Monday, January 09, 2006

Big 12 Basketball TV Guru Bob Helmers Says 8 Or 9 Teams Could Win the Title, And the Champion Could Lose As Many As 5 Games

Central Iowa sports TV guru Bob Helmers, who has been around the basketball block more than a few times, looks for a wide-open Big 12 Conference race this winter.

"I have either produced or directed games from every Big 12 and Big Eight postseason basketball tournament," Helmers tells me. "No, I did not do any of the old [Big Eight] Christmas tournament. I am old, but not that old.

"This year's Big 12 tournament and, for that matter, regular-season will be the most competitive I have seen in quite awhile. I think you could tie for or win the league with five losses this year. And there are eight, and maybe nine, teams that could win it.

"This is going to be fun!"


Two of the eight or nine teams that could win the Big 12 title -- Iowa State [11-3] and Texas [12-2] -- face one another at 8 o'clock tonight at a Hilton Coliseum in Ames that should be rocking.

It's the conference "Big Monday" game on ESPN, and it's certainly one that the Cyclones can win.


Ron Franklin will do the play-by-play, Fran Fraschilla the commentary and Holly Rowe will be the sideline reporter tonight.

Rowe has worked plenty of collegiate football games in the past, including a number of Iowa games at Kinnick Stadium.

I would think being a sideline reporter in basketball would be more difficult than in football.

Whatever, let's hope Rowe [right] can be more imaginative than simply asking Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan, "What did you think of the first half?" when he walks to the locker room tonight.


Speaking of TV basketball analysts, Stephen Bardo worked the Iowa State-Kansas State game Saturday night.

So who is Stephen Bardo [left]?

"He is a former player from Illinois," Helmers said. "He was a member of coach Lou Henson's Final Four team. He has been doing Conference USA basketball for ESPN-Plus, and is being re-assigned by ESPN Inc. to do Big 12 games for both ESPN and ESPN-Plus.

"He does have a regular job, too. He is a reporter for the sports department at the CBS-owned and operated television station in Chicago, WBBM.

"Saturday night was his debut performance in the Big 12. My opinion is that he did a real nice job for his first time in the league. He came prepared, [but] was worried he would call Iowa State "Iowa" or the Big 12 the Big Ten.

"He had fun with the game when he could. And, when it got tight, he had some good things to say strategy-wise. Of course, when people turn the ball over three times in the last 45 seconds you don't have to have a whole lot of strategy."


"Iowa is good," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said after the Hawkeyes [12-4 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten] handed the Fighting Illini first loss Saturday at Iowa City.

"I think around the country, teams respect them more than people in their state."

Well, that's what happens when a Hawkeye team that's supposed to be one of the best in the nation loses December games to Northern Iowa and Iowa State.

But there's no reason Iowa [large photo above] shouldn't join Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio State and Indiana as Big Ten title threats this season.

Anything less would be a huge disappointment to fans in this state.