Schwartz: Love the Madness, Not NCAA

March 17, 2015

Written by David Schwartz

Don’t you do it, John Oliver. Don’t you take away Iowa’s NCAA Tournament.

The Hawkeyes haven’t been part of March Madness since 2006. (Last year doesn’t count. … No, last year’s play-in whatever Does. Not. Count.) It’s been nearly a decade since Iowa took part in the field of 64, and Hawkeye fans are so excited we can’t see straight.

Iowa basketball, back where it belongs. FINALLY.

So John Oliver, the last thing we need is a rational, funny, incisive takedown of the NCAA just days before Iowa returns to the NCAA’s annual billion-dollar smash n’ grab.

No no no no. Go away, John Oliver. Let us enjoy our exploitation in peace.

For at least one or two weekends, let us forget NCAA corruption. Let us ignore NCAA fraudulency. Let us pretend the NCAA is not the legalized embodiment of organized crime.

And let us watch some basketball.

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The Hawkeyes earned a seven seed and a first-round date against sharpshooting Davidson in the Big Dance. We’ve ridden with Iowa all season, through the ups and downs, the trials and triumphs.

We were there when the Hawkeyes let one slip away against Syracuse, when they upped their winning streak in Chapel Hill, N.C., to two games, when they lost to both Iowa State and Northern Iowa, when they smashed Maryland, tripped against Northwestern, and ran off six straight Big Ten wins before losing—again—in their Big Ten Tournament opener.

We watched Aaron White take his rightful place among Iowa’s greatest players; coach Fran McCaffery brilliantly insert Peter Jok into the starting lineup and Jok accept the challenge; Mike Gesell struggle valiantly through an elbow injury, Gabe Olaseni provide occasional five-minute bursts of dominance; Jarrod Uthoff tease us with his wickedly top-level versatility; Anthony Clemmons disrupt opposing offenses; and we have watched with both sadness and inspiration as Josh Oglesby struggled through what must be one of the worst senior seasons a shooting specialist has ever had. Oglesby, like Iowa, took the body blows but never went down for the 10 count.

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I’m downright giddy that sports fans from coast to coast will tune in Friday night to watch Iowa basketball. There are people right now, as you’re reading this, Googling Hawkeye basketball, trying to figure out whether to pick them in their tournament pools.

This is where Iowa basketball deserves to be. Hawkeye basketball lore is decorated by the legacies of Sharm Scheuerman, Don Nelson, Fred Brown, Ronnie Lester, Roy Marble, Greg Stokes, B.J. Armstrong, Acie Earl, Tom Davis, Aaron White, and so many others. Yes, football pays the bills. Yes, we dream of seeing the Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl. But there’s always been something special about Iowa hoops, an eternal radiator during this state’s coldest and fiercest months.

The past nine years, which started in March 2006 with a three-pointer by Northwestern State’s Jermaine Wallace and ended Sunday when we saw Iowa’s name appear in the South regional bracket, tested the resolve of Hawkeye fans.

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So John Oliver, please. Not now.

Not now.

Let us have this. We don’t need yet another public-service announcement about the hypocritical ickyness that is the NCAA. We’ve known the truth for years, but sometimes, we just want to watch a little Hawkeye basketball.

Especially in March.

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