The Iowa Class 5A State Championship, Part One. It's the most wonderful time of the year, those three weeks at the end of fall semester when the Big Four state schools face off in basketball and wrestling. The main event is tonight, when Iowa State comes to CHA to face Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes (BTN, 7:30). Open thread here at 7:00.
The Cyclones enter at 7-2 with a blowout win over Drake. They have lost two of their last three, though, including their trip to Northern Iowa last week. Iowa is a two-point favorite as of this morning. Iowa wins and, barring a meltdown against what appears to be a pretty awful Drake team next Saturday, they'll sweep the in-state games (WOO STATE CHAMPIONS BABY). Iowa State wins and we'll have a split champion.
It's not Fred Hoiberg's first time at Carver; as a player, Hoiberg's Iowa State teams won 3 of 4 overall and split the two games they played at CHA. In his first trip to Iowa City as a sophomore, he scored one point in an Iowa curbstomping. As a coach, well, he's coached nine games and only once on the road (the aforementioned loss to UNI). McCaffery, on the other hand, has coached in plenty of rivalry games (Siena-Albany "was a war," according to the Franimal), but is a Cy-Hawk virgin. He doesn't seem too bothered by that:
"I am going through it for the first time....I haven’t really talked to the players about it. It’s just the next game on the schedule. My approach is as a coach has always been to put a game plan together and get the players to play the next game and not make it any more important than the previous game or the next one after that.
"I think the fact that it’s in-state, I’m not stupid, I know there’s impact with how the fans look at the game and how the media looks at the game. I understand that. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the next game on the schedule and we have to play a very good, very well-coached team. That’s pretty much the only way we’re going to look at this game."
As Ryan Suchomel points out, the "next game on the schedule" thing didn't work particularly well for Kirk Ferentz early in his tenure. Let's hope it leads to better results for McCaffery.
I haven't yet seen Iowa live this year but, oddly enough, have caught one ISU game (the fantastic McDermoggedon game at Wells Fargo in Des Moines against Creighton, which the Clones won on a shot after the buzzer). It's not particularly difficult to read Iowa State: Stop Diante Garrett and stop the Cyclones. Garrett is averaging 17 points and 6 assists for ISU, and Hoiberg has basically turned him loose on offense. Expect a number of defensive looks from McCaffery in an attempt to keep Garrett on the perimeter and short of options.
The Iowa Class 5A State Championship, Part Two. Usually, the Cy-Hawk women's game is the undercard. Not so much this year, as both Iowa and ISU entered last night's contest ranked in the top 25 for the first time in the 41-year history of the rivalry. One team might not be ranked next week: Iowa annihilated the Clones, winning 62-40 and leaving the usually obnoxious Bill Fennelly tipping his cap:
"They’re going to be a tough out all year," the Iowa State women’s basketball coach said after his Cyclones were mugged, 62-40, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "And they’ll be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament. They’re going to get a seed 2-3-4, somewhere in that (range).
"If you love women’s basketball like our fans do, it’s a team that deserves the support of the (Iowa) fan base. Because I think they’re going to enjoy watching a lot — A LOT — of wins. We’re not going to be the last team that gets their butts kicked in this building. I promise you that."
The Iowa women move to 9-1 on the season and look like they could really do some damage in a stacked Big Ten. They still have a trip to Drake and a home contest with UNI to finish out the in-state string, but neither of those teams should be able to match up with the Hawkeyes. Throw in last night's whitewashing of UNI in wrestling (detailed by Ross below) and Iowa could sweep the state in all four sports.
Caring Is Creepy. Cedar Rapids Kennedy senior Christian French chose Oregon over Iowa and Notre Dame yesterday, ending one of the strangest recruiting sagas in recent memory. French is a 6'6", 230 lb. athlete who received four stars from all the recruiting services and was widely considered the prize of this year's in-state recruiting class despite only playing three years of organized football. He racked up a whole 187 yards of total offense this season on 10 catches and 1 carry, but was nevertheless being recruited to play offense by both Iowa and Oregon. This marks the first time since 2007 that Iowa hasn't succeeded in landing the consensus top prospect in the state, and there's a direct correlation with that year; he cited Oregon's recent success among the many factors in his decision. Don't worry, though, Kirk. That late-season meltdown won't have any lasting effects, because it never happened. That's just their irrelevant perception of your reality. Seven wins is good enough. Steady as she goes.
Adrian Clayborn was named to the Walter Camp all-American team, and congratulations to him for that. None of the other Hawkeyes took away hardware from the bevy of awards handed out yesterday, including Ryan Donahue, who lost out to Florida's Chas Henry for the Ray Guy Award.
Rittenberg releases his Big Ten all-Freshman Team for 2010. Nolan MacMillan, who began the season as a starter on the offensive line but was limited by injuries, and fill-in middle linebacker James Morris make the cut.
ESPN's Eamonn Brennan asks which conference has the best basketball, top to bottom, and comes to the only available conclusion: It's the Big Ten.
Illinois struggled Tuesday night in a home game against Oakland (MI), falling behind 15-4 early and going to the half down four points before rallying to win by 11. The reason for Illinois' poor early shooting? According to their players, it was the fact that they started the game playing with a women's basketball.
Get ready, people: Adam Yauch's short Beastie Boys biopic is a go. MCA, where have ya been? Packed like sardines in a tin. There's a new Beastie Boys album set for the spring, and Yauch's cancer treatments are apparently going well, so there should still be plenty of story to tell when I make my own film in 15 years.