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Howe’s Friday 5: DeSanto’s Growth, Jan Jensen’s Magic, Bowl Talk

December 6, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Wow. That Iowa football season flew by.

At least we still have the bowl, recruiting signing day and NFL decisions keeping our interest. Enjoy it because the reality of eight months without the pigskin hits in January.

Thankfully, Hawkeye basketball and wrestling are providing hope that they can keep us warm during the long winter. Let’s talk about it in this week’s Friday 5:

5. The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team made mincemeat of then No. 6-rated Wisconsin, 32-3, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Sunday. The Badgers managed to win just one bout.

Iowa’s Austin DeSanto highlighted the meet by knocking off then-No. 1 Seth Gross, 6-2, at 133 pounds. Gross won the 2018 national championship while at South Dakota State. He compiled a 63-3 record as a sophomore and junior.

DeSanto’s emotions have gotten the best of him at times during his career. He kept them in check on this night, and that was a great sign for the Hawkeyes.

Coach Tom Brands says that he and his protege continuously work on channeling DeSanto’s energy positively. Accomplishing that could key this season.

4. Nobody expected Monika Czinano to fill the shoes of last year’s national player of the year, Megan Gustafson. However, the sophomore from Minnesota has shown she’s capable of impacting games.

Czinano netted a career-best 26 points during Wednesday’s 74-60 ACC-Big Ten Challenge victory against Clemson. She made 11 of 15 shots from the floor and showed crafty moves around the basket that brought to mind Gustafson’s play.

It should surprise no one that Iowa boasts another post player crossing up opponents. Assistant Jan Jensen performs magic coaching athletes inside the paint, developing all-Big Ten performers Randi Peterson, Jennie Lillis, Jamie Cavey, Bethany Doolittle, Morgan Johnson, Megan Skouby, and, of course, Gustafson.

Despite leaning on quite a bit of inexperience, the Hawkeyes have gotten off to a 6-2 start. They haven’t listened to lowered expectations from outside the locker room and have proven a fun team to watch.

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3. Like their female counterparts, the Iowa men’s hoops squad has exceeded outside expectations so far with a 6-2 start. They knocked off then No. 12 Texas Tech at the Las Vegas Invitational last week and won at Syracuse on Tuesday.

Making it more impressive is the fact that the Hawkeyes are beat up. Starting forward Jack Nunge will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL last month. Key contributors Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick, Cordell Pemsl and Patrick McCaffery all have missed time.

Iowa is winning with grit and smart play. Center Luka Garza is competing with stitches in his lip. Point guard Connor McCaffery still sports a large red mark from a cut he received on his forehead weeks ago.

These Hawkeyes must be tough, mentally and physically. There’s a good chance Bohannon shuts it down after three more games to preserve his redshirt. He’s dealing with pain in both hips which is preventing him from practicing. Patrick McCaffery is progressing slowly with his health and could end up sitting out the rest of the campaign, and Pemsl’s back is unpredictable.

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All that said, this outfit is developing an identity for being tough and relentless. It’s a long season and there will be off nights. But this looks a lot like the basketball version of Iowa Football.

2. Speaking of the guys on the gridiron, I’ve been asked during radio interviews this week how I would rate the season.

My answer: Good.

It’s fallen short of special or great. It went down as oddsmakers predicted it would. The Hawkeyes won the nine games in which they were favored and lost the three in which they were dogs.

I will move my evaluation up to “very good” should Iowa emerge from its bowl game victorious. You reach 10 wins around here, you earn that. It’s only happened eight times since 1985.

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I value the Hawkeyes being able to bounce back from losing a heart-breaker at Wisconsin to start November, a setback that for all intents and purposes eliminated them from the Big Ten West race. That’s not easy to do. It speaks to the program’s strong culture. We see teams around the country collapse in those situations.

1. As I wrote in the 5 a few weeks ago, if you’re booking your bowl trips based on my projections, seek help. Back then, I predicted the Citrus, and I’ll stick with that.

Its reps traveled all the way from Orlando to Lincoln on Black Friday. They weren’t there for the Huskers. That should be considered when talking about San Diego’s Holiday Bowl coming to Kinnick Stadium a week earlier.

And, really, how many good memories are there from traveling West in the last few decades? Arizona has sucked for the Hawkeyes outside of the ’10 Insight Bowl. And we don’t want to talk about the last Rose Bowl.

Iowa is Florida’s Big Ten team. Orlando represents more to the Hawkeyes than Mickey Mouse and Goofy. It’s Tate to Holloway.

Honestly, Iowa can’t lose here. Neither can the fans. Either way, the weather is going to be great.

And you can join HN on our bowl trip, details found HERE. See what I did there?

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