IOWA CITY, Iowa - Welcome back. Where have you been?
Oh, yeah, that's right. It's me that's been away from the Monday Musings.
It's May. That serves as the top reason for my return. It's pretty quiet when it comes to Iowa Football, Basketball and Wrestling, the universities most popular sports.
The spring does open up headline space opportunities for other programs. We'll talk about a few of them in this piece. We'll also check in on your favorites.
Let er rip...
ON THE DIAMOND
I've gotten out to more Iowa Baseball and Softball games this year than I have in quite some time. The crowds were great.
Softball finished its campaign Sunday with a 4-3 victory against Illinois. The Hawkeyes took three of four games in the weekend series, raising their record to 26-18, good for a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten. They were not invited to the NCAA Tournament when bids were announced Sunday night.
That might not seem like a notable season for a program with a rich history of success, but it was impressive considering where it stood when Renee Gillespie took over as coach ahead of the 2019 season. Men's Basketball post-Todd Lickliter would be a good comparison.
The five seasons before Gillespie's arrival, Iowa posted a combined 88-173-1 overall record with a 35-79 mark in the Big Ten. Following a 19-32/5-18 first year, she's guided the Hawkeyes to a 43-23 overall record with a 26-18 mark in conference. Last year, they only played non-league games before COVID-19 wiped out the rest of the slate.
Iowa's top two hitters, Denali Loecker and Brylee Klosterman, were freshmen in '21. The next two in batting average - Nia Carter and Riley Sheehy - finished the season with remaining eligibility.
Rick Heller has lifted the baseball program to where it is annually in contention for the NCAA Tournament. Dropping two of three contests against Illinois during the weekend severely reduced its margin for error in '21.
At 22-16, the Hawkeyes may need to win their final six games to continue on The Road to Omaha. The Big Ten's fifth-place team finishes up the regular season against Northwestern and Michigan State, teams with a combined 27-41 mark.
Iowa, which had won six of its previous seven series coming into the weekend, begins the week No. 76 in the RPI, 21 spots below where it was last Monday. It's second in the ratings among Big Ten teams behind only first-place Nebraska (67). Indiana (82), Maryland (93) and Michigan (95), all ahead of the Hawkeyes in the standings, trail them in RPI.
USA, USA, USA
USA Basketball named Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark one of nine members of its U19 World Cup team Sunday night. She became the only returning member of the squad that won a Gold Medal in Japan in '19. She also captured Gold with the U16 team in '17.
This year's group will play at the '21 FIBA U19 World Cup during August in Hungary against Italy, Australia and Egypt.
BACK TO BACK ON THE TRACK
The Iowa men's track and field team won its second Big Ten outdoor title in a row Sunday in Champaign, Ill. The Hawkeyes also claimed victory in '19. Last springs championship was canceled because of COVID.
They rolled up a school-record 127.5 points, 33 better than second-place Michigan. They claimed the conference indoor and outdoor titles in the same year for the first time since 1963.
“This coaching staff and every one of our athletes competed their butts off and I am extremely proud of our entire team,” Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody said. “This was a complete team win, just like it was during the indoor season."
The Iowa women finished in fourth place. Laulauga Tausaga won the discus again to become the first Hawkeye ever to capture four outdoor conference crowns.
“Lagi is the ultimate competitor,” Woody said. “I don’t know too many people that can compete like she does. Every time she steps in the ring, she has a chance to win in the shot put, discus, hammer, weight throw, whatever it is."
Jaylan McConico won the 110 hurdles with a career-best and school-record time of 13.23 seconds. It tied the Big Ten Championship meet record.
The run was amazing.
DraftKings Sportsbook posts its odds for winning the Big Ten Football Championship in '21. At the time this piece published, Iowa comes is as the conference's fifth choice at +1100.
Not surprising, Ohio State tops the field at -125. Michigan and Penn State each are at +700, and Wisconsin checks in at +800, making Iowa No. 2 in the West Division behind the Badgers.
Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska come in after the Hawkeyes, all at +1600. Northwestern, which has won two of the last three West titles, are ninth at +1800.
Iowa last won the West in '15. It last earned a league championship in '04.
-Three-time national wrestling champion from Iowa, Spencer Lee, was announced as being in attendance at Sunday's Iowa Softball game and received a nice ovation. He's been good at supporting other sports on campus.
-Four members of the Hawkeye Men's Basketball team graduated during the weekend. Luka Garza, Jack Nunge, Austin Ash and Michael Baer earned their degrees. Ash announced recently that he'd be back for '21-22.
-The Big Ten's set of games for men's basketball is out. It's kind of early to say how it shook out for the Hawkeyes, who face Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana once each next season.