Before Ben Jacobson’s arrival at Northern Iowa in 2006, the Panthers were nothing more than a mere blip on the national radar. They had made the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive years under Greg McDermott, but failed to make it out of the first round in any of those.
McDermott left for Iowa State at the end of the 2005-06 season, and Jacobson stepped in. It wasn’t until the 2008-09 season that the Panthers returned to the tournament, but it was the year after that truly put Northern Iowa on the map.
During the 2009-10 campaign, Northern Iowa won 30 games and received yet another berth in the NCAA Tournament. But this isn’t a story about that season. It’s not about that team, or its coach, or really any game in particular.
No, this is about one single moment.
I’ll be the first to confess that I don’t have any connection to the Northern Iowa basketball program. I don’t consider myself a fan, and I don’t make it a point to watch every one of their games.
This particular moment, however, is one of my all-time favorite moments in college basketball history. I remember exactly where I was when I saw it (Pizza King in Fort Wayne), which I can’t say for almost every other big sports moment from my lifetime.
That moment, of course, can be described with a single word: Farokhmanesh.
If you bring up Ali Farokhmanesh in college basketball circles, everybody’s mind immediately shifts to The Shot. If you’re not familiar with The Shot, allow me to set the scene for you.
Northern Iowa earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and had advanced to the second round of the tournament thanks to a game-winner by Farokhmanesh against UNLV.
Although that’s a clutch shot in its own right, that’s not the shot that he is best known for you. He wrote in a Players Tribune article that he believed it would be, though:
I figured that play would be the highlight of the tournament for me that year, it was the kind of shot you daydream about while shooting around in your driveway as a kid. But there wasn’t much time to celebrate because we had Kansas waiting for us.
Let’s fast forward to Northern Iowa’s second round matchup: The top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks had won 33 games up until that point, and had a roster laden with players that would go on to play in the NBA. They spent the nearly the entire season as the top team in the polls, and were considered the favorites to win their second title in three years. The task was tall, and Northern Iowa wasn’t being given much of a chance.
The details of the game leading up to The Shot aren’t particularly important to the ensuing events, so let’s pick up with where our moment starts.
Now, it’s important to note the time and score. The Panthers are up one, but there’s enough time left on the clock that Kansas doesn’t necessarily have to foul. Even if Northern Iowa uses the entire shot clock - which was still at 35 seconds in 2010 - Kansas could still play the possession out in hopes of getting a stop.
Kansas comes out in a press in hopes of forcing a turnover and getting an easy bucket. Notice that Farokhmanesh (#5) lines up just before halfcourt.
The Panthers are able to inbound the ball, and the ball is immediately returned to the inbounder in the center of the court. Notice how Farokhmanesh has started to leak out at the bottom right corner. I shouldn’t have to tell you that this is important.
If Northern Iowa is able to get the ball to Kwadzo Ahelegbe (#11) in the middle of the court, they’ll have numbers in transition.
Kansas was able to recover, and forced Ahelegbe to catch the ball near the sideline instead of in the middle of the court. Tyshawn Taylor misses on a steal attempt, and allows Ahelegbe to survey an open court in front of him as Northern Iowa races up the court.
He has two options: dribble the ball up himself with the risk of a Kansas defender recovering, or pitch the ball ahead to one of the Panthers already downcourt.
Ahelegbe chose the latter, and for good reason.
Our hero, Ali Farokhmanesh, is already down the court getting set up at the three point line. Again, note the time on the clock. Only four seconds have gone by, and conventional wisdom would say to pull the ball out and milk the clock.
What one might forget though is that conventional wisdom doesn’t apply to Ali Farokhmanesh. He even said so himself:
So now I was looking at a wide-open three-pointer in a situation where textbook wisdom might dictate that you slow the play down.
But he was on the court for one reason: knock down shots.
Without having to take a dribble, Farokhmanesh sets his feet, squares up and LETS THAT THANG FLY.
It’s accompanied by an all-time call from Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner. Let’s watch the entire sequence in its glory:
I have watched this video no less than 1000 times in my lifetime. It’s the best video on YouTube. I probably watch it at least once a week, and even more so in March. There’s just so many elements that make it great.
Kevin Harlan, one of the greatest broadcasters we have, rises to the moment with “Farokhmanesh a three...GOOD!”
And then there’s Dan Bonner, exclaiming “YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS WITH THAT SHOT!”.
And of course, there’s the play itself.
It’s not the fact that Farokhmanesh hit the shot. It’s the fact that he took it. It’s hard to fathom the absolute STONES it takes to:
1. Pull up in transition with numbers against the No. 1 team in the country
2. Do so with a one point lead in the final minute of the game
3. DO IT WITH 3O SECONDS LEFT ON THE SHOT CLOCK
SIDEBAR: Imagine Gus Johnson on the call for this shot. I would pay a non-zero sum of money to have this recreated.
There’s absolutely been better shots in NCAA Tournament than this one. Kris Jenkins, Bryce Drew, Mario Chalmers, the list goes on. None of them match the sheer joy that this shot brings.
The Shot lives on eternally as one of the great moments in NCAA Tournament history. Ali Farokhmanesh has gone on to become an assistant coach at Drake, but he’ll always be known around these parts for his shot that took down the nation’s best team. It’ll always have a special place in the hearts of Northern Iowa fans, and especially in my heart.