For the first time since 1981, we sports fans find ourselves chanting ALI ALI ALI. Not for the once champion of the world, Muhammad, but for a farm boy from Iowa.
On the heel of two incredible wins, Ali Farokhmanesh has his Northern Iowa Panthers in the Sweet 16 and just two wins from the Final Four.
Now you're asking yourselves, where did they come from?
The Panthers are the most well known team in a fairly unknown conference, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC).
This season, overall, they were 30-4, and had an RPI of 17 (no correction needed). Going into the tourney, they had won six straight, and were ranked No. 24 in the country.
When you look at the Panthers on paper, they appear ordinary. They led the conference in few categories and were last in scoring.
What NI does well, is play smart, disciplined basketball, as well as tough defense. They give nothing for free, and if you score on the Panthers, you earned it. One of the categories they did lead their conference in was turnovers, only committing 10 per game.
NI holds the tournament's most impressive win thus far, knocking off tourney favorite Kansas, or better known as Rock Chalk Choke. They were able to hold a high-powered Jayhawk team to their second lowest point total of the season.
Northern Iowa forced Kansas to play their style of game. Kansas was a team that averaged nearly 82 points per game, but NI was able to hold them to 67.
Indiana State of the MVC made it to the Sweet 16 and beyond in 1979. That year, Larry Bird led the Sycamores to the finals, only to fall short to Magic Johnson and Michigan State. The very same Michigan State team that Northern Iowa will see in the Sweet 16. Coincidence? or Payback?