Hawk Talk Daily: Random Thoughts

March 25, 2013

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Random thoughts on a really big day for Bluder’s Bunch…


OK. If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet for today’s first round games of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament to be staged in Carver, give it some consideration. Lisa’s team – the region’s No. 8 seed – squares off against No. 9 Miami (Fla.) at 6:30 p.m. and we need to be in big numbers and loud and proud. See you there…and here’s what Lisa had to say about the game yesterday when she met with the media: . And here’s our preview of the game: HERE

Notre Dame is the best women’s basketball team in Iowa City this weekend according to the tournament’s selection committee, which put a small number “1” in front of the Irish on Selection Monday. Fran McCaffery’s wife, Margaret had a role in helping to build that program into the powerhouse that it is. You can read about that here, compliments of the Ryan Suchomel of the Iowa City Press-Citizen: HERE.

So if I told you my bracket has four Big Ten Conference teams at the Final Four in Atlanta would you laugh? Yeah. Me, too. Should you be surprised? No not only am I Big Ten to the core, the league is also loaded with talent.

I don’t know the exact numbers, but if – as they say…agree with it or not – the real test of a men’s basketball conference’s “strength” is how they perform in the post-season, the nation’s No. 1 conference statistically, the Mountain West, doesn’t get a passing grade. Meanwhile, my Big Ten Conference is competing nicely, thank you.

I’m also hanging in there in the Klatt Family Bracket Challenge. Long way to go, however, so I haev no plans for a celebratory Coca-Cola just yet…

I don’t know the exact numbers, but if – as they say…agree with it or not – the real test of a men’s basketball conference’s “strength” is how they perform in the post-season, the nation’s No. 1 conference statistically, the Mountain West, doesn’t get a passing grade. Meanwhile, my Big Ten Conference is competing nicely, thank you.

File this one under “Technology…we can’t live with it…and we can’t live without it.” A special tip of the fedora to those fans of the Hawkeyes who waited patiently last Thursday and Friday as we worked through a pretty significant technology hiccup related to tickets to the second round NIT game. Also, thanks for helping carry the Hawkeyes to victory. You were difference-makers…and the Des Moines Register’s Rick Brown wrote a little piece about you HERE.

A 9 — that Wichita State team that beat Fran’s squad way back when our freshmen were really freshmen — beating a Gonzaga, a 1, 15’s beating 2’s, 14’s beating 3’s, 13’s beating 4’s… It’s a great time of year, isn’t it?

I had the pleasure of walking alongside Sherm Dillard, one of Fran’s assistant coaches, very early Thursday morning. He was a man on a mission; he had the “scout” for Stony Brook. Sherm made it crystal clear in that short trek from the parking lot to the stairway where I went one direction and he the other: Stony Brook was good, really good. They were. But the good guys in black and gold prevailed. You can read about Friday night’s win on Mediacom Court HERE. You can watch highlights HERE.

I am a little irked at Mother Nature at the moment and not because she and that ground hog in Pennsylvania appear to be conspiring against the calendar. No, she is making it a little more difficult than it should be to give Bluder’s Bunch the home court advantage they so deserve later this afternoon at Carver. My advice to those who are draggin’ their heels on the decision to attend today’s NCAA Tournament first round games in Iowa City is to ignore any white stuff that might fall from the sky and rest assured that (a) the streets and sidewalks will be fine, (b) the basketball will be superior, and (c) your support will be greatly appreciated by the good guys in black and gold.

“Why is Charles Barkley everywhere these days?” I was asked yesterday while watching March Madness. Good question. I like Charles. He doesn’t know the college game as well as the NBA, in my humble opinion, but he’s still very much worth your attention. Need an example? Did you catch the question he asked of the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast yesterday during the break between the Michigan and Michigan State games? The guy beat a 2 seed (might Georgetown) and Chuck asks where in the heck Florida Gulf Coast is in Florida? Too funny. Charles must also be a proven commodity in terms of helping to move the sales needle. Nonetheless, you can be over-exposed, can’t you?

Jack Dahm’s squad split a doubleheader with Northwestern yesterday. Mother Nature had her way with that pair and Friday’s game against the Wildcats as well. The Hawkeyes were supposed to open their Big Ten season in Evanston on the Northwestern campus but the games were moved to the suburb of Carol Stream where there was a playable field. Left-hander Matt Dermody was the driving force behind yesterday’s win. You can read about that HERE.

So, all fans of Hawkeye basketball will be tuning in to ESPN today at 10 a.m. Iowa time to see if it’s Iowa at Virginia or St. John’s at Iowa Wednesday at 6 p.m. in a game that will determine one of the four teams that will be headed to New York City and a semifinal game of the 2013 National Invitational Tournament on April 2. Today’s game should be a good one and it will set up another stiff challenge for Fran’s squad regardless of whether the Hawkeyes have to win a road game in an ACC gym to advance to the Big Apple or beat another supremely talented team on our home court. My vote? Mediacom Court, of course. In addition to one more opportunity to put 15,400 in the building, we also get the bonus of being entertained by SJU Coach Steve Lavin, who I really, really enjoy when he’s behind the microphone.

Four of Iowa’s nine entries in the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championship staged at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines earned All-America honors. Tony Ramos and Derek St. John accomplished that through the winners bracket. Ramos was the national runner-up; St. John became Iowa’s 52nd national champion. Yes. Our 52nd national champion. You can read about that HERE. Ethen Lofthouse and Mike Evans reached the podium through the medal round. You can read about that HERE.

Everyone knows Devyn Marble’s numbers for the Hawkeyes’ two NIT games have been superb. But, how about those four three-pointers made by Zach McCabe? Each were big, really big. For the record, the junior from Sioux City has knocked down four of his eight attempts behind the arc in NIT play while remaining a fixture physically down low where he’s counted on just as much if not more. Here’s hoping he stays in the groove for a few more games yet this season.

Fran had some nice things to say about McCabe and several of his teammates after the Hawkeyes’ second NIT victory of the week. You can read them HERE.

I enjoyed this from Stuart Miller, who blogs about the NBA for the New York Times. It’s certainly pertinent to college basketball fans, particularly this time of year: HERE.

From the “Gee, I wish I would have thought of that” file: Scott Dochterman of The Gazette wrote this yesterday: “McCaffery’s captains. The talent pool was depleted when Fran McCaffery arrived at Iowa, but he did inherit three of the best team captains in Iowa basketball history. Jarryd Cole, Matt Gatens and Eric May all were tremendous role models and leaders in each of the last three years and helped set the foundation for the coming era of Iowa basketball. When their playing days are over, all three will be recognizable faces and names in Iowa circles for generations to come and deservedly so. Their contributions were vital in the resurgence of Iowa basketball.” I’m in complete agreement with one footnote: The talent pool wasn’t completely depleted. It included Cole, Gatens, and May. What Fran and his staff have done is added Big Ten caliber talent in significant numbers.