Saturday, December 11, 2004

Iowa, ISU, UNI Could Go To NCAA Men's Tournament

If you ask me, those were two NCAA basketball tournament teams that we saw play Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

After watching Iowa escape a strong challenge from Iowa State, 70-63, I’m all but certain both teams will make it to the Big Dance.

Indeed, it will be a disappointment if both aren’t picked for the 65-team field in March.

On the subject of the NCAA, look for Northern Iowa to make yet another strong run at the tournament it played in last season. That’s a good team with an outstanding coach.


A few eyebrows were raised when I suggested that Iowa [already with an 8-1 record] could go 15-1 before it plays a high-stakes Big Ten game Jan. 20 at Illinois.

Now more people are coming around to my way of thinking.

Oh, sure, the Hawkeyes could have trouble when they play Bobby Knight and Texas Tech Dec. 21 in Chicago on ESPN2, but Iowa is clearly the superior team.

The only potential problem is that Knight will do something, or say something, that will intimidate Iowa coach Steve Alford before or during the game and influence the outcome.

Knight, of course, coached Alford at Indiana. In a TV interview last year when the coaches appeared together in connection with an Iowa-Texas Tech game Dec. 22 at Dallas [a 65-59 Tech victory], Knight dominated the entire show and Alford hardly got in a word.

Knight will want to put on a show for his old Big Ten buddies [yes, he does have some] when he comes back to Chicago. He’ll want to win the game against Iowa badly.

Iowa State is 4-2 and must learn to play better on the road, but has the players who are capable of making that happen. The Cyclones will go to 8-2 after winning their next four games—all at home against Howard, Wagner, San Diego State and Tennessee State.

They’ll have trouble Jan. 3 at Xavier and maybe even Jan. 8 at Missouri before playing Kansas Jan. 12 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

The Xavier and Missouri games away from home are definitely winnable, and so is the Kansas game at Hilton. Those are the types of games coach Wayne Morgan needs to win to get his team to a nationally-respected level.


What’s it going to take to get Iowa to sell out Carver-Hawkeye Arena? It was ridiculous and embarrassing that only 15,312 fans showed up at the 15,500-seat building for an Iowa-Iowa State game.

Iowa sold out every home football game in 2004, and there’s no reason every basketball game shouldn’t be sold out for a team that’s ranked No. 17.

It’s hard for me to believe that, even with Ferentz, some of his Big Ten champion players, some football players Iowa is trying to recruit and Iowa State’s basketball team in the building that there wasn’t a full house.


I’m starting to think Iowa State’s Jared Homan can play in the NBA in the future. Not as a starter, but as a pretty good reserve off the bench. The big guy from small-town Remsen, Ia., has always been tough to handle close to the basket and has just enough “street” smarts on the court in him to be a threat on defense as well as offense. In other words, he lets no one—and I mean NO one—push him around, whether the guy is from Iowa, Kansas or Hawkeye Welding School. He’s the intimidator, not the guy being intimidated.


At this stage, my power rankings would have Iowa the No. 3 team in the Big Ten behind Illinois and Wisconsin. Oklahoma State is my No. 1 team in the Big 12, followed by Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

In order, Northern Iowa, Creighton, Wichita State and Southern Illinois are the best in the Missouri Valley. I hate to say this, but Drake is No. 10 in a 10-team conference.

After seeing them get blown out at home, 75-53, by Wichita State, this doesn’t look like a promising season for the Bulldogs. Last night's 82-54 cruise past Western Illinois--a bad team--doesn't change my opinion about that.


I continue to admire the coaching job Greg McDermott is doing at Northern Iowa.

I don’t blame the school for giving him pay raises. It’s going to take a lot to keep McDermott from considering some big-time jobs when this season is over.

If, say, Alford should leave Iowa in the near-future, either on his own or at the nudging of athletic director Bob Bowlsby, McDermott would be the guy I’d hire for the Hawkeye job. That is, unless Roy Williams of North Carolina applies.

McDermott is a class act who says all the right things and doesn’t buckle when challenged by supposedly high-power teams and supposedly high-power coaches.


I caught part of McDermott’s call-in radio show in my car the other night.

There was an interesting discussion concerning McDermott’s coaching relationship with Iowa’s Alford and Iowa State’s Morgan.

The host of the show asked McDermott why he and Alford had a longer-than-usual conversation at mid-court in Carver-Hawkeye Arena following the Hawkeyes’ narrow victory this week.

McDermott said he respected the job Alford is doing at Iowa, and was critical of Hawkeye fans who have stayed away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in droves this season either because of high ticket prices or a general lack of interest in the team.

Iowa City, of course, is the rumor capital of the world, and McDermott said he was disappointed that Hawkeye fans believed every rumor they hear about Alford that’s out there “on the street.”

The announcer said McDermott had a much better relationship with Alford than with “that other guy over at Ames.”

That “other guy” is, of course, Morgan. McDermott and Morgan got into a shouting match the night UNI clobbered Iowa State by 17 points at Cedar Falls. After the game, the two coaches brushed past each other quickly, setting the all-time NCAA record for brief handshakes.

Morgan “didn’t call me for a scouting report on Iowa,” McDermott quipped on the radio show.

However, McDermott did indicate he’d like to talk with the Iowa State coach on the phone sometime in the future.

We’ll see if that happens.


It was good to see Morgan deliver a coach-to-player hug to Iowa’s Adam Haluska after Friday night’s game. Haluska, who transferred from Iowa State after clearly having problems with then-Cyclone coach Larry Eustachy, scored 20 points and accounted for all four of Iowa’s three-point field goal.

Oh, OK, so there maybe was a little shoving going on between a couple of players afterward. In the words of Bret Bielema, what’s an Iowa-Iowa State game without a little emotion?


Another small-town Iowan who could be helping Iowa State this season is Rob Kampman of Forest City.

The 6-8 senior was the main reason Wichita State ruined Drake’s Missouri Valley Conference opener. He scored 23 points in the Shockers’ 75-53 victory.

Kampman indicated he doesn’t have any regrets that he’s not playing for the Cyclones or any other major-college team from this state. He appears genuinely happy competing for Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon.

“Iowa State offered me a scholarship when Eustachy was coaching there,” Kampman said, “and Iowa recruited me a little bit.”

Kampman competed in the Prime Time League in North Liberty with and against players from other Iowa universities and colleges last summer.


Good line last night by Mac McCausland, the commentator on the telecast of the Iowa-Iowa State game.

When play-by-play announcer Larry Morgan said the smooth flow that was present in the first half of the game was missing in the last half, McCausland said, “Now it’s more like a tractor pull.”


In retrospect, it didn’t make much sense for Drake to open its Missouri Valley Conference season on Dec. 8 against Wichita State.

The Bulldogs clearly weren’t ready for a league opponent like that.

But coach Tom Davis said he couldn’t blame anyone but himself.

“They’ve been pushing us hard to do it,” Davis said. “It might have been foolish in our behalf to take [a conference game] this early. We didn’t have to do it. We accepted it. I’m not sure I made the best judgment, but I have nobody to blame but myself. I can’t blame it on my assistants or my [athletic director].”


Another good line in the Iowa-Iowa State postgame wrapup came when Hawkeye radio network announcer Gary Dolphin mentioned that it was 65 years ago Friday night that Iowa’s Nile Kinnick was presented the Heisman Trophy in New York City, and tied it in with the fact that there was football emotion in the air with Ferentz and perhaps some future Hawkeye football players in the building.

Vol. 4, No. 285
Dec. 12, 2004