Our interwebs pals at Hawkeye Nation have put together a fun bracket to help determine the best Iowa basketball player ever, the Best in the Nest Tournament.
Definitely go check it out.
The bracket is divided into four regions: 00s, 90s, 80s, and kind of a catch-all for the pre-80s players. There are some brutally hard choices -- Jeff Horner vs Mike Gesell? Jeff Moe vs Steve Carfino? James Moses vs Val Barnes? -- and they're only going to get tougher in the later rounds (that looming second round showdown between Chris Kingsbury and Chris Street is already making my heart hurt). In any event, 'tis the season for brackets and this is an especially fun, if only for the chance to take a trip down memory line and remember so many Hawkeye greats.
I chatted with Mitch Smith, a HN contributor and one of the architects of the bracket, to find out a little bit more about the bracket and how it came to be.
1) What inspired you guys to put together this bracket? Just general March Madness fever or was this something you'd been thinking about for a while?
MITCH: The idea came about back in early February when I was thinking about where guys like Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell ranked among the top players in school history. That sparked the idea of creating a bracket. Sports fans love comparing players from different teams and eras, and Hawkeye fans have such a passion for past players who have represented the Black & Gold. We thought putting that into an NCAA Tournament-style format would make for interesting debate among Hawk fans and a fun experience.
2) How did you settle on the rankings for the modern era guys, particularly at the top?
MITCH: I reviewed a lot of statistics. I think I may have analyzed the Iowa record books from front to back. Extra emphasis was placed on point scoring and every single 1,000-point scorer (except Pierre Pierce) made the field. But seeing where players ranked in other career and single-season statistics played a big role, as well.
Seeding the top seven in the 2000s region was incredibly challenging because every player accomplished so much during their Hawkeye careers. Many of them rank among the best in school history in more than one statistical category:
#1 Aaron White: 2nd in scoring, 3rd in rebounding, 1st in games played
#2 Greg Brunner: 14th in scoring, 1st in rebounding, 6th in double doubles, 8th in blocks
#3 Jarrod Uthoff: 20th in scoring, 4th in blocks
#4 Devyn Marble: 6th in scoring, 6th in assists, 6th in steals
#5 Reggie Evans: 39th in scoring, 4th in double doubles, 10th in rebounds
#6 Jeff Horner: 15th in scoring, 1st in assists, 1st in made 3-pointers, 8th in steals
#7 Dean Oliver: 11th in scoring, 2nd in steals, 3rd in assists
White gets the 1-seed because he ranks in the top three in two highly-important statistical categories. Plus, he never missed a game during his entire Hawkeye career.
Brunner was a fan favorite. He gets the nod as the 2-seed because of his rebounding prowess and his point-scoring. Uthoff got the 3-seed because of his stellar performance this season, and the fact that he put up these numbers in just three seasons. Same rationale applies for why Evans is seeded better than Horner and Oliver -- the guy had 40 double doubles and 794 rebounds in just two seasons!
Devyn Marble got the 4-seed because of his all-around skills as a point scorer, ball distributor and defender. Horner and Oliver were difficult to seed because they were such similar players, but because Horner is first in a couple statistical categories I gave him a very slight edge over Oliver.
3) Which bracket was the toughest to seed?
MITCH: The 2000s bracket was definitely the toughest to seed for the reasons I mentioned above.
4) Were there any guys that you wanted to include but had to omit?
MITCH: We made the decision to omit guys who transferred or were kicked off the team â which is why Tyler Smith and Pierre Pierce didn't make the cut. There were a handful of guys that just barely missed out â Jarryd Cole, Erek Hansen, Jacob Jaacks, Mark Gannon and Steve Krafcisin to name a few.
5) You realize making Ricky Davis a #16 seed is going to tear BHGP apart, don't you?
MITCH: Next week is the 13-year anniversary of his failed triple double attempt. Ricky will always have his "One-Man Mount Rushmore" honor. Start campaigning for Ricky to pull the upset on Acie Earl!
Thanks, Mitch. Again, you can check out (and vote in) the Best in the Nest bracket right here.