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March 25, 2010
12:48 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — It’s no secret which team Adrien Harraway and Heidi Freitager are pulling for in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. They’re graduates of the University of Northern Iowa, after all.

Harraway, UVa’s director of academic affairs for football, was a safety for the Panthers. Freitager, an assistant softball coach at Virginia, played catcher at Northern Iowa.

Tony Bennett has a connection to the Cedars Falls school, too.

Northern Iowa’s basketball players include brothers Adam and Jake Koch. Their father, Brian, played for Bennett’s father, Dick, at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Morever, their brother Bennett was named at least partly in honor of Dick Bennett, Tony Bennett believes.

Brian Koch “actually was my dentist when I lived in Green Bay,” the younger Bennett told reporters on a teleconference this morning.

Bennett also knows Northern Iowa guard Ali Farokhmanesh, whose late 3-pointer against No. 1 Kansas last weekend ranks among the more memorable shots in NCAA tournament history. (Ali’s trey sent Kansas alumnus Dave Koehn, better known as the “Voice of the Cavaliers,” into a funk from which he’s yet to fully recover.)

Farokhmanesh’s mother, Cindy Fredrick, was women’s volleyball coach at Washington State during Dick Bennett’s first season as coach at the Pac-10 school. Tony Bennett was his father’s top assistant.

Farokhmanesh “was just a junior high school kid, and we used to shoot around all the time,” Bennett said. “You talk about a guy paying the price on his shot and having a real consistent, compact stroke.”

With his ties to the Kochs and Farokhmanesh, “I have an affinity obviously for those guys and how they play,” Bennett said.

“So with all that said, I’m going to go with Ohio State [to win the NCAA tourney],” Bennett added with a laugh. “How’s that for loyalty? But I like those guys.”

Northern Iowa meets Michigan State in the NCAA tournament’s third round Friday night.

Jeff White

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