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Free-For-All Friday: Joe Toussaint, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Football Rankings

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We’re all over the place this week, but mostly we’re talking Iowa hoops and Joe Toussaint’s place on this roster.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Northwestern
I dub thee, Turbo Toussaint.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Another Friday, another home game for Iowa hoops and another winter storm set to wreak havoc on eastern Iowa. As the Hawkeyes prep for Michigan tonight, we take a breather from the workweek to talk Iowa hoops, new nicknames for Joe Toussaint and how this team can make a tournament run.

If it’s Friday, it’s a free-for-all. Saddle up, partner.

JP: Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, every time I talk to you my mind is in a totally new place. How are you surviving this roller coaster ride?

Jerry: Well Jonah, I’m still riding high after that Maryland beat down.

But, I still have football on the brain. In particular, I’m a little peeved that Iowa State was ranked at #10 on a way too early ranking earlier this week while our beloved Iowa Hawkeyes were unranked. Yes, I know the majority of people that put out “way to early rankings” only do it to get a rise out of the individual fanbases that aren’t at #1. But, hear me out. The reasoning Iowa State was slotted so high was so incredibly stupid:

”There was nothing extraordinary about Iowa State’s 7-6 season in 2019. But it could have been so much better. Of the Cyclones’ six losses, three were by two points or less and another by seven points. Iowa State should be one of the Big 12’s — and the nation’s — surprise teams in 2020. The Cyclones return 14 starters this fall led by QB Brock Purdy, who led the Big 12 averaging 306 yards passing per game, and RB Breece Hall and WR Tarique Milton. Matt Campbell is considered one of the nation’s top coaches, and he’ll show why in 2020. ”

If that’s all it takes to be a preseason Top-10 team, nearly every August of the last decade of Kirk Ferentz should’ve been spent in the Top-10 and they should be at least ranked this year. By my very basic mental math, Iowa is returning 12-13 starters. Sure, one of them is a senior QB (of which, everyone in the national media ripped for his inability to complete the deep ball or win on the road in important games) and the other, as we learned earlier this week, is their best pass rusher. But come on. This is absurd right?

Or am I (and my SpoCo partner who brought this to my attention) morons for even bothering with this in the first place?

Also, WEEZY F BABY IS TAKING UTHOFF IN THE FIRST HALF STEPS BABY!

JP: Couple things here. First, you are absolutely right that these way too early projections are purely there to fire up fanbases and drive clicks. I’m pretty excited to rile up our friends to the west (and far west) when our very own way too early projections come out.

Second, these things also tend to be geared toward the hype machine programs. Iowa is almost always overlooked because even when we have success, we aren’t exciting doing it. Outside that tremendous performance against USC, we aren’t going out and opening things up or dropping a ton of points on people. The national media doesn’t think about Iowa unless they have to. Iowa State, like Nebraska, is becoming a darling of the media without any substance to back up the love. I’ll take them being ranked now and us ranked at the end of the year all day every day.

But finally, Brett McMurphy isn’t the only one out here dropping way too early top-25s. He’s just perhaps the one working hardest for those clicks.

Take for example the USA Today, which came out with their own rankings on Tuesday. They clearly do their homework and are much better reporters than McMurphy as they had Iowa at #10 in their pre-season polls. That’s good enough for first in the West and behind only Ohio States (#3) and Penn State (#7) in the Big Ten.

What was their reasoning?

“Here’s your sleeper pick coming out of the Big Ten West. Yeah, there’s going to be a new face at quarterback in place of longtime starter Nathan Stanley, but impressive skill talent returns and the foundation of a good offensive front. Two big contributors might be gone on defense in end A.J. Epenesa and safety Geno Stone, but there’s a significant collection of talent along the back seven. Iowa doesn’t always match expectations, but hopes should be high heading into September.”

Nailed it. Now let’s just skip the season, take all the trophies and enjoy our trip to Indy.

Jerry: I don’t know what I’m more amazed at... the fact that someone actually gave us credit (where it absolutely is deserved) or the fact that they did all of the “research” yet still called Nate Stanley Nathan.

Ok... you’ve put me at ease and added to my already sky high expectations that I’m building from 2020-2026 (which should be the greatest run in Iowa football history IMO). Let’s switch back to basketball and to my guy Joe “Joey T” Toussaint. You were there last Friday watching the Toussaintantaissance live. Do you think he turned a page yesterday and can start operating at a sophomore level?

JP: JERRY I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!

