WE'RE TALKIN' WRESTLEBALL: THURSDAY MORNING/AFTERNOON ACTION

It's that time of year again, friends.  The best time of the year: NCAA Tournament time.  Iowa's not participating in the hoops version of the NCAA Tourney (sigh), but they most definitely are participating in the wrestling version of the NCAA Tourney: they're sending guys at nine weights and, in fact, all nine guys are seeded.  They're in a group of four teams (Cornell, Oklahoma State, and Penn State being the other three) expected to vie for the national title.  For the first time in a few years, they aren't favored to be the champs and it won't be easy to make it four in a row -- but they've got a shot.  My predictions at each weight are below the jump.

Just like we did last year, we'll be running super-jumbo open threads all day today, tomorrow, and Saturday for both wrestling and hoops.  Feel free to chat about whichever one you like -- we'll be watching as much of both events as our eyes can take in.  The usual rules of open threading apply: no porn, no discussion of illegal online streams, no slurs against one another, and please stay away from the topics we try to abstain from around here (organized religion, politics, etc.).  Also, please leave your douchebag pants in the drawer; these events are fun so let's sit back and enjoy them.  Other than that: game on.

WRESTLING
VIDEO: ESPN3.com (free if you get it)
AUDIO: TheOpenMat (free), Hawkeye All-Access/KXIC (free)
LIVEBLOG: HawkCentral (Andy Hamilton)
LIVE BRACKET: Penn State Wrestling Club

SESSION I: 10:00am-1:30pm CST (roughly)
pigtail round
133: (6)
Tony Ramos (21-4) vs. (UN) Frank Cagnina (Lehigh) (19-4)
184: (12) Grant Gambrall (19-7) vs. Corey Peltier (Maryland) (21-8)

first round
125: (2)
Matt McDonough (23-1) vs. (UN) Manuel Ramirez (UNC-Greensville) (21-12)
*133: (6) Tony Ramos (21-4) vs. (UN) Jordan Keller (Oklahoma) (17-9)
141: (5) Montell Marion (9-3) vs. (UN) Stephen Dutton (Lehigh) (20-12)
157: (6) Derek St. John (19-4) vs. (UN) Frank Hickman (Bloomsburg) (25-9)
165: (11) Aaron Janssen (26-7) vs. (UN) Peter Yates (Virginia Tech) (27-9)
174: (9) Ethen Lofthouse (19-8) vs. (UN) Rob Morrison (Rider) (29-7)/Dorian Henderson (Missouri) (22-9)
*184: (12) Grant Gambrall (19-7) vs. (UN) Austin Trotman (Appy State) (31-6)
197: (5) Luke Lofthouse (20-5) vs. (UN) Riley Orozco (CSU-Bakersfield) (24-10)
HWT: (7) Blake Rasing (17-5) vs. (UN) Kyle Simonson (ISU) (24-10)

* Obviously, they need to win their pigtail matches to get to these matches.

BASKETBALL
As for the hoopyball (all times CST):

11:15, Tampa -- (5) West Virginia vs. (12) Clemson (Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel) (CBS)
11:40, Wash. D.C. -- (8) Butler vs. (9) Old Dominion (Tim Brando/Mike Gminski) (truTV)
12:40, Denver -- (4) Louisville vs. (13) Morehead St. (Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery) (TBS)
1:10, Tucson -- (7) Temple vs. (10) Penn St. (Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner) (TNT)

1:45, Tampa -- (4) Kentucky vs. (13) Princeton (Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel) (CBS)
2:10, Wash. D.C. -- (1) Pittsburgh vs. (16) Asheville(Tim Brando/Mike Gminski) (truTV)
3:10, Denver -- (5) Vanderbilt vs. (12) Richmond (Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery) (TBS)
3:40, Tucson -- (2) San Diego St. vs. (15) Northern Colorado (Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner) (TNT)

Richmond over Vanderbilt is, of course, the upset everyone and their grandmother has been picking.  WVU-Clemson is another opportunity for Ye Olde Annual 5-12 Upset.  Other than that, we just hope for good games -- and for Penn State-Temple to not set the game of basketball any further back than what Wisconsin and Penn State did a few days ago (shudder).  The afternoon action appears to have a whole lot of blowout potential (1-16, 2-15, and a borderline criminal mismatch in athleticism between Kentucky and Princeton); hopefully some underdogs shock the world or we might be forced to run errands.

If you need a longer preview, I wrote quite a bit last week.  That'll have to be enough for you.  But for quick and dirty predictions:

125: 1st (McD over Robles in the final)
133: 5th (Oliver over Hochstrasser in the final)
141: 6th (Russell over Thorn in the final)
149: n/a (Caldwell over LeValley in the final)
157: 5th (Fittery over Hall in the final)
165: 8th (Burroughs over Howe in the final)
174: 7th (Reader over Lewnes in the final)
184: R12 (Hamlin over Rutt in the final)
197: 5th (Foster over Kilgore in the final)
HWT: 6th (Rey over Flores in the final)

That's probably overly optimistic.  Sue me.  Is that enough to win a 4th straight team title?  It might be -- eight All-Americans would accumulate a pretty impressive haul of points for Iowa.  Regardless, this figures to be a very close race.  Every match is going to be important, every bonus point will matter, and everyone's going to need guys to do work in the consolation bracket.  Should be a whole lot of fun.  

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