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Fond memories

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Courtesy: NSU Athletics

Every time March Madness rolls around, Iowa basketball fans cringe while Northwestern State supporters cheer. Thanks to a new Buffalo Wild Wings television commercial, they're getting a head start for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

The Demons' memorable March 17, 2006 NCAA Tournament last-second 64-63 upset of 15th-ranked Iowa is the catalyst in a new 30-second Buffalo Wild Wings commercial which has begun airing nationally.

In the commercial, the game's dramatic final seconds, when NSU guard Jermaine Wallace sinks a game-winning 3-pointer just before the final buzzer, are shown on a big screen as tournament fans watch and react at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. 

The debut of the commercial has set off a good-natured firestorm among chagrinned Hawkeye fans. One Iowa fan website, BlackHeartGoldPants.com, posted the YouTube.com video of the commercial with a warning to viewers:  "the following video and still footage may contain images of a very graphic and unsettling manner. Proceed at your own caution."

The 2014 Hawkeyes team is ironically ranked 15th in this week's Associated Press Top 25 and in the USA Today Coaches Poll that Demons' coach Mike McConathy has voted on each week for a sixth straight season. Iowa is expected to earn its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. That game was the second-straight first-round NCAA Tournament exit for Iowa.

Buffalo Wild Wings is an NCAA corporate partner. Company representatives last month contacted NSU, Iowa, and some members of both teams to gain permission to use the footage in the commercial, which can be seen on YouTube by using the search engine for "Buffalo Wild Wings-Heat."

"It's a great memory for our program, for our university, for our fans, and it truly is one of the special moments in the NCAA Tournament through the years," said McConathy. In fact, fans voted the NSU win over Iowa as the best game in more than 40 years of tournament history in a 2011 poll on the NCAASports.com website. It was even used in a scene of the CBS Television daily soap opera "The Young and the Restless" that year.

"Every March, that final play and even the entire game are replayed on national networks, and I suppose they always will be. When we heard the folks at Buffalo Wild Wings were considering using footage from the game in a commercial, it reminded us how blessed we have been to have been on the biggest stage in college sports and to have had our 'One Shining Moment' become a reality," he said. "We appreciate people enjoying the memories. There's nothing like seeing a Cinderella story come to life. We keep trying, but it's one that is probably tough to match."

The Demons made it back to the NCAA Tournament last year in a 23-9 season. They're  hoping to make another run March 12-16 and capture the Southland Conference Tournament crown to clinch their fourth NCAA appearance since 2001 under McConathy, the winningest college basketball coach in state history.

While this year's team is just 12-12 overall, it has won seven of the last eight games and has three top 10 NCAA statistical rankings:  second in scoring (86.4 points per game), fifth in steals per game (9.4) and 10th in assists per game (16.6). Demon players have three top 10 individual rankings:  freshman guard Zeek Woodley is fifth in the NCAA with his 61.4 shooting percentage, while sophomore point guard Jalan West ranks No. 5 in steals per game (2.71) and eighth in assists (6.7 per game).

Northwestern (8-5 in the Southland) goes to league-leading Stephen F. Austin Saturday evening.

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