Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Iowa's Ferentz and Alford Have Something in Common

A guy who spends a lot of time around the University of Iowa’s football and basketball scene was telling me this one before the Hawkeyes demolished Drake 91-75 last night at the Knapp Center:

“There’s a joke going around that Kirk Ferentz, the football coach, and Steve Alford, the basketball coach, have something in common,” the guy said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Both of their teams peak in November,” he answered.


There’s just one problem with that, of course, if you’re a Hawkeye fan.

The football season is ending and the basketball season is starting in November.

Ferentz’s football team ended the regular season with a 9-2 record, will play either Auburn or LSU in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day and is the best in the Big Ten Conference right now.

Lloyd Carr – otherwise known as Mr. Choke in his job as Michigan’s coach -- made sure of the “best” label at Iowa by losing to Ohio State on the final weekend of the regular season.


Meanwhile, the collegiate basketball season is in its infancy. The Hawkeyes went 4-1 in November with victories over Western Illinois, Louisville, Texas and Drake and a loss to North Carolina.

This, folks, is a talented Iowa team.

It’s obviously the best Alford has had.

Mr. Swept-Back Hair is ripped regularly for being arrogant and for being unable to either recruit well or coach well. But this season the criticism appears to be wrong.

Well, at least the part about not being able to recruit or coach well.

If you ask me, the Hawkeyes have a chance to be 15-1 heading into their Jan. 20 game at Illinois.

They play both Northern Iowa and Iowa State – teams that have given them fits in recent years – in Iowa City next week.

Unless Alford is again intimidated by Bobby Knight--his old coach at Indiana--in a Dec 21 game in Chicago, Iowa figures to win.

Beyond that, there’s little on the schedule to block a sensational start by Iowa.

The Big Ten, after all, is a so-so conference again this season. There was more evidence of that in the last couple of nights when the Atlantic Coast Conference got off to a 4-1 start against the Big Ten in their annual challenge.

The only thing that prevented a complete ACC blowout was Wisconsin’s 69-64 victory over Maryland.


It would sure be nice to see how good a team Tom Davis could have at Drake if it could shoot.

It’s agonizing to watch the Bulldogs miss medium-range shot after shot.

The Bulldogs were shooting 41.4 percent going into the Iowa game, and hit 42 percent against the Hawkeyes.

That’s not going to win many games.

Guards Lonnie Randolph and Chaun Brooks were particularly disappointing Tuesday. They were a combined 4-for-16.


Now, if you’re looking for the master of the two-foot shot, it’s Drake’s Aliou Keita.

The native of Dakar, Senegal is a real find for Davis. He scored 23 points, had seven rebounds and five blocks against Iowa.

Just don’t ask him to shoot free throws or three-pointers. He was 1-for-4 from the foul stripe, with no 15-foot touch at all. Fortunately for everyone, he didn’t try any three-pointers.

It’s a bit strange that Alford didn’t recruit the 6-8, 260-pounder who played high school basketball at Iowa City Regina, but it probably worked out for the best.

Davis is known for his ability to bring big men along, and he could turn Keita into an NBA prospect before he’s finished at Drake.


Two other young Drake players who are good now, and will get better, are 6-6 sophomore Klayton Korver [18 points against Iowa] and 6-8 freshman Brent Heemskerk [14 points and nine rebounds].


Alford has a 13-0 record against Drake—6-0 since he’s been at Iowa.

The Hawkeyes have won the last 26 games in the series.

For someone like me--who believes strongly in the “Big Four” rivalry involving Iowa, Drake, Iowa State and UNI--those aren’t good numbers.


Tom Davis is doing a very good job of creating interest in Drake’s program.

An overflow crowd of 7,062 was at the Knapp Center [capacity is 7,002] last night—something that was good to see. The Knapp Center record is 7,152 for the Feb. 1, 2003 game against Creighton.

People have been raving about how Drake’s fans have been buying season tickets, but there were sure a lot of folks wearing black-and-gold who came disguised as Bulldog fans last night.


The late Maury John, who coached those Drake teams with 26-5, 22-7 and 21-8 records in the late-1960s and early-1970s, used to laugh about crowd reaction when his Bulldogs played Iowa in Des Moines.

“If we were ahead early in the game, the crowd seemed to be all for us,” John said.

Then, if Iowa would put on a rally in the last half, the fans seemed to be cheering for the Hawks. I’d look around and say to myself, ‘Where are my people?’”


Great timing.

It’s a good thing Drake picked yesterday to announce the $10 million gift from retired Walgreen chairman and CEO Dan Jorndt and his wife Patricia McDonnell Jorndt.

That took a lot of the sting away from the 16-point basketball loss to Iowa.


A uniformed policeman was seated on the Iowa bench--close to Steve Alford--all night during the game against Drake.

“Does Alford have a cop sitting next to him at Iowa City?” I asked Bob Brooks, the veteran radio-TV reporter from Cedar Rapids. I sat next to Brooks on press row.

“No, there aren’t that many people in Carver-Hawkeye Arena for Alford to worry about security,” Brooks said with a laugh.

Crowds have fallen off dramatically at Carver-Hawkeye in recent seasons. Either the ticket prices are too high, people are tired of Alford or they’re tired of watching sub-par basketball from the Hawkeyes.

Maybe all three.

It’ll be interesting to see if attendance gets better now that people realize Iowa has the makings of a very good team.

Vol. 4, No. 281
Dec. 1, 2004