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Schwartz: Five Things About Hawkeye Sports To Look Forward To

March 22, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Look, ESPN, we get it. You’ve got something like eight channels. A streaming service. Radio stations. Podcasts. Apps.

And a lot of time on your hands.

We all do.

But we’re growing tired of highlights from 10-year-old games. Of lists ranking the 10,000 greatest Georgetown Hoyas of the 20th century.

So let’s look forward. Five Hawkeye-related things to look forward to during the 2020-21 school year:

1. The men’s basketball team will field an Elite Eight-quality team.

Without question Fran McCaffery will have the most loaded team of his tenure next season. The squad that finished this past season ranked 25th will bring back key contributors Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, Joe Toussaint, and Connor McCaffery, then add returning from injury and other setbacks Jack Nunge and Patrick McCaffery, plus the key to it all, Jordan Bohannon. Then there are the recruits, including the Murray twins Keegan and Kris, sons of former Hawkeye defensive standout Kenyon.

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2. A Hawkeye wrestling squad that is talented AND pissed off about the early end to 2019-20

Tom Brands said all the right things when the NCAA or Big Ten or whomever canceled the end of all winter sports seasons. Right thing for the health of everyone; sad but understandable; yada yada yada. And he was genuine, but dang: This year’s squad was loaded and had its sights set on its first NCAA title in years. All that work, just to have it pulled away from you as the finish line is in view, and just because of one little worldwide pandemic. As if the Hawkeyes weren’t already focused, next year they could take it to a whole new level.

3. The women’s basketball team that looks to deliver a Big Ten Player of the Year for a fourth consecutive season

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Megan Gustafson in 2018. Gustafson again in 2019. Kathleen Doyle earlier this month. That’s three straight as we continue to enjoy the Golden Era of Lisa Bluder’s time as head coach. For her squad to accomplish what it did this season (23-7, 14-4) in the year after the best player in program history departed is almost beyond words. We always knew the Hawkeyes were better than just one player, but to be able to see it executed so brilliantly was an inspiration. Now we’re spoiled, so let’s see them do it again.

4. A Hawkeye football team that has an honest-to-goodness, real-life receiving corps

Not since the days of DJK and McNutt have the Hawkeyes had a full slate of receivers and tight ends capable of striking fear in opposing defensive coordinators. They’ve had the occasional top receiver, and the tight end combo of Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson raised pulses, but we’re talking about the total package. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith, Nico Ragaini, and Sam LaPorta as the core four, plus Tyler Goodson looks as comfortable out wide as he does in the backfield. So long as the coaching staff has been able to successfully develop a young quarterback the last couple of years while they anticipated Nate Stanley’s departure, the Hawkeyes should be able to put up some yards through the air.

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5. Spring sports

The forgotten child of NCAA athletics, spring sports still can give us the occasional shot of adrenaline. The Hawkeyes have emerged as one of the top track-and-field programs in the Big Ten. Coach Rick Heller has turned the baseball team into a perennial top-of-the-conference team. Even if the teams aren’t very good, at least it’s a good excuse to get outside and watch some Hawkeye sports. They’re missed this year, but next year maybe we won’t take them for granted.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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