I did it again. I’m a glutton for punishment, apparently. I can’t help myself. I am and always have been an Iowa fan. I care - probably too much - about how the Hawkeyes do. Try as I might to not care, to not watch, I find myself tuned in and screaming at my television with the rest of you until I can’t take it anymore. What’s worse, there’s just a twinge of an optimist in me that rears its ugly head every time there’s an ounce of hope.
We got a few ounces of that optimism when the Hawkeyes handled the Minnesota Golden Gophers last Tuesday night. For nearly forty minutes, we saw from this Iowa team what we expected to see from them for the entire year. It was glorious.
There was 3-point shooting. There was dunking. There was damn near some defense. It was enough for me to almost forget about how brutal this season has been.
It could not have happened to a more deserving foe. And for three days I fell back into the trap. I read on and on about the positives of this team.
It’s true, despite all the warts, there are some really great parts of this team. We all know Jordan Bohannon is a damn fine shooter. He continues to show that he’s also a hell of a passer and will no doubt depart Iowa City as one of the great point guards in Hawkeye history.
Tyler Cook is perhaps the best pure athlete I’ve watched in a Hawkeye uniform. He does things I didn’t know were possible and he continues to refine his game, adding to his ball-handling abilities and extending the range on his jump shot. He’s really going to be a special player.
Luka Garza has fully turned the corner. He’s gone from the guy who looked fantastic against the non-conference competition to the guy who couldn’t keep it up with the higher quality opponents in the Big Ten to the guy who can do it against anybody. He’s still a freshman and he obviously has work to do, but his footwork around the hoop and outside shot should have Iowa fans thoroughly excited for the future.
Yes, the optimism was flowing. There was still no hope of a tournament run, but perhaps this team could play itself out of the Big Ten basement. Perhaps even out of a Day 1 game in the Big Ten Tournament. That hope was still there through the first few minutes of Saturday’s game and I let myself get my hopes up.
The start was great - enough to keep giving that hope. But it only took a few more minutes for the wheels to fall off and the team we’ve seen for the better part of this season to rear its ugly head again. The game quickly went from tied to over as the Nittany Lions closed out the half on a 33-14 run.
For the Hawkeyes, it was much of the same. The same sloppiness leading to turnovers. The same laziness on defense that leads to easy buckets. The same dry spells that take things from bad to worse over just a few minutes.
During all this, all I could keep thinking was, “oops, I did it again.” I let myself get my hopes up again. I let myself think what we saw in the victory over Minnesota could be replicated on a regular basis. I let myself this team was growing and maturing and could turn the glimpses we’ve seen into consistently good basketball.
I was wrong.
I was wrong and it’s frustrating every time it happens. You’d think by now I wouldn’t continue tuning in expecting to see the growth. As an Iowa fan, the one thing we should all know is that whenever our hopes and expectations are up we’ll be let down. Much better to be pleasantly surprised than constantly disappointed. But alas, here I am, disappointed again.
The Hawkeyes have a pair of games again this week. The first, a matchup with top-5 Michigan State at home tomorrow night, is sure to be a complete bloodbath. If the first matchup with Ohio State is any indication, the trip to Columbus to take on the top-20 Buckeyes likely won’t be much different. Though I’m sure I’ll fall victim to the same trappings as usual, getting my hopes up with any glimmer of progress and always tuning in at least for as long as my stomach can take it.
Such is life as a Hawkeye fan.
While life as an Iowa fan means typically ending up disappointed, it takes built up expectations to be let down. That’s not just limited to any given season’s results. So here I am, disappointed with what I see on the court in 2017-2018 and building up my hopes and expectations for next year already.
The primary reason for that? Joe Wieskamp.
You’ll recall, Wieskamp is one of a pair of 2018 commits for the Hawkeyes, both who are shooting guards. As good of a shooter as CJ Fredrick is, Wieskamp is better. He joins the class of 2018 as the highest rated recruit Iowa has signed since Rivals started tracking in 2002.
He’s also in the midst of becoming the all-time leading scorer in the state of Iowa. Averaging nearly 35 points a game this year, Wieskamp is on pace to break the class 4A record in his next game (he needs just 31 to surpass former Hawkeye Jeff horner for the top spot).
On Friday, 2018 and 2019 collided as Wieskamp and the Muscatine Muskies played host to Bettendorf and top-50 PG DJ Carton, who is Iowa’s top priority on the recruiting trail. The matchup lived up to the hype and the result should leave Iowa fans excited about the potential.
WOW!!!! Have a night @JWieskamp21 scoring the first 31 points for Muscatine. He would finish with 54. With future coach Fran McCaffery in the house. Just enjoy these highlights. @MuskieFball @muskieGbball @Baseball_MHS13 @IowaHoops @HawkeyeReport @ChadLeistikow @TheScoreWQAD pic.twitter.com/npu6WtINOu— Kory Kuffler (@kuff_sports) February 3, 2018
While Wieskamp certainly stole the show and came away with the victory, Carton didn’t exactly look like a slouch, finishing with 24 points. Fran was in the house to watch the performance. He was joined by his son and class of 2019 commit Pat McCaffery, who is also ranked in the top-50 nationally. Former Hawkeye Mike Gesell was also in attendance.
Wieskamp will make an instant impact next year. It’s impossible to say just how much, but his offensive capabilities will make him impossible to keep off the floor. Obviously, he won’t address people’s concerns with PG play and he’s known much more for his offense than his defense, but the Hawkeyes will be better next season.
Adding the younger McCaffery (as well has having the elder son finally healthy) along with potentially Carton would be quite the quite the haul. That would be three top-50 kids in two seasons. There is light at the end of this dark tunnel.
For those interested, here’s the full game from Friday night.
And finally, I wanted to take just a few more words of your day to point out one of the truly incredible things that takes place on the University of Iowa campus every year.
The UI Dance Marathon, where students raise money and then stay on their feet, dancing for 24 hours straight - without the benefit of caffeine or other stimulants - took place over the weekend. The annual event truly is incredible and this year was no different. This year, UIDM raised more than $3 million #FTK (for the kids).
This is one of a number of great partnerships with the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on campus, but it comes as yet another reminder of some of the greater good being done at the University.
Even when things aren’t going as we’d like on the gridiron or the hardwood, we should all be proud to be fans and supporters of the University of Iowa.
Happy Monday, everyone. Have a great week. Go Hawks! FTK