It Was the Best of Times... After starting the season by losing to every team with a pulse (including a 19-point loss to Iowa State) and dropping six of their first seven in Big Ten play, the Iowa women's basketball team (17-12; 10-8 BXI) won 9 of its last 11 games, including an overtime victory over the hated Wisconsin Badgers yesterday, to take third in Big Ten regular season play and earn a first-round bye in next week's conference tournament.
The Hawkeyes are led by guard Kachine Alexander, who is scoring 15.4 points per game, and leads the Big Ten in rebounding with 11.1 boards per game. This is even more impressive when you realize that she's 5'9". Earlier this season, she set a Big Ten record by making 17 free throws in a game, which is absurd. She is an honest-to-God All-American candidate for a team that looked dead and buried just one month ago. So we've got that going for us.
Photo courtesy of Brian Ray/The Gazette
It Was the Worst of Times... Gazette basketball reporter, and Friend of the Pants, Scott Dochterman is set to bring the lumber to Iowa hoops all week, with a five-part series on the decade-long decline of Hawkeye basketball. In yesterday's first installment, Doc takes in the view from 50,000 feet and gets Gary Barta to state the obvious:
Iowa fans may wonder how one of the nation’s best and most profitable basketball programs sunk from sellout games and annual postseason competitions to record-setting losses and drops in attendance and profit margin. Athletics Director Gary Barta ponders those questions daily.
"There’s several layers to it," Barta said, "but right at the top, obviously, I’m not at all happy with where we are right now competitively, not at all happy with where we are in attendance and just the feel of the all-around program....
"Patience is hard," Barta said. "I hate losing. Our coaches hate it, our fans hate it, our student-athletes hate it. I don’t have a switch somewhere in this office, nor does Todd, where we can just flip it and all of a sudden have it going the way we want it."
There have been no serious calls from anywhere of consequence for Lickliter's ouster ("My support of Todd hasn't waivered," Bowlsby says in the column), so I have a hard time swallowing the company line on patience; the fan base has been more than patient throughout, though they have decided to watch games at home more often than not. This isn't Notre Dame football or Kentucky basketball, where Lickliter would have been fired last month. In fact, the only time in recent history where the basketball program (and, indeed, the athletic department in general) lost patience is to be chronicled today, when one of the program's most successful coaches was cast aside for a guy who yells obscenities at opposing players in the handshake line. There was some frustration with Tom Davis at that time, to be sure, but few outside Bob Bowlsby were ready to burn the place down over it, and that frustration pales in comparison to what we've seen since.
Meet the New Stadium, Just Like the Old Stadium. Via Storminspank, Iowa fans own the series of tubes:
That's not all. The reviews section is starting to look like Three Wolf Moon:
With the move from Metrodome, Hawkeye football has new, outdoor digs. Though smaller than Metrodome, Kinnick North has ample seating for fans traveling from all over Iowa as well as Hawkeye followers living in the Twin Cities area. The stadium features a unique "open-ended" bowl shape. This cutting-edge design allows for quick exit by Gopher fans during embarrassing blowouts, and provides generous clearance for spontaneous goal post removal...an added courtesy for "visiting" fans. The prime location features a return to the college campus, as Minnesota strives to get closer to a Big Ten feel on Saturday afternoons. Iowa will share the facility with the Wisconsin Badgers on an alternating year schedule.
I would like to add that with the new stadium and outdoor design, the planners and architects thought everything out very well. They were considerate enough to add leather couches in the restrooms and had the foresight to install extra-wide entrances and gates, all the better for visiting Iowans to take home an occasional souvenir such as a set of goalposts. Overall, a great new addition to the Big Ten.
We know that some of you are behind this, and your efforts do not go without notice. Well played, people. Well played.
We're rich! The Big Ten Network made $66M more last year than it did in 2008, upping the Big Ten's per-school share of television to a staggering $22M. (T/F/J on the column to mGoBlog.) Oddly enough, the insane Barbasol and Rotel ad money-making machine might make expansion more difficult. As has been discussed pretty much everywhere, any potential expansion candidate has to bring in enough to offset the increased dilution of the pot of gold. Finding a school that can contribute $24-26M in revenue necessary to offset a twelfth share is borderline impossible. With that kind of money at issue, the list of potential candidates narrows to two.
The other possibility is one explored by Barry Alvarez in the above-linked post: That a newly-minted Big Ten institution would have to take a less-than-equal share in its first few years. Telling a potential Big East candidate that they would be a second-tier institution to start might not be a deal-breaker, but the non-Texas Big 12 candidates could very well decide it's just another example of the tyranny of Texas that they are attempting to escape and pass. Then again, even a reduced share would be a huge jump in revenue for any of the Big 12 North candidates, so Missouri might well hold its nose and take the deal regardless.
Or this could all be a clever ruse by Jim Delaney and Barry Alvarez to give us poor bloggers something to yodel about during the offseason. Don't discount that possibility.