March 14, 2005
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- The NCAA Tournament
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IMPORTANT NOTES FOR TICKET HOLDERS AND THOSE SEEKING TICKETS: For season ticket-holders, the Iowa ticket office will start accommodating requests at 9 a.m. CST on Monday. Please call 1-800-IA-HAWKS or visit the ticket office website via the above link. For non-season ticket-holders, visit the Ticketmaster website via the above link.
Iowa’s game, inside the RCA Dome, will be at approximately 1:50 p.m. CST on Thursday. Television information is unavailable at this time.
Those who buy “all-sessions” tickets from either vendor for $150 (for lower-level seating) or $90 (for upper-level seating) will have tickets available for them if Iowa wins and advances to Saturday’s game.
For those interested in single-game-only tickets, those tickets will go on sale at 8 a.m. CST on Wednesday. Those tickets cost $50 for lower-level seating and $30 for upper-level seating. Single-game tickets will be available for purchase at the Ticketmaster website (www.ticketmaster.com).
Buy now, though, tickets are going fast.
The roar that erupted from the Iowa men’s basketball locker rooms could be heard throughout Carver-Hawkeye Arena Sunday and that said it all: the Hawkeyes are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.
“There’s nothing like 20 men jumping up and down screaming as loud as they can,” forward Greg Brunner said in a press conference following the announcement. “I had tears in my eyes I was so scared and so nervous.”
“It was awesome,” point guard Jeff Horner said. “It was just one of the most exciting moments in our career. It’s just an awesome feeling knowing that we’re going to be going there.”
It was a marked change of pace for a Hawkeye locker room that has seen some difficult times this season, according to Head Coach Steve Alford.
“We know our locker room has been through an awful lot, and I know our guys and I couldn’t possibly be any happier for our entire basketball team,” the coach said. “Obviously we’re very excited, and in our locker room it was a lot of fun. We didn’t like waiting for the final bracket and the third to the last line – that wasn’t a lot of fun – but it probably built up our enthusiasm even more.”
Iowa (21-11) is seeded tenth in the Austin bracket and will face seventh-seeded and No. 21 Cincinnati (24-7) on Thursday inside the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Ind. The game will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 11:20 p.m. Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky game.
The trip to the RCA Dome will certainly not be Alford’s first. In the 1987 season, Alford played at the venue twice, picking up wins against Fairfield and Auburn, before his Indiana Hoosiers won the NCAA Championship that year.
“It’s a lot fun for me to go back to that same building as a coach rather than as a player,” said Alford.
But after the year that his Hawkeyes have had, Alford is just happy to be able to play in the tournament at all.
“We’ve had good times, ugly times and bad times, and I think you can make positives out of all three of those things,” the coach said. “That’s what we’ve worked towards. This is fifth-straight winning season. It’s only happened two other times in the 102 years of Iowa basketball. There are a lot of positives and those are the things I always look towards.
“I think we’re making progress and these guys have made it a lot of fun for us,” Alford added.
Iowa lost leading scorer Pierre Pierce following legal trouble in February and then had to play Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Illinois. That stretch, where Iowa went 1 for 4, nearly killed all hopes of a NCAA berth.
“Coach just kept telling us in the locker room that something big is going to happen. Something big is going to happen. And here it is. We’re just waiting for it now.”
Junior point guard Jeff Horner
Following losses at Purdue and Minnesota, Horner thought that the only way the Hawkeyes could make the tournament is by winning the Big Ten Tournament.
“It was tough,” the point guard said. “We would have to win four games in a row, and we ended up winning five games in a row. It was just tough after that game because everybody counted us out and then we lose to Minnesota and everyone said we had to win our last four to get in.
“And our heads were down, but then we said, `To heck with it.’ We’re just going to go out and have fun and do our thing.”
Horner said that Alford consistently reminded the team that the troubles and adversity it faced would eventually lead to a happy ending.
“I had a feeling that just with everything bad that’s happened to this program that something good had to come out of it,” Horner said. “Coach just kept telling us in the locker room that something big is going to happen. Something big is going to happen. And here it is. We’re just waiting for it now.”
Alford said Iowa would have been hard for the NCAA Selection Committee to pass over considering its play in the Big Ten Tournament, beating Purdue, 13th-ranked Michigan State, and nearly beating No. 23 Wisconsin in the semifinals.
“That really solidified our chances,” Alford said. “I think we were under consideration after Purdue, but I think being a top-10 team and playing another top-25 team down to the wire, I think, really solidified what we’ve done.”
For sophomore Adam Haluska, the tournament selection is the crowning moment of a long-executed plan and the ultimate goal of the season.
“We battled through a lot and I think the main thing is that we always just stuck to the plan. We’ve never deviated from that,” the guard said. “We just stayed right on course with what the coaches had planned out for us. I think good things happen to a good program like this. I couldn’t be happier for the other players and the coaching staff because of what we’ve been through and just the way we’ve handled ourselves.
“And I think we’re very deserving of this opportunity.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com