What's the best way to start a day? The same way CJ Jones started the Orange Bowl 5 years ago. Hit it.
Since I don't remember anything after halftime, when Iowa led 10-7, I think it's safe to assume Iowa won that game, right?
Anyway. We have reason to celebrate here at BHGP. First of all, we were named Best New Blog by a jury of our superiors, so WHOOOOOOO CHAMPAGNE IN MY EYES AND SHIT. But more importantly, we as Hawkeye fans have a championship to celebrate.
That's right, with a wild win in Madison, the Hawkeye women's basketball team secured a share of the Big Ten championship Sunday night. Turn your nose up at your own peril; since the men's last BXI title in 1980, the women have won nine conference titles and two conference tourneys (pops to embedded pdf; scroll to p. 186/ 23 of 41). There has simply been no more dominant college basketball program in the state of Iowa over the last 25 years.
Better yet, Lisa Bluder, she of being Bluded, was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in the process, and for good reason. The Hawkeyes had finished 14-16 the year prior, and were sleepwalking through another season (9-7, 2-3) when the light turned on. From then on, Iowa went 11-2, and pending the conference tourney, are tentatively slated as a 7 seed by CollegeRPI.com.
More you say? Yes, more it shall be. Jo Solverson, the Jess Settles of Iowa women's basketball, is wrapping up her roughly 19th year of eligibility by being named the last BXI co-POTW after two impressive performances against Northwestern and Wisconsin. She averaged 22 points, 3.5 boards, 4 dimes, and 2 steals, all while shooting a hey-men's-team-take-notes .455 from behind the arc.
Lest we be accused of sexism, the men's team has good news too: they play Northwestern tonight! And then they don't have to play any more regular season games! The nightmare's almost over! Northwestern, to their credit, has been much better as of late--a drubbing at Purdue notwithstanding, the Wildcats had given Iowa and Indiana all they could handle, and they beat Michigan in Ann Arbor. Still, Evanston is where basketball goes to die, and that's a perfect atmosphere for this iteration of the Hawkeyes, who need a cupcake as desperately as Mo'Nique's diseased brain tells her she needs.
One interesting thing to note is that every one of the five starters has been, at times, the best player on the team. During the non-conference season, Justin Johnson carried the load, and everyone knew he was Iowa's go-to guy. I once unironically compared Tony Freeman's impact on this team to that of Andre Woolridge during a liveblog. The New Gornographer was instrumental in Iowa's 4-6 conference start. Cyrus Tate was the Big Ten POTW after tough performances against NU and MSU, and people started to realize that the offense had to go through him. And lastly, over the past couple weeks, nobody has looked better off the dribble than Jake Kelly, who finishes as well as you could ever expect out of an 18-year-old who weighs about a buck-45 soaking wet. Which Hawkeye will step up tonight? It could be any of them.
Any more good news? Shit yes. As you may recall, Todd Lickliter's son John is the point guard for City High. His primary responsibility is to give the ball to Matt Gatens and then get the fuck out of the way. Their careers will both continue at Iowa next year; Matt will likely start, and John is walking on. But before that, they've got a state tournament to win. After wrapping up regionals on Saturday, the Little Hawks are a 1 seed in the 4-A state tournament (again, pops to pdf) facing Sioux City North tomorrow at 1:45 PM. Being that the entirety of the boys' tournament takes place between the end of Iowa's regular season and the beginning of the BXI Tourney, it's conceivable that Todd Lickliter may watch his son play every step of the way for the championship. Yes, that would take him away from the team for 3 nights out of the 8 before the Tourney, but--and I'm sorry Jebus--family should probably come first.