It's Not Plagiarism If You Link To It is BHGP's regular news roundup. Send all tips to any of the email addresses at the bottom of the page. But preferably not all of them at once. We usually end up laughing at people who do that.
Aren't "Demon Deacons" really just satanists in top hats? Fresh off their 111-50 drubbing of hapless SIU-Edwardsville last Friday, the Iowa men's hoopyballers are back in action tonight to fulfill their obligation to the Big Ten-ACC Challenge by going on the road to take on Wake Forest (6pm CST, ESPNU) -- and to continue the quest to climb above .500. The Big Ten-ACC Challenge has usually been unkind to the Big Ten -- the league is 1-10 overall (with the lone win coming last year) and no Big Ten team has a winning record in it (though Michigan State is .500). And the odds of winning it this year took a big hit when Minnesota, the Big Ten's third-highest ranked team, lost at home to a Virginia squad that had been .500. Thanks a lot, Goldy.
The Challenge has been especially unkind to Iowa over the years; no Big Ten team has a worse record than the Hawkeyes (2-7). Iowa hasn't won a game in the Challenge since 2005, an excruciating 45-42 win over NC State. So why is there hope in the air this year? Well, for as bad as Iowa might be, Wake Forest might actually be worse. They're 184th in the Sagarin ratings and 151st in the KenPom ratings (Iowa is 134rd and 79th, respectively) and holders of a 3-3 record that includes home losses to Stetson, VCU, and Winthrop. Their three wins have come against Hampton, Elon, and Marist. Hell, even some of the experts think Iowa might have a shot here, like The Dagger blog at Yahoo! or some of the ESPN dudes. The best part about the predictions are the comments about the game itself (which pits the ACC cellar dweller against the Big Ten cellar dweller); FEEL THE EXCITEMENT:
"You're wasting two hours of your life if you watch this game."
"Wake Forest will have a hard time beating anyone this season."
"Because as bad as Iowa is, Wake Forest is -- somehow -- worse. "
"Someone has to win, right?"
"Between the two, Iowa has shown a few more signs of life."
"Because as bad as the Demon Deacons have looked early, the Hawkeyes have looked worse."
We are in for a treat tonight, dear readers. Hide the women and children.
Bowl projectin'. Yes, there really is one more Iowa football game to go this year -- a bowl game at some location TBD against a team to be named later. And though there is ample reason to simply want to turn the page on this season and look ahead to 2011 and (hopefully) better things, there is at least a little precedent in Iowa playing well in a bowl after stumbling to the finish -- witness the 2006 Alamo Bowl, where an Iowa team left for dead after a three-game losing streak to end the season (which included a three-point home loss to an 11-1 conference contender in the season's penultimate game as well as a lifeless road loss to Minnesota; feel the parallels!) got healthy, got its head right and took it to a solid Texas team before folding late. Iowa can't go to the Alamo Bowl again since the bowl tie-ins have changed (which is a shame, because San Antonio was a great destination), and they can't play Texas again (since the Longhorns have had an even more miserable and disappointing season than Iowa and if you don't believe me check out THujone's MS Paint masterpiece) and hopefully they can't (or won't) suffer another fourth quarter collapse again (seen that script way too often)... but they can still try and end this damn season with a win.
So where might they go and who might they play? Hlas is polling the Gazoo readership about preferences between the Outback, Gator, and Insight Bowls. Doc thinks it could be the Outback against Alabama. Stewart Mandel thinks it's the Insight against Mizzou. ESPN likes either the Gator against Florida or the Outback (Mark Schlabach) against South Carolina (Andrea Adelson); Rittenberg also likes the Gator (against an SEC team TBD). The Arizona Republic thinks the Insight will pick either Michigan or Iowa (whichever one isn't taken by the Gator) to play Mizzou. Bama Hawkeye is a bit more pessimistic than the rest and sends Iowa to the Texas Bowl to take on Baylor. I'm still not sold on Iowa being jumped by a 7-5 Illinois team (and, lest we forget, they still need to go on the road and beat Fresno State on Friday night to get to 7-5), even with the depressed Iowa fanbase. It's certainly possible and this year will almost certainly test Iowa's strong traveling reputation as much as any in recent years.
Personally, while the Outback and Gator Bowls hold more cache for being played on January 1, rematches with South Carolina or Florida don't hold a great deal of appeal. A game with Alabama would be pretty compelling (and might be the sort of challenge that would rouse this Iowa team to give a damn for one final game) and even though the game isn't played on January 1, an Insight Bowl match-up with border rivals like either Mizzou or Nebraska would add some much-needed juice to what currently feels like a pretty uninspiring bowl game.
Youth will be served. Thanks to injuries and, well, the expected lack of depth on the team (only six scholarship players returned from last year and one of those was Devon Archie, who redshirted and didn't play at all), Fran's first recruiting class has had to log quite a few minutes in the early going this year. But as Doc notes, they've acquitted themselves very well. Bryce Cartwright, Zach McCabe, and Melsahn Basabe have all been thrust into starting roles at times, but they've also been among Iowa's best players. Cartwright has settled down after some early play marked by wild passes, awful shots, and far too many turnovers (which is good since Iowa's going to rely on him a lot at the point with Payne sidelined for the forseeable future after a hernia surgery).
Basabe hasn't lived up to the early promise of his PrimeTime League dominance (turns out real basketball is harder! who knew?!), but has seemed to be getting more and more settled. And McCabe has been a revelation; he's averaging 10.5 ppg (second-best on the team, behind BHGP mancrush Eric May), 5.3 rpg (third-best on the team), and shooting 50% from three. He's easily one of Iowa's best players. Roy Devyn Marble hasn't been called on to be a starter yet, but he's developing into a solid sixth man and a quality back up at both guard spots. Obviously, there's still a long, long way to go this season and the newcomers will undoubtedly go through some rocky times (particularly when Big Ten play starts up), but right now they're giving us some warm, fuzzy feeling for the future.
QUICK HIT INBOUNDS PLAYZ:
* If baseball had more umpires like Frank Drebin, I'd watch a lot more baseball. R.I.P., Leslie Nielsen.
* The gum-throwing maniac with a short fuse has been removed from Indiana's sideline. We'll miss ya, Bill Lynch.
* OTE's Hilary Lee made bacon waffles. Drool.