Originally published March 20, 2010 at 12:00a.m., updated March 20, 2010 at 09:49a.m.

Panther coach Ben Jacobson unconventional

Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson directs his offense during the first half Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson directs his offense during the first half Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.



KU vs. UNI pregame

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Kansas will take on Northern Iowa Saturday in the 2010 NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks are looking to advance to the Sweet 16.

KU vs. UNI

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— Ben Jacobson printed off the sheets of paper — one for each member of his team — then entered the Northern Iowa locker room.

Though the UNI players can’t agree on the exact date, they all still remember the day they were first introduced to OER.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” sophomore guard Johnny Moran said. “I’d never seen anything like it.”

Turned out that Jacobson was about to take his players into his world.

They’d always trusted Jacobson before. He was the one who made them learn more than 100 plays, all without a playbook, and told them he didn’t care what shots they took, as long as they played hard defensively.

But here they were, the day after a game, giving each other confused looks in the locker room while staring at a sheet of paper with highlighted statistics about free-throw count and rebounding and defensive-field-goal percentage.

And something they’d never heard of: OER, short for offensive efficiency rating.

So Jacobson preached to his team about OER. He talked about its meaning —points scored per possession — and how his coach at North Dakota, Rich Glas, had kept the statistic for years.

Then he told them why it was important. When UNI kept its opponents under 1 point per possession, it had won over 90 percent of its games.

The Panthers, who’d never heard of the stat before that day, all bought in.

“The stuff he brings in is real,” Moran said, “and everything is legit.”

“I guess over time,” Missouri Valley player of the year Adam Koch said, “you kind of realize he knows what he’s talking about.”

And why question him now? The Panthers give up the second-fewest points per game in the NCAA this season (54.3) and, according to, are 21-1 this season when their defensive OER is below 1.

“I try not to bother them with those things very often,” Jacobson said, “but I felt like it was important that they had a handle on why those numbers are so important.”

It might not have been a conventional method, but then again, Jacobson never has been confused for a conventional Div. I coach.

Here’s an example: The 39-year-old native of Mayville, N.D., rarely curses around his players.

He also will never take out his players for a bad shot or a turnover on offense.

Many Panthers seem to have a story about this.

Against Creighton in mid-February, Mason started to put up a long, stepback three with time left on the shot clock.

“In the middle of my shot, I hear him go, ‘Johnny!’ He was mad,” Mason said. “There was nothing I could do then, so I had to shoot it.”

The desperation heave went through.

And Mason managed to sneak a peek at the bench to see if his coach was upset.

Instead, Jacobson was cracking up.

“We just shared a pretty good laugh,” Mason said. “Everyone’s just so comfortable playing for him.”

Six-foot guard Ali Farokhmanesh remembers times heading to the bench just knowing that a teammate was going to get reamed for taking an ill-advised shot.

Instead, Jacobson cut a joke.

“Coach will yell at you if you don’t block out, if you don’t hustle, if you’re not playing defense the right way, if you don’t know the scout,” Farokhmanesh said. “But you know you’re never getting yelled at for taking a certain shot that some coaches might think are bad.”

Some coaches might have thought that Farokhmanesh’s final shot Thursday wasn’t a good one. Still, with the game tied at 66 and seven seconds remaining, the senior didn’t hesitate in hoisting up a 25-foot, game-winning three-pointer against UNLV.

“I don’t think you see any of us pump-faking at a shot when we’re wide open,” Farokhmanesh said, “thinking we’re going to get yelled at.”


Ralster Jayhawk 4 years ago

Last I heard, RussRob was playing in the NBA D-League again after playing for the Cavaliers in many of their pre-season games...He's become a 3pt bomber as he showed in the Jayhawk Camp games in Lawrence this summer--He and Billy Thomas basically took over the alumni vs. player games... As Ive put my not-so-humble opinion about this before, RussRob deserves to achieve his dream, and if I knew some pro GM, I would surely try to pull some strings for him. But alot of KU-connected people know him, and Im sure Self+Danny's network may help get him his shot(s), if even needed. RCJH!


Ralster Jayhawk 4 years ago

I like to think of Cole and Reed as "tough white guys", not that it should mean anything, as we have alot of consistently tough players. You cannot talk about tough without picturing Sherron and Twins also. Lets hope the boys from N.Iowa who havent faced a ranked team ALL season, get a rude, yes rude awakening courtesy the Hawks!


awstar 4 years ago

This game has me a bit worried to be honest. I don't care what conference these guys play in or what certain statistics say, this is exactly the kind of team we generally have problems with. We have played to our opponents level nearly all year and I think we might be in trouble if we don't impose our will early.

Bunch of tough white guys who chuck threes from all over is kinda scary to me, especially if they catch fire.


Mike Kendall 4 years ago


What is RussRob up to, now days? I enjoyed the recent article on Sasha Kahn by the LJW.


Ralster Jayhawk 4 years ago

mikendal, Haha, yes--I will cycle that avatar pix back for sure, but I felt like this point of the season is all about winners, smart-decision making, rock-solid D, and high-efficiency ball--as well as celebrating a recent stunning example of all that: RussRob is one of my favorite KU players of all time. A Champ.


Mike Kendall 4 years ago

ralster--- I agree on your points. I live in the Wichita area, too, and have seen UNI several times. They love a slow pace. Gotta run the big fella (Eiglseder--SP?) till his tongue hangs out.

Ralser, miss your old pic. Man, that was a hot pic, btw!


Ralster Jayhawk 4 years ago

lighthawk, I agree with your point that we should take them as seriously as possible--most of us are pretty confident if KU brings its "A" game offensively and defensively, it will be a beatdown.


Eliott Reeder 4 years ago

Well, here's to them taking a bunch of good-naturedly horrible shots today.


Ralster Jayhawk 4 years ago

Hey, I live near Wichita and can understand N.Iowa making WSU or most MoValley teams look ugly and frustrated. But KU is a vastly different collection of players compared to all MoValley teams. More curious why N.Iowa "only" went 13-3 in their own league? What happenned to them in those 3 losses? I guarantee Self has been gameplanning them mercilessly...

Jankovich said N.Iowa's 6'2" 200 lb guard is too big for most Valley teams to put their own PG on, but thats just a run-of-the-mill BigXII-sized PG, really. Collins, Tweety Carter, Pullen, Clemente, TT, Reed, Morn'supaStar, etc...


Steve Brown 4 years ago

look at their pentom record, they win a ton of games...granted not great opponents, and they don't win by a small margin....usually by big chunks.

take them for granted, and the bucket gets tight and we 'could' have issue - except we are too deep, someone will step up, if not a bunch of guys.

after today, the slope gets steeper.


Ralster Jayhawk 4 years ago

Interesting method. Basically they play D as their coach demands, but there is no pressure on them offensively, so maybe they stay loose on that end of the court...Similar defensive philosophy to SelfBall, but KU also has a highly structured offensive.

But I have heard N.Iowa isnt any barn-burner on offensive output, so if they met KU Defense, just how ugly can we make them look? And just how fast up-and-down the floor is a 280-lb guy going to be. My guess on why they play slowball--to keep him involved. And what are his 'blocks' stats? That takes quickness & skill also. Bet on ColeMan & Twins.

Have you looked at N.Iowa's non-conference opponents? Have they faced anyone remotely close to KU in personnel, athleticism, and offensive+defensive prowess? Not meant to sound like a smug-homer question, but just look at the matchups...and why do they substitute en-mass? Are they like Mizzou, just slower? Cant wait to see this game & matchups! RCJH!


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