clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Northern Iowa's buzzer-beating win over Texas was everything March Madness is about

All the March Madness cliches were on full display in the game of the tournament so far.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

What is it about Northern Iowa and signature March Madness moments? Six years ago, Ali Farokhmanesh vaulted the program onto the national stage by hitting countless big shots to upset UNLV and mighty Kansas on the way to the Sweet 16. For many, that was the defining image of that year's tournament.

Six years later, Paul Jesperson stepped into the spotlight. His long heave from one step beyond half-court gave the 11th-seeded Panthers a 75-72 buzzer-beating win over No. 6 Texas in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. In the process, he vaulted himself past Farokhmanesh -- who's known for hitting a few big shots rather than a single buzzer beater -- in the program's lore.

"I actually had one like that from half court in high school," Jesperson said, via the Des Moines Register. "It was in the playoffs, but rather at the end of the third quarter. But obviously, this is a bigger stage, NCAA Tournament, senior year."

Jesperson is one of three key seniors for Ben Jacobson's squad, which follows a tradition in the program. As we detailed in our Chasing Cinderella video feature, the program is set up for a group of seniors to pass knowledge down to underclassmen until they eventually become upperclassmen themselves. The process constantly repeats itself. Jesperson and fellow senior guards Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun -- the latter of which got Northern Iowa to March Madness with a buzzer-beating jumper in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final -- learned from the upperclassmen before them and have grown into the team's leaders all season. It's only fitting that two of them hit the biggest shots that defined the Panthers' year.

The aftermath of the amazing shot also reveals every quality that gives March Madness its name. On one side, you had the Panthers celebrating the greatest moment of their sporting lives. On the other, you had Longhorn players coming to terms with a crushing defeat. Often, the two appeared in the same frame.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Taylor is the poor Texas player caught in all three of those shots. The junior guard leads the Longhorns in scoring and has been new coach Shaka Smart's rock throughout a surprising campaign. He picked a good time to play one of his best games, scoring 22 points on just 11 shots, including the jumper that tied the score at 72 with three seconds left. All he got for those efforts was a heartbreaking defeat.

This game was dramatic. This game was both just and cruel to the players that deserve good luck, depending on your perspective. This game was a mid-major upsetting a power conference school. This game clearly featured the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

It was everything that gives March Madness its name.