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March 8, 2010

SCS.comNorthern Iowa looked like a machine this weekend, dominating Drake and Bradley defensively before stifling Wichita State in yesterday’s championship game.

Now, the Panthers will wait for their name to be called on Selection Sunday to see which team they’ll terrorize in the NCAA Tournament. And mark my words, UNI will terrorize somebody, because Ben Jacobsen has one of the most experienced and balanced teams in America.

Let’s take a look back at the weekend in St. Louis:


Best moment: Josh Young beats Southern Illinois--I realize that Young’s buzzer-beater came in the 8/9 play-in game on Thursday night in front of about eight fans. Still, I think fans often forget about how important these seemingly minor games are for a program like Drake. The game wasn’t televised and SportsCenter didn’t use it as the lead story, but from watching the Bulldogs’ sideline after Young’s fadeaway jumper with one second left, you would have thought they won the National Championship.

Top performer of the weekend: Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa--Ahelegbe paced UNI’s offense in the title game against the Wichita State with 24 points. He didn’t play particularly well on Friday or Saturday but stepped up when it counted.

Best individual game: Sam Maniscalco, Bradley--Maniscalco scored 31 points to lead Bradley to a quarterfinal win over Drake. He made 18 free throws—nine of which came after he was fouled on three-point attempts—and lit up the arena from beyond the arc. Creighton had no answer for him, even after he cramped up late in the second half. Maniscalco is a physical, blue-collar kind of player and even drew praise from CU coach Dana Altman. “I like everything about him,” Altman said.

Most enticing game—Missouri State vs. Wichita State, Quarterfinals--WSU won by 10 points, but the game was much more competitive than that. Missouri State battled the Shockers for nearly 40 minutes and trailed by one point in the final minute.

Best fan base: Wichita State--The Shockers were an easy pick. They outnumbered everybody at the Scottrade Center, filling the arena with yellow and black. Even in down years, Wichita State fans always show up with busloads of people. 2010 was no different. The Shockers were the loudest and most passionate fans, even more so than top-seeded Northern Iowa.

Most pathetic fan base: Indiana State-- Sorry, Larry Bird. It’s not 1979 anymore, evidenced by the fact that the Sycamores had one of the smallest contingents this weekend. Kevin McKenna overcame injuries to lead Indiana State to a six-seed, but his squad still didn’t have the luxury of a loud fan base at Scottrade.

Most obnoxious fans: Missouri State--The Missouri State fans appalled me so much that I told a stranger on press row Friday that the Bears fans were “brutal” the night before. Five minutes later, I found out that I had been talking to the Missouri State athletic director. Whoops. Still, I didn’t back down from what I said, and the fans got even worse during Friday’s loss to Wichita State. Sitting right in front of the parents’ section, I heard some nasty things all weekend. None were worse than Missouri State, who spit every curse word and insult imaginable.

Drunkest fans: Creighton--I’m stereotyping here from one fan I saw sitting about four rows behind the bench. This woman antagonized the Bradley managers and eventually jumped on to press row, prompting security to nicely escort her from the stadium. As one of the managers put it—“she’d had a few.”

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