Tuesday March 23rd, 2010

When Northern Iowa first appeared in Sports Illustrated this season, in January, it was under the headline "Iowa's Got a Secret." The Panthers were still anonymous then, and SI's Albert Chen wrote that they were "capable of rocking the NCAA tournament as George Mason did four years ago."

That was quite the call. UNI is no longer a secret after rocking the bracket -- and miracle man Ali Farokhmanesh is on the cover of this week's SI:

SI Cover

(Robert Beck/SI)

The lede to Chen's January story introduced the country to the film criticism of Farokhmanesh and fellow senior Adam Koch:

Things to do in Cedar Falls, Iowa? Grab a bite at J's Homestyle Cooking. (The $6.75 dinner special is recommended.) Hang out at the main watering hole in town, Beck's on College Street. Or catch a flick at the College Square Theatre, which is where Northern Iowa basketball starters Ali Farokhmanesh and Adam Koch spend a typical Friday night when they're not on the road. "We like to think of ourselves as Siskel and Ebert," says Koch, who as the Panthers' lanky, 6'8" power forward would be the Siskel to the 6-foot Farokhmanesh's Ebert. The roommates, who by their count have screened more than 30 movies over the past three months, keep a tally of every flick they've seen, on an oversized posterboard taped to a basement wall in their off-campus house. "We score every movie on the chart and even color code them based on their ratings," says Farokhmanesh, who liked Avatar (he gave it a 9.4 out of 10) but was let down by the denouement in The Book of Eli (an 8.25). "Hey, it's Iowa," adds the senior guard. "You have to find ways to amuse yourself."

I discovered this week that their posterboard isn't just a posterboard -- it's called "Theee Movie Board," and it has its own Facebook fan page with a classy profile pic:

Thee Movie Board

From left, UNI players Adam Koch, Ali Farokhmanesh and Jake Koch. (Theee Movie Board Facebook)

The players -- freshman Jake Koch has a vote, too -- end all of their posts on that page with the tagline "*the board has spoken*". Their two favorites are The Shawshank Redemption (9.75) and Avatar (9.42) -- both widely praised flicks. I wondered how their ratings stacked up against those of the movie-review community at large, so I compared the numbers from Thee Movie Board with the average ratings from review-aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to identify Farokhmanesh and the Kochs' boldest stances. This is, after all, a blog dedicated to serious statistical analysis.

In the chart below, "UNI" is the Northern Iowa review, "RT" is the average Rotten Tomatoes review, and "Diff" is the gap between the two. The movie the Cinderella trio was most bullish on is the Reese Witherspoon-and-Vince Vaughn-led Four Christmases; it got a 7.42 from the Panthers crew but has just a 4.3 average at Rotten Tomatoes. The movie UNI took the most boldly negative stance on was The Talented Mr. Ripley, giving it a 6.0 to Rotten Tomatoes' 7.3.

(My biggest point of contention -- and I'm sure Seth Davis would feel the same way -- is with their criminal under-rating of Almost Famous, which only received a 7.42. Were they mad that the "golden god" scene was set in Topeka instead of Cedar Falls?)

Movie UNI RT Diff.
Four Christmases 7.42 4.3 +3.12
High Crimes 8.08 5.0 +3.08
The Book of Eli 8.08 5.3 +2.78
The Hangover 9.08 6.7 +2.38
Fallen 7.42 5.3 +2.12
A Beautiful Mind 9.17 7.1 +2.07
Avatar 9.42 7.4 +2.02
The Taking of Pelham 123 7.33 5.4 +1.93
Funny People 8.17 6.3 +1.87
The Goods 5.92 4.1 +1.82
The Shawshank Redemption 9.75 8.0 +1.75
Paranormal Activity 8.67 7.0 +1.67
State of Play 8.5 6.9 +1.60
Domino 5.08 3.9 +1.18
3:10 to Yuma 8.75 7.5 +1.25
Enemy at the Gates 6.67 5.6 +1.07
Public Enemies 7.0 6.3 +0.70
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead 8.33 7.7 +0.63
Inglorious Basterds 8.17 7.7 +0.47
Heat 8.08 7.7 +0.38
Up 8.75 8.6 +0.15
Collateral 7.33 7.4 -0.07
The Abyss 6.92 7.1 -0.18
Almost Famous 7.42 7.8 -0.38
Pulp Fiction 8.5 8.9 -0.40
Eastern Promises 6.92 7.6 -0.68
Fargo 7.58 8.4 -0.82
Unforgiven 7.67 8.6 -0.93
The Talented Mr. Ripley 6.0 7.3 -1.30

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