Friday, March 18, 2005

I Forgot--The Only Hawkeye Miracles Are in Football

OK, I was wrong about this one.

Cincinnati didn't choke.

Although the TV announcers kept reminding us that the Bearcats were "athletic," the important thing was that they were good.

A lot better than Iowa.

Coach Bob Huggins got his players to remember that it was the Hawkeyes they were matched up with, not Kentucky.

Strangely, Iowa's players seemed flat emotionally when the game began, and then it was easy to stay flat when Cincinnati kept blocking their shots.

After being mentioned in the same breath with the NIT for so long, I thought the Hawkeyes would've wanted to hang around a while in the NCAA. It didn't happen. It was a very short stay.

A few people foolishly thought Steve Alford--well, all right, assistant Craig Neal then -- might be able to draw up a clipboard-full of plays that would pull off a coaching miracle in the first-round game at Indianapolis.

Forget that idea, too. The only miracles in Iowa City these days arew drawn up in the football offices.

No doubt about it, Cincinnati was the better basketball team--better by a long way--today at the RCA Dome.

It was like men playing boys. And the men were from Cincinnati.

The Bearcats didn't let Iowa up for air, and deserve the opportunity to play Kentucky in a second-round game Saturday.

The Hawkeyes deserved to go back to Iowa City, let their hair grow again and resume lifting weights, Bud Lights or whatever it is they lift in the off-season.

"Give them credit," Alford said of seventh-seeded Cincinnati on his postgame radio show. "they're a very hard-wolrking team, and Bob had them going today.

"We've played against teams that were this athletic [there's that word again]. Cincinnati played very well against us and I didn't think this was one of our better games."

Although I felt going in that Cincinnati was the team that faced the pressure and Iowa was the team that shouldbe able to come into this game with a loose attitude, it was the Hawkeyes who were tight.

Cincinnati [25-7] broke to a 23-5 lead and Iowa [21-12] never really recovered. The Hawkeyes cut the deficit to three points early in the last half, but Cincinnati's defense, rebounding and surprising shooting ability were the difference.

The Hawkeyes were successful on only one of their first 14 field goal attempts, and most TV sets in places other than Iowa City, Davenport, Solon, Cedar Rapids, West Des Moines and Mason City might have been clicked off on a warm March

Eighteen holes at Willow Creek sounded like a better idea. Right, Bob Downing?

"Where's the scoring?" CBS play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg asked after Iowa had missed its first seven shots.

Naturally, Pierre Pierce's name had to be brought into the convrsation between Enberg and commentator Jay Bilas.

Bilas said he thought Iowa could have been an Elite 8 team if Pierce were still playing.


Bilas should have done his homework. He should have known that Iowa was a better team without Pierce.

It was when Pierce was in the lineup, and not in court, that the Hawkeyes played some of their worst basketball of the season--in the first two Big Ten games against Michigan and Ohio State and later in that debacle at Northwestern.

After the game, Iowa play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin asked Alford why the Hawkeyes couldn't get any offensive flow going early.

"Cincinnati pressures very hard, but there's it's no more pressure than we see out of Illinois and some of the other teams that we play in the Big Ten," Alford answered. "We just couldn't get it going today."


Although Iowa's fans expected more, Alford cut his players some slack.

"This is our first time here [in the NCAA tournament] with this group, so I think there was a lot of inexperience," he said. "We just have to build from it. They did a heck of a job getting us here, now we have to build from it."

Vol. 4, No. 324
March 17, 2005