Black Heart Gold Pants began, in large part, as a result of the Todd Lickliter coaching search. Adam and I were writing in virtual anonymity at our own sites, and came to each other's attention when we each wrote essentially the same post within minutes of each other (as usual, Adam's was funnier).
In BHGP's first year, Iowa missed the tournament for the second consecutive year, but with a former National Coach of the Year at the helm, it was only a matter of time. We created the BHGP Bracket Challenge, took pictures with money on our heads, and waited for Iowa's inevitable return to the tournament. We were just killing time for a year, maybe two, before March basketball was back.
And then 2008 became 2009, and Bracket Challenge became Marchifornication, and we were still out of the tournament. Lickliter cratered the program, Marchifornication became completely insane, and before we knew it, we were six years into BHGP and had never covered an NCAA Tournament team. When it became clear that the 2013 team was going to fall short, we sort of lost it. When Iowa imploded down the stretch in 2014 and ended up in a Tuesday play-in game, we felt like God was mocking us.
Today, the drought finally ends. There is no doubt that Iowa is going to be in the field of 68 when it is announced this afternoon, and similarly no doubt that it will play a game on Thursday or Friday next week. For the first time in a decade, the Hawkeyes are solidly in the NCAA Tournament.
We're in the midst of a negativity spike, brought on in large part by bigger problems. The issues we associate with Iowa athletics -- let's face it, Iowa football -- get grafted onto the basketball program. It's why a small-but-vocal portion of the BHGP commentariat is so obsessed with Fran McCaffery's use (or non-use) of timeouts; football's idiotic clock management record sort of demands it, even though McCaffery's teams get built-in timeouts every four minutes and most Division I coaches don't use every given timeout. Early season losses are met with teeth-gnashing the likes of which is usually saved for October beatdowns from Wisconsin. This team won six Big Ten games in a row just a few weeks ago, a feat not seen since Roy Devyn Marble's dad was on the court, and the response in many corners of the fanbase was to trash the schedule they had done it against. The Penn State loss Thursday, clearly a one-off performance where Iowa's big men were wholly incapable of putting the ball in the basket from less than two feet away not particularly indicative of any serious problem with this team, effectively eliminated that winning streak from memory. The sky was again falling. There was no hope.
When this season started, we had no right to believe that Iowa would be better than it had been last season. The Hawkeyes had lost their best player since at least 2007 to the NBA, struck out on their one top recruiting target, and had done nothing to fix the obvious problems that had derailed the previous March. And yet, this team is better because it has matured. It has fixed some of those issues. It doesn't lose its mind when the pressure builds. And yes, those things apply to the coach as much as the team.
Iowa is probably going to be somewhere between a 7 and 10 seed when its name is called Sunday. In the last five years, five teams seeded at 7 or above have made the Final Four. Last year, a 7 seed won the whole damn thing, beating an 8 seed in the final. It has happened before, and it can happen here. And even if it doesn't, we're finally back in the NCAA Tournament. We have waited a decade for today. We have suffered through Steve Alford's company car, Todd Lickliter's slowdown offense, and Fran McCaffery's late-game histrionics. We have lost so many soul-crushing games that we can't count them all, broke out the champagne for wins that probably didn't deserve it, and tried to keep it together when we had come so close and didn't get there. We're finally back where Tom Davis had left us 17 years ago, when Iowa fans committed their original sin. Sunday's bracket should not be met with yet another wave of defeatism. It should be met with joy and exultation. This is how it feels to be back where something good is inevitable, a place we've forgotten existed thanks to so many other problems in Iowa athletics. You bet your ass we're playing Junior Senior for it.