It’s a good bet the number of absences at workplaces in Cedar Falls went up this afternoon as the hometown University of Northern Iowa Panthers opened play in the NCAA mens’ basketball tournament. U-N-I is the only mens’ team from the state to make to what’s known as the big dance. Steve Plummer is the general Manager of “Pepper’s Grill and Sports Pub” in Cedar Falls. In an interview with Radio Iowa about a half-hour before the game, he said things were starting to get crowded and he expected more people to stop by. He says he figures a lot of people are cutting out of work about now, to make it in time to see the game. He says this is one of the biggest sporting events for the town in years. He says seeing the football team in the playoffs was great, but says “this is a little bit bigger stage.” U-N-I’s appearance in the tournament makes a good time of year even better for a sports bar.He says this is what we’re all about, and says it’s like Christmas for him. Plummer says the game is also a sort of personal vindication for his season-long support of U-N-I. He says he caught a lot of flack from his brothers and sisters when he said at Thanksgiving that U-N-I was the best basketball team in the state — and then U-N-I lost to Iowa State. He says he can now “put it back on them” with the Panthers being the only team in the tournament. Hopefully the game will give Cedar Falls a little more name recognition, as one of the announcers mistakenly called Cedar Rapids the home of the Panthers during the broadcast of the game.