It's been a while since the Iowa Basketball team has been playing games in late March. That's exactly what's happening as the Hawkeyes are one step away from a trip to New York City. The women's hoops team picked up an NCAA Tournament win and the Iowa wrestlers claimed a national champion, and by the way, even though the snow on the ground in Iowa City doesn't suggest it, spring is here and football practice starts this week.
If you haven't figured it out by now, there's plenty to talk about when it comes to Iowa athletics. Since its Monday how about a few takes on the Hawkeyes in the form of Monday Musings.
1. I think Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes can get to NYC, but it's not going to be easy. On Wednesday night the Hawkeyes will travel to face Virginia in the quarterfinals of the NIT. It's a step further than McCaffery took his team last year, which would be defined as progress, but the Cavs will not be an easy out. Like Iowa, Virginia was one of the last teams left out of this year's NCAA Tournament. Virginia is also riding a 19 game home winning streak following their win over St. Johns on Sunday. In many ways, they are a lot like Iowa. The roster is fairly similar and the reasons they were left out of the NCAA Tournament, also very similar. Virginia played a soft non-conference schedule and while they were very good at home, they also had some tough road losses that would have made a difference in their resume.
2. I think the key for Iowa on Wednesday night when they travel to Charlottesville, VA will be transition basketball and making shots in the half court offense. I know it sounds too simple and obvious, but in this match-up it will be critical. Both teams are very good on the defensive end. Virginia is coached by Tony Bennett, the son of former Wisconsin Head Coach Dick Bennett. While he is not completely a chip off the old block, he is close, especially on the defensive end. Virginia doesn't allow much in transition, where Iowa likes to make a living getting points. They don't crash the offensive glass and three or four players are always back on defense, which makes it difficult to get transition baskets. That's why Iowa's half court offense will be very important, as will the Hawkeyes knocking down some three point shots, which has been an issue all season long, at least in terms of consistency.
3. I'm sure this will be a hot topic in the coming months, but I am beginning to think that perhaps keeping Devyn Marble at the point next year is the direction Iowa should head next season. I really like what Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons bring to the table as players, so this is no slight towards either of them. I think they are both very good point guards with bright futures in the program. But, Marble is the best player on the team and the best scorer. More importantly, he is at his best when he has the ball in his hands making decisions. I also think Iowa's offense runs more smoothly with him at the point because he draws so much attention from opposing defenses. It will be interesting to see Fran McCaffery's view on Marble at the point as they head into next season.
4. I think it's once again time to tip the cap to Hawkeye fans for their support of the basketball team. Two straight sellouts in the NIT on relatively short notice is really pretty special, especially when you look at some of the attendance figures from other NIT games. There was a time not too long ago when a good night at Carver-Hawkeye included 5,000 fans, so to see the building back to full capacity on a regular basis is a sign that Iowa Basketball fans have officially returned and the days of 15,400 in the building for every game should be back next year.
5. I think it was pretty cool to see the Hawkeye women's hoops team pick up an NCAA win last night at Carver-Hawkeye. It was also great to see Fran McCaffery and his family there last night supporting the team. McCaffery's wife is a former Notre Dame player, so she also enjoyed seeing her old school in person. If you haven't taken the time to watch guard Samantha Logic play in person, you should. She's what you would call a stat sheet stuffer in terms of points, rebounds, and assists and on Sunday night she simply imposed her will on the game and led the Hawkeyes to victory. Logic finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists in the win over Miami, FL and kept Iowa in the game in the first half. In the second half, Melissa Dixon got hot from three point land and the Hurricanes faded down the stretch for a comfortable win for the Hawkeyes.
6. I think the Iowa women will have their hands full on Tuesday night when they face #1 seed Notre Dame. If you follow the women's game, then you know all about Skyler Diggins, the talented guard for the Fighting Irish. She's as good as advertised. They are hardly a one women show and the most impressive player on Sunday evening was freshman Jewell Lloyd, who seems to be ready to take over as the next star for the Irish. She finished with 27 points and is a special player. The Hawkeyes haven't made it to the Sweet 16 since 1996 and that road is going to be difficult to navigate against a talented Notre Dame team. The good news is it will be in front of the home crowd on Tuesday evening.
7. I think the NCAA wrestling folks made a big mistake on Saturday night. If you watched the 133 championship match, you know what I'm talking about. Tony Ramos was robbed. You can debate whether he pinned Ohio State's Logan Stieber, but there really shouldn't be any debate as to whether he earned back points when he locked him up in a cradle during the match. Ramos lost 7-4 and is now left to wonder what might have been. While Ramos has made progress up the ladder, finishing 3rd two years ago and 2nd this year, this one really hurt and makes you wonder about the effectiveness of the new video review rules and if they actually work properly.
8. I think a big congrats goes out to Derek St. John for winning the NCAA title at 157 pounds. It was great to see the Hawkeyes finish what was probably viewed as a disappointing tournament on a high note. While I wasn't able to make it to Des Moines, the feedback from fans that were at Wells Fargo was that the venue and the town treated everyone in a first class manner and the victory sent Iowa fans how with a smile on their face. The good news is St. John will be back next year to defend his title.
9. I think one of the happiest people in Iowa City right now has to be Kirk Ferentz simply because he's been off the radar. Spring practices are set to begin this week in Iowa City and Ferentz has been enjoying a lower profile, expect for attending the Iowa Basketball teams NIT run at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It's probably been a good thing for Ferentz and for Iowa fans because discussing Hawkeye Football in a rational manner following a disappointing 4-8 season had become nearly impossible. That will all change on Wednesday when Ferentz meets the media to kickoff spring practice.
10. I think this is going to be one of the most interesting sessions of spring football in quite a while for the Iowa Football team. Coming off a tough year, fans are going to be curious about the future of the program. Then there is also a three man race for the starting quarterback position and that alone always draws the interest of fans. Add in new faces to the coaching staff and an offense that struggled mightily in 2012 and Hawkeye fans will have plenty to talk about in the next month when it comes to Hawkeye Football.