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The important question facing rural America today is, which team remaining in the basketball tournament is the most Yonder? They start playing again this evening and although we know the jump shot was a Yonder creation, which team today is the most rural?
We don’t think any of the schools come from strictly rural counties. Cornell and Northern Iowa are located in exurban counties. Cornell (in Ithaca, New York) downplays its ruralish nature, claiming the town is “ten square miles surrounded by reality.” (Cornell, don’t talk that way about family.) But the area is definite more rural than Lexington, home of the Big Blue Behemoth of the University of Kentucky. Then again, UK represents a state that is nearly half rural and is one of three mountain schools left in the tourney. University of Tennessee comes from Knoxville and a state that is nearly two-thirds urban. West Virginia University represents the most rural state left in the tournament.
Only four out of ten West Virginians live in urban areas.
But then there’s Northern Iowa University, from Cedar Falls. The kids come from Iowa: Spencer, Iowa City, Solon, Bondurant, Sac City, Garnavillo and Bellevue. The only player who comes from anything close to an urban center is a freshman from St. Paul, Minnesota. West Virginia and Kentucky may be more Yonder states, but Northern Iowa could be the most Yonderish team. “These kids have grown up in the shadow of Christmas tree farms and expect a salad to have ground meat on it somewhere,” says Yonder publisher Dee Davis. “Who could be more Yonderful?”