Can we start with a discussion on the appropriate nickname for Toussaint? I’ve heard him referred to as Toussaint, Troussant (apparently this is an autocorrect on some phones?), JT, Joey T and on and on. I’m out on Toussaint because it’s too long. Pass on Troussant because WTF is that? It’s a no for me, dawg, on JT because this kid isn’t in a boy band. And Joey T is just OK imo.

I like Joey Tou (as is two), but I think he needs one of those old time baseball or mob nicknames. You know, the ones where the name is there, they just throw the nickname in parenthesis between the first and last name. Like Joey “too fast” Toussaint. Or maybe two times, since you have to look twice to catch some of his incredible passes. Or you just keep it simple with something like Flash. Or a nod to the new age Flash from Amazon’s “The Boys”, which I’m currently caught up in, with J-Train (as opposed to A-Train). Get off the tracks when the train’s coming through.

Now that that’s off my chest, can I just once again profess my love for this kid? I know he often plays too fast. I know he makes some bad choices. I know he gets himself into bad spots with the ball. But he has something nobody else on this team has and damn he’s fun to watch. He’s just a freshman in the Big Ten and he’s in a really perfect situation if Iowa can get significant time out of CJ Fredrick the rest of this year.

The Hawkeyes shouldn’t be counting on him for his scoring, but he’s a guy who can get into the lane on anyone he wants. He’s been unlucky finishing in traffic thus far (I’ve watched enough of his video to know it’s not that he isn’t good at finishing through contact) and has been on the receiving end of more crappy calls than Connor McCaffery.

He needs to consistently get 15-20 minutes a game to learn and grow while Garza and Wieskamp and Fredrick carry the load. He’ll learn how to pick his spots and probe the defense and get to the free throw line. Next year is the year I expect to see him make a leap and go from being a guy who can take his guy and draw contact to a guy who can take over a game if needed. He can be the drive and kick guy for shooters like Fredrick and Bohannon and that has me far more excited than I should be.

I don’t even want to think about how emphatically I’ll be beating the drum by the time he’s an upper-classman.

Jerry: I’m right there playing percussion with you buddy. But I am a little troubled that you completely passed by my Toussaintaissance label. Feels disrespectful.

But I’ll let that go, because I love ya.

Yesterday on SpoCo Radio we talked broadly about player comps and their floor and ceilings. The People’s Champ and I were on the same page with our player comp... Turbo Toussaint can 100% be our version of Marcus Smart. While he might not be the greatest shooter, he’s s a bulldog, and when he comes on the floor, the team seems to play with a sense of price and urgency that they didn’t have before. The team loves him and he makes big time plays defensively, gets to the rack and every now and then catches fire from long distance. In college, that will make him one of the best guards in the Big Ten. Let’s not forget, before he was a Celtic, he was one of the best players in all of college hoops.

Now, outside of luka going over for a near 50-burger again tonight, what else needs to happen for Iowa to keep the good times rolling against Michigan and will you be in the front row again tonight?

JP: First, apologies for passing right by that. In my defense, I think Tuesday night showed us the Tousaintaissance has yet to occur and I think it is an event rather than a nickname. I do, however, LOVE Turbo. I think it completely captures what he brings to the table and you know I’m a sucker for kids flics (let’s be honest, I haven’t seen anything that isn’t a kid movie in 5+ years).

All that said, your Marcus Smart comp is completely lost on me. I can’t tell you the last time I watched an NBA highlight, let alone an entire game. But I do remember the kid at Oklahoma State and (setting aside for a moment the kid was 100% paid to go there – don’t forget they were one of the programs named in the FBI probe) and I think it’s probably fair, even if Smart has plenty of height on Turbo.

Luckily, he doesn’t need to be anywhere near as good as Smart was at the college level to be incredibly successful and for the Hawkeyes to have a ton of wins. We know Luka Garza is going to get his. We’ve seen what Wieskamp can be when he decides he’s going to take over. And CJ Fredrick is a straight killer when healthy. Gimme the Bakari Evelyn we saw in Evanston, good Kreiner and not-in-need-of-pine Turbo and this team is going to handle Michigan tonight and just about any team they face.

Jery: And just like that, JP has kicked the doors down to the Franimal House and is beer bonging the Kool-Aid.

I’m with you though. This team has two things that a lot of other teams don’t:

1. All-American Luka Garza
2. The next Donte DiVincenzo

If you can just get average performances from Joey Turbo, Good Bakari, Kriener and McCaffery and healthy third banana in CJF and this version of the Iowa Hawkeyes is going to continue to win basketball games. I like Iowa tonight as well.

Protect home court at all costs by feeding Luka early and then crush them when all of the space around the arch opens up.