The big news over the weekend was Northern Iowa’s victory over top seeded Kansas.  Ali Farokhmanesh once again provided the key shot for UNI, hitting a dagger of a three pointer late in the game.  Ali had about 5 minutes to get set for the shot (look at the replay – he has time to get his feet perfectly set), so it’s hardly a surprised that he was able to knock down the shot.

Northern Iowa’s path to the Elite 8 got a bit smoother yesterday.  Michigan State beat Maryland to advance to the Sweet 16, but they lost star point guard Kalin Lucas to a torn Achilles tendon during the game.

After the game, The Soap Boxers got dozens of Google hits for our NCAA round 1 recap.  We had a brief blurb about Ali and his parents (Cindy Fredrick and Dr. Mashallah Farokhmanesh).  Interestingly, we weren’t getting hits on Ali’s name (as those were probably sucked up by the mainstream sports sites) but we did get hits on his parents’ names – particularly his dad’s.  I’m really not sure why people were searching on his dad’s name – but if some of you folks have become permanent members of The Soap Boxers community, welcome aboard!

In addition to Northern Iowa, several other teams swung by the shoe store and picked up a pair of Cinderella’s glass slippers.  We have a 12 seed (Cornell), an 11 (Washington), and a 10 (St. Mary’s) are still dancing.  In some years, the mere presence of two 6 seeds (Xavier and Tennessee) in the Sweet 16 would be cause for celebration; in a year with 4 teams at an 8 seed of higher, Xavier and Tennessee are simply afterthoughts.

How am I doing in my bracket?  I’m in last place in my pool … and I have a chance to win.  Although two of my Final Four teams have been bounced from the tournament (Kansas and my runner-up, Wisconsin), I’m one of two people who have Syracuse picked to win it all.  If that happens and a few other games break my way, I win.  I’m cautiously optimistic.

The women’s NCAA tournament also got under way this weekend.  There’s usually considerably less drama in the early rounds of the women’s tournament.  One reason for this is that many of the first and second round games are played on the campus of the top seed in that set of four teams – something the men’s tournament forbids.  This helps boost attendance for the women’s tournament, but makes it much more difficult for upsets to occur.

The state of Iowa had three teams in the women’s tournament.  Northern Iowa had punched their ticket by winning the Missouri Conference tournament and entered play on Sunday with a lackluster 17-15 record.  Not surprisingly, #1 seed Nebraska clobbered them 83-44 (although this game was NOT in Lincoln, but Minneapolis).

The University of Iowa was an 8 seed and beat 9 seed Rutgers on Saturday 70-63.  The interesting story in this game was that Rutgers’ coach, Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer, was formerly the coach of a very successful program at Iowa.  Stringer is originally from the East, and left Iowa shortly after the death of her husband.  She is still very much respected in Iowa.

My Iowa State Cyclones also had a first round game.  The 4th seeded Cyclones won their game against Lehigh 79-42.  The best news to come out of the game for ISU was the return of Alison Lacey, who had missed 4 games because of pneumonia.

Notable first round upsets were 12 seed Wisconsin-Green Bay over 5 seed Virginia, 11 seed San Diego State over 6 seed Texas, 11 seed Arkansas-Little Rock over 6 seed Georgia Tech, and 10 seed Vermont over 7 seed Wisconsin.  Top ranked an undefeated Connecticut rolled in their game 95-39 over Southern University.