SPRING FOOTBALL DRAWS NIGH
Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette has a good series for football articles that are certainly worth reading, taking a look at some position battles as Iowa prepares to begin Spring Football practice. You may have seen some of these and the linebacker item is the latest.
It’s fun to start focusing on Iowa football again, something the spring session always affords. Then again, we rarely stop thinking about Iowa football in these parts and I am guessing it’s the same for you.
If I had to pick the position of most concern heading into this spring, at least for me, it would be linebacker. Some might say defensive line, but we have seen the Iowa defensive philosophy come to bear to the positive so many times in recent years at this position. This is not like it was in 2005 when Iowa was starting four new players (two sophs and two frosh). Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns have a lot of experience and given how Iowa preaches gap assignment football in the trenches, I am not overly concerned here even if the names we might see a lot of in 2011 are not yet of the household variety.
I’m not predicting greatness for this group, but on the whole I expect for this group to finish close to 25th in the nation in scoring defense than 50th and I think the offense should be capable of pushing the 30 points per game mark. I’ll write more about that over the coming days and weeks during Spring football.
We’ll have a few new wrinkles later this spring, too. We are working with a content distributor about publishing a monthly e-zine and newsletter for the website. It’s also my hope to produce a hard copy Hawkeye Nation Iowa football preview in late May or early June, about the same you will see the college football magazines hit the newsstands. The hope is that these items come together well enough to where we may also produce a hard copy recruiting yearbook each Spring, too.
Kirk Ferentz will hold his first press conference on the spring on Wednesday, March 23rd. Ferentz’s press conference will take place at 12:30 and we’ll host a live chat starting at 12:15 and then type Kirk’s comments as he gives them.
HOOPS OPTIMISM..MEN & WOMEN
We have been caught up in the madness that is the NCAA basketball tournament during this opening weekend, yet another tournament that didn’t include the Iowa men’s team. I am guessing some of you have been asking yourself the same question I have; how long til Iowa makes it back?
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It might be sooner than you think…wait, I don’t know what you are thinking so I had better not argue that one.
The Big Ten has had a pretty solid tournament, or at least until Purdue laid an egg against a VCU team that most pundits argued didn’t even belong in the tournament.
Ohio State is on cruise control, looking very much like the #1 overall seed. Wisconsin has a nice road to the Elite Eight and perhaps even the Final Four if it can get past Butler and either Florida or BYU.
To me, the balance of the Big Ten has been just as if not more impressive in the games they did not win (save the Purdue-VCU contest). Michigan had a chance to tie the game against #1 seed Duke with a shot near the buzzer but it was off the mark. This was after smoking Tennessee in the opening round. Penn State lost by two to Temple. A disappointing Michigan State team fought its way back to lose a close one to UCLA. Illinois gave #1 seed Kansas a solid game for 35 minutes on Sunday but it got away from them late.
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These performances have me looking at the 2010-2011 Iowa season in a better light. Hey, they still went 4-15 against Big Ten teams, counting the Big Ten tourney loss. But this was the best Big Ten field from top to bottom in 20 years or more. This Iowa team probably wins seven or eight games in a few Big Ten seasons of the past decade.
That’s not enough to let you sleep like a baby tonight, but the league is going to move closer to those days next year. Michigan may be a preseason top 10 team as long as some of their young players don’t turn pro, but they appear to be the exception in the league.
Penn State loses ‘the franchise’ in Talor Battle and will take several steps back. Michigan State has some chemistry issues to sort out in addition to a loss of talent. Illinois’ Bruce Weber seems to do less with more talent than any school in the league…or country. Will Tubby Smith still be at Minnesota? Will Jared Sullinger stay at Ohio State? Purdue loses E’Twuan Moore and JaJuan Johnson, immense losses.
The fact is most schools will be moving down, one or two might get better, Northwestern will continue to be a pesky bunch while Iowa and Indiana appear to have the pieces in place to significantly improve their lot in a league that is ripe for it.
Now, the Hawks could win five more games and still just be a .500 team, but that could be good enough to earn an NIT bid, which would be progress.
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On the women’s side, Lisa Bluder’s Hawkeyes will lose just two players, one of them being Kachine Alexander who is one of the best women’s players of the last 20 years. However, they return a lot of firepower including sophomore guard Jamie Printy, who became the first player in Iowa women’s basketball history to go past the 1,000 point mark in just her second year in the program.
ON THE MAT
On one hand, Iowa wrestling fans are disappointed with a 3rd place finish at national’s. Anything less than a National Title is reason to be bummed as it relates to one of the most successful college programs of all time, any sport.
However, look back on where this team was in November. Some services had them ranked outside the Top 10, yet Iowa didn’t lose a dual meet this year and beat the national champs (Penn State) in a dual meet in State College and barely missed out on another Big Ten title. Had Dylan Carew not gotten injured before the season began, they just might have won the Big Ten tournament. Then again, it’s a physical sport and injuries happen.
Iowa had to rebuild this year, replacing eight ‘starters’ in its lineup. The Hawks went from a disappointing finish at the Midlands where it looked like the preseason naysayers might have been on to something to finishing third in the nation.
With eight lineup regulars returning for next year and more firepower waiting in the wings in the wrestling room, the Hawks will be right back in the thick of things. Penn State will likely be your preseason favorite to repeat as champions, with Iowa and Oklahoma State right there in the mix.