Brands' squad is looking pretty tough these days.
Feb. 13, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Random thoughts on a spring-like thaw Sunday in the Heartland...
Yes, we folks here in Eastern Iowa are getting a big-time reprieve from Old Man Winter today, tomorrow and well into the week ahead. There is consensus among those who make predictions on the weather for a living that we'll be well into the 40s by midweek and we may touch 50 if we're lucky. If that occurs, a good chunk of the white stuff that surrounds us will melt away at a rate and at a time of year that lessens the likelihood of other water-related problems in spring while putting a smile on the likes of Marla Looper and Jack Dahm, Iowa's head softball and baseball coaches, among many.
I'm on record of enjoying and respecting the work of Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register. And, I'm on record of having great respect for a long, tall and successful Texan by the name of Hayden Fry. And, of course, I'm a big fan of Fran and the heavy lifting he and his staff are doing with our men's basketball program. So, I was delighted to see and read Rick's short piece, "Fran has a touch of Fry" Friday. Rick drew a parallel between Fry's infamous contempt for "moral victories" and Fran's similar stance after the Hawkeyes' close-but-no-cigar overtime fist fight with the Badgers earlier this week inside Carver. If you missed it, here's a link to Rick's (always good) work: HERE. I think you'll enjoy it.
Speaking of smiles, if you're a fan of Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes your smile may be matching that of Fran's prized freshman, Melsahn Basabe, who has an engaging grin to go with an outstanding demeanor on and off the court. The rookie is proving game after game after game to be one of the rising stars of the Big Ten Conference. "This I thought was a big test for him. This is a really long, big, physical team, and for him to go for 13, 11, 6 for 11 from the field, you're going to have to finish with contact against these guys, and I thought he did that, and three huge blocks. I was really proud of him tonight. I thought he was terrific," Fran said of Basabe after Wednesday's overtime thriller.
Here's hoping Melsahn is terrific again later today when the Hawkeyes entertain nationally ranked Minnesota on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa pushed Wisconsin into an extra session in its ongoing search for a victory over a Top 25 team. Today's contest is yet another opportunity and one that yours truly believes will see the streak of disappointment come to a screeching halt. Could it be that Tom Brands and his staff have the Hawkeyes on the path to be squarely in the hunt for yet another national championship? Should we be surprised?
A group of us toured the revitalized Carver-Hawkeye Arena last week in what will become a two-times-a-month activity now that there's work getting done that translates well into pictures. You can expect something to both editorial and a collection of photographs to land on hawkeyesports.com and carverhawkeyerevitalization.com early next week. Some "random thoughts" on the project as it stands today? Well, the practice facility is huge -- pardon me, I should have typed HUGE - but what was I thinking? It is, after all, two full-sized basketball courts side-by-side. The new strength and conditioning space is rests immediately below the practice facility so, likewise, it, too is HUGE. And, lastly, the new game-day club room being built for those fans of the Hawkeyes who are helping to make the project happen with an investment in the premium seating options that are available but going fast is also going to be a very spacious place to gather.
Could it be that Tom Brands and his staff have the Hawkeyes on the path to be squarely in the hunt for yet another national championship? Should we be surprised?
Did you know that a joint membership is available that provides access to the products, services and amenities of Finkbine Golf Course and it neighbor to the immediate south, the University Athletic Club? Look for details on that partnership in very early March...and, remember, Finkbine typically opens for play the last week of March.
I appreciated Lisa Bluder's candid response earlier this week when asked how her team has handled "expectations" this season. "I'm not really sure. But it is definitely something different than we had last year," Iowa's veteran coach said. "Last year was no expectations, and so it was pretty free and easy. This year we came in with high expectations, and maybe the pressure has gotten to them a little bit more than I thought it would. But I really I don't know."
Are you or someone you know "110 percent Hawkeye"? To learn more, click HERE.
Now, to follow up on the previous paragraph: Don't be left with the impression that the wheels have come off of Bluder's Bunch. From where I sit, the Hawkeyes appear on a path that leads, currently, to a 4 or 5 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament. They could maybe climb to a 3 with a strong finish in what remains of the regular season paired with a deep run in Indianapolis. And, frankly, there's too much talent on the floor and among the coaching staff not think both are very real possibilities.
Scratch these dates on the family calendar: May 13, 14 and 15. The UI will host the Big Ten Conference Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championship on Cretzmeyer Track in Iowa City on those days. Check it out. I think you'll be more than entertained.
If basketball or wrestling aren't your cup of tea today, think about a visit to the UI Field House. Larissa Libby's UI women's gymnastics team will square off against Wisconsin-Stout at 2 p.m. The Gymhawks are coming off a very strong performance Friday night against nationally ranked Denver - click HERE for details of that. They are also saluting the work of the "academic teammates" on the UI campus - members of UI faculty and staff - and rightfully so. Libby's squad is always among the UI's best when it comes to academic performance. To learn more about that, click HERE.
I dare say the Arena was a hoppin' place Wednesday night. The anticipation for tipoff was palpable, the student section was real, and the game - while a vintage knock-down, drag-out head banger - was pretty darn entertaining. In fact, it was more than necessary. I would have been just as happy as all black-and-gold fans to have not played an extra five minutes of ball and instead used those five minutes to celebrate another game-winner by Bryce Cartwright. Go Hawks!