March 12, 2005

It’s now hurry-up-and-wait time for the Iowa Hawkeyes. They made their statement, winning six of their last 10 including a Big Ten Tournament win over No. 2 seed and nationally-ranked Michigan State. They also took the No. 3 seed and defending league tournament champion Wisconsin to the buzzer.

Toss in 21 wins and clear evidence that the Hawkeyes have enough firepower to compete if not do some serious damage, and the picture is clear: Alford’s squad is heading to the NCAA’s post-season party for the first time since winning the Big Ten’s automatic berth in 2001.

Now it gets kind of fun and interesting, particularly if one takes a gander at the bracket posted on CBS Sportsline Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Iowa time.

There it is hidden among the Bucknell’s, Old Dominion’s and LSU’s in the Syracuse regional. A potential No. 10 Iowa versus No. 2 Louisville match-up in the second round. Of course, first things first. The Hawkeyes would have to get past No. 7 Nevada and Cardinals would have to top No. 15 Chattanooga.

However, if they do, it’s a rematch of one of Iowa’s significant wins of the 2004-05 season.(Remember, though, things change fast in the world of college basketball during the first two weeks of March…the brackets might have already changed by the time you’re reading this!)

Way back on Nov. 22, the Hawkeyes dealt Louisville a 76-71 loss in the first round of the 2004 Maui Invitational. Jeff Horner scored 11 points in a 4½-minute span of the second half, part of a nine-minute stretch when Iowa held then 12th ranked Louisville without a field goal, and the Hawkeyes went on to a 76-71 victory.

“I thought in the second half we performed extremely well,” Alford said after the win. “I thought our defense went to another level and we executed offensively.”

Iowa went on to defeat Texas the next day in Maui to advance to the championship game against North Carolina. There, the Hawkeyes ran into a buzz-saw. Nonetheless, the picture was clear: The 2004-05 Hawkeyes were more than capable of competing with the nation’s best.

The post-season picture will get clear for all college basketball teams Sunday at 5 p.m. Iowa time when the NCAA reveals its field of 65. The action will be televised live by CBS and will include commentary from Bob Bowlsby, who, in addition to being the director of athletics at the University of Iowa, is the chair of the selection committee.

For the record, Iowa is one of five Big Ten teams included in CBS Sportsline’s most recent bracket. Illinois is the highest seeded league team at No. 1 in the Chicago regional. The teams are evenly distributed throughout the bracket with the exception of the Albuquerque regional where both Wisconsin and Minnesota appear. They wouldn’t meet until the regional final, however.

North Carolina, Kansas and Wake Forest are the other No. 1 seeds. It’s also a bracket friendly to the state of Iowa. Both Northern Iowa and Iowa State – two teams Iowa defeated during the regular season – are also included in the mix, UNI as the No. 11 seed in the Syracuse regional and Iowa State as the No. 11 seed in the Albuquerque regional.