Mobile March Madness

March 23, 2016 by Casey Ward

Nothing compares with the thrill of hitting a game-winning basket. Few things feels worse than being on the wrong end of an improbable comeback. Teams playing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament experience both ends of the spectrum every March. Such drama and excitement is one reason why it has grown into one of the world’s most popular sporting events.

One of the best parts about the March Madness is that every game has the potential to become a classic that everyone will be talking about. You don’t want to miss these games, and unless you can take off work and stay home all day you might only be able to see the highlights on ESPN. Fortunately though, it’s 2016 and it’s become easier to never miss a moment of the tournament with live content offered in mobile apps. Without this luxury, I never would have seen the first game winning shot of the tourney that everyone was talking about.

Northern Iowa earned an 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Panthers defeated Evansville with a winning basket on the game’s final play. That gave the 11 seed Northern Iowa an opening round matchup with 6 seeded Texas, where history would repeat itself in dramatic fashion.

Northern Iowa led by as many as 16 points in the first half before the Texas Longhorns rallied to go ahead 53-47 early in the second half. The Panthers did not let Texas pull away and took a 71-70 lead on Klint Carlson’s layup with 29 seconds left in the game. The Longhorns answered following a Wes Washpun free throw a few seconds later, tying the game on Isaiah Taylor’s layup with 2.7 seconds left. Taylor’s shot set the stage for even bigger dramatics.

Here’s where the advantages of living in a mobile world are proven. Years ago I would have missed the ending to this game and only seen it on TV highlights, but in 2016 I was alerted on my iPhone through a notification that a close game was in play. I was not around a TV to watch but this allowed me to open up my app just in time to see Paul Jesperson bank in a shot from half court as time expired to seal Northern Iowa’s upset 75-72 victory over Texas.

Unfortunately Northern Iowa switched roles in its next game and became the comeback victim against Texas A&M. The Panthers took a 69-57 lead on a pair of free throws from Jeremy Morgan with 44 seconds left in regulation. A 12-point lead with :44 seconds to play is pretty much a lock. But, over the game’s final 35 seconds, the Aggies turned up the pressure and successfully forced Northern Iowa to commit a series of turnovers off inbound passes. An injury to starting guard Matt Bohannon doomed Northern Iowa, as Bohannon normally handled making inbound passes. With him on the bench during the final minute of regulation, the Panthers could not handle the extra defensive pressure the Aggies created in that situation. Northern Iowa was 1-5 on inbound passes after Texas A&M scores. Admon Gilder’s steal and layup with 1.9 seconds left in regulation tied it at 71-71 and forced overtime.

Again, I was not able to watch this game on TV, but because I received an app notification I had the chance to watch the game’s 2 overtimes on my iPhone sitting in a parking lot. Northern Iowa hung with Texas A&M through one overtime before finally falling in the second one. It marked the biggest deficit overcome by any team during the last minute of a college basketball game in NCAA history, and I was able to experience this all on my iPhone.

Texas A&M created chances to comeback instead of yielding and secured an improbable trip to the Sweet 16. In the process, Northern Iowa was denied making its second Sweet 16 appearance in school history.

Fortune can be a fickle thing in basketball. Northern Iowa enjoyed good fortune in reaching the NCAA Tournament and beating Texas. Luck ran out at the worst possible time, creating a thrilling memory for Texas A&M and an agonizing defeat for the Panthers. But my mobile luck kicked in at the best possible time, creating a thrilling memory that I got to watch live on my iPhone. So for that, I thank you Mobile March Madness!

Casey is a co-founder of REPu and leads the Product Development team. He's responsible for making the app user friendly and look amazing. He's also an opinionated foodie who leads a dinner club in San Diego touring new restaurants.