Larry Wieczorek is all smiles these days and deservedly so.
Feb. 21, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Random thoughts for a Monday morning in the Heartland...
Fran is the Man No. 1. Asked minutes after his team's second overtime loss in four outings how far the road to the Big Ten's upper division is for the UI's men's basketball team, Iowa's first-year head coach spoke definitely: "It's not that far. We are right there. I've said that from the beginning. I've been in both places before. And I know what it's like to be at the bottom of our league and play the first place team in our league, lose on a tip in at the buzzer in overtime and miss the last shot in a one point game. I know what it's like to be in first place and struggle to beat the last place team, both at home and on the road. We're right there. We got a lot of people back. We got some good players coming. We'll be fine." I respect -- and believe in -- Fran's confidence because if the guy on top of the pyramid isn't confident, why should those who play for him or those who cheer for him be confident?
Last week we promised some photographs of the revitalization of Carver on the carverhawkeyerevitalization.com web site and they landed there Friday morning. Check 'em out when you have a chance by clicking HERE, scrolling over the "Multimedia" tab and then clicking on the "Photographs" option in the drop-down menu. As noted, we'll me making additions to this space on a regular basis until completion in late summer.
Lisa Bluder's squad has rebounded from a little skid a few weeks ago to win three straight. They'll go for No. 4 Thursday night against Illinois in the Arena. It's Senior Night so, in addition to saying farewell to Kelsey Cermak, this is the last opportunity for a fan of the UI to show their appreciation of Bluder Bunch's "Energizer Bunny" - senior Kachine Alexander. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. Bring the family. In addition to cheering Kash and the gang, you could help the Hawkeye set a single-season attendance record.
We all know winter is a long way from over, but are you as excited as I am to see your lawn again?
Not sure if many have noticed, but the UI's men's track and field team is rippin' up the record book so far this spring season and that bodes well for an exciting 2011 Big Ten Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship which, as I noted last week, will be staged on the UI campus in May. Here's a pair of updates on Wiz's squad: HERE and HERE.
Fran is the Man No. 2. He's fiery. He's committed. He's invested. He's - as they like to say - "all in." Many of Fran's peers are also "all in" but keep it inside, preferring to maintain a stoic courtside demeanor. If I remember correctly, Dr. Tom was that way...although he, too, had his moments. I don't mind a little courtside fire. In fact, I kind of like it.
Big Ten hoops fans will soon be converging on Indianapolis. If you are one of them or are considering making the trek, here's links to the Big Ten Tournament sites for the women's event HERE and the men's event HERE.
I was listening to the Iowa-Minnesota dual meet yesterday - a 19-12 victory by Brands' squad in its season finale - and I found myself thinking this: Is sophomore all-American Matt McDonough the most dominating student-athlete currently competing for the Hawkeyes? Yesterday's 10-3 victory over UM's Zachary Sanders pushed the Marion, Iowa native's 2011 record to 20-1 overall and a perfect 16-0 in dual meets. And, it's probably noteworthy that 11 of the wins have come via a pin. That, my friends, is a pretty salty resume. It's no surprise that the defending national champion at 125 pounds will enter the month of March - championship month for the Hawkeyes - ranked a consensus No. 1 and is one of a handful current and former Hawkeyes who may be on the mat inside Carver in April 2012 when the UI plays host for the US Olympic Trials.
It's likely that the Big Ten will announce later today that Iowa's final home game of the 2011 men's basketball season against Purdue will be played on Saturday, Mar. 5. Here's what I think about that: Clearly, Saturdays are a great day to play college basketball games. Saturday, Mar. 4, should be a great day for college basketball on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena for one very big reason...in my humble opinion: It's the last home appearance of senior Jarryd Cole. If you haven't noticed, the Kansas City native "brings it" every game and has done so since stepping on the UI campus four years ago. Fran's squad will miss Jarryd's fire and emotion and talent next year.
Speaking of "departing talent," there was a flurry of stories last week about how much talent will be leaving the Big Ten at the end of the current men's basketball season. The suggestion was that fact, perhaps, makes it a little easier for the Hawkeyes to climb the ladder. There, of course, is a little truth to that and fans like me grab onto it. Then, of course, there is the coaches' perspective which is, admittedly, a little more thoughtful: In so many words, "Yes. Everyone is losing talent. However, everyone is also bringing new talent in." This is when the conversation moves to how much game experience your team loses (and "production" in terms of points and rebounds.)