The painful memories of Northern Iowa's loss to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 is fading. The Panthers accomplishing amazing feats this past season and established a new higher standard for Northern Iowa basketball. Maybe some year soon, the Panthers can win four games in the NCAA tourney and earn a trip to the Final Four.
Anything is truly possible for this team. The Panthers proved that this past season.
Northern Iowa should be competitive next year and challenge for another NCAA bid. Granted, the Panthers lose three starters off the 2009-10 squad (Ali Farokhmanesh, Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder),but there are plenty of players back with game experience. Next year's leader will be Kwadfzo Ahelegbe. This point guard can play and look for him to have a big senior season. Sophomore-to-be-Jake Koch will also be solid. He has an opportunity to become a better player than his brother Adam. Adam was Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year in 2009-10. Plus, there are plenty of bench players who performed well in coach Ben Jacobson's 10-player rotation.
Northern Iowa is now on the nation's basketball radar. This is good and bad. The Panthers have the respect and honor due with a great season. The downside is other teams will now definitely bring their A-game when playing Northern Iowa. They are no longer this lowly, unknown mid-major from the middle of the country.
So, the Panthers will need to step it up more and move to a higher level. And I think they will accomplish the challenge.
Jacobson will continue to preach defense, shot selection and team unity. This will assure Northern Iowa is competitive next season and beyond.