple and gold are the hot colors.

But this week comes the true test. Northern Iowa has changed roles from the hunters to the hunted ones. Numerous mid-majors in the past have advanced to the Sweet 16. Many have departed the next game.

If you listen to Panther players and their coach, Ben Jacobson, everyone is saying the proper things. They know Michigan State is a good team, the Panthers will be focused, blah, blah, blah.

Here is hoping the stars-in-the-eyes mentality will not appear Friday night. Northern Iowa needs to keep playing like a huge underdog. Bring that hard hat,lunch pail and go to work.

The stakes are higher, the pressure mounts, but the Panthers can keep winning. It's been a dream season so far. There is no sense waking up just yet.

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