Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Falling Sky on University of Northern Iowa Basketball

Earlier in the season, I thought the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) had the best Division I team in the state. My thoughts were soooooo wrong.

UNI is probably in third place now behind Iowa State and Iowa and ahead of only Drake.

The wheels are quickly falling off UNI’s season. Tuesday night the Panthers lost an overtime game to Evansville. UNI led in the closing moments of regulation. Last Saturday, the Panthers lost to Indiana State on free throws in the closing seconds. Two games in the state of Indiana, two bitter defeats.

UNI has a .500 overall record at 11-11 (4-6 Missouri Valley Conference). This is a major disappointment for team that came into the season with large hopes. This is a veteran team with solid playersand a strong coach in Ben Jacobson.

The Panthers are in a danger zone psychologically. They can either try to salvage the season or basically play it out. There a few postseason tournaments besides the NCAA tournament but if UNI doesn’t start winning ballgames even those lesser tournaments might not want the Panthers.

It seems a distant memory when UNI knocked off Kansas in the NCAA tournament and gained a Sweet 16 berth. This is a program that should be competing for a NCAA tournament bid every year. Like last season, this team will come up empty.

What’s wrong with UNI?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Iowa State Men's Basketball on Rise

The Iowa State men’s basketball team is positioning for a NCAA tournament bid. If successful, it will mark the second straight year the Cyclones have qualified under favorite Iowa State son Fred Hoiberg.

Iowa State garnered a big win Saturday over previously No. 11 ranked Kansas State. It moved Iowa State’s conference home record to a perfect 3-0. The Cyclones have lost to Kansas and Texas Tech on the road. Their lone visiting win was at TCU.

So the Cyclones sit at 4-2 in the Big 12 tied for third place with Kansas State and Oklahoma. Iowa State is 14-5 overall.

Iowa State has plenty of talent on its roster. The question is always can the Cyclones play to their talent? Iowa State has looked like world-beaters in some games like a near loss to Kansas. But in other contests, it has resembled an average or marginal club. It’s still hard to fathom that loss at Texas Tech. Tech is the second worst team in the league.

The Cyclones have an upcoming rugged four-game stretch, but two of the games are at home. This Wednesday, Iowa State plays at Oklahoma State—a team some believed was the second best team in the conference at one point. Saturday, the Cyclones host second-place Baylor. Next week, it’s Oklahoma at home and Kansas State away.

It’s time for Iowa State to prove it is NCAA tournament worthy. It’s time for the talent to show up on a consistent basis.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tough Week for Rated NCAA Basketball Teams

It has been upset week in college basketball. The favorites have been going down with regularity.

Duke will no longer be ranked No. 1 in the country. The Blue Devils led the upset receiver category with a pasting at Miami. Here is a sampling of others that gained a big fat “L” this week: Louisville, Arizona, NC State, Creighton and Butler. And there were a few others including Notre Dame.

As in past years, being ranked No. 1 is a dangerous spot. It looks like Michigan will take over that position next week. The Wolverines defeated a stubborn Purdue team Thursday night in Ann Arbor.

In the grand picture, these upsets are really only cooler talk. If you are a bubble NCAA team and garner an upset that will improve your resume. If you are a ranked team, it might mess with your NCAA tournament seeding. Otherwise, bubble teams try to gain more quality wins and rank teams seek to lessen the damage.

The goal is to prepare for March and win your last game. When that happens they crown you champion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

College Football Teams Look for Gold

Two weeks from today (Feb. 6) is National Signing Day for college football. It’s a day when high school football players declare their love for a particular school and college coaches hope potential turns into results.

Some say recruiting is more important than the actual games in the fall. Recruiting sets up results in those games. That’s why football recruiting services try to sell fans their information and that’s why ESPNU has a day-long special on recruiting come Feb. 6.

The big boys like LSU, Alabama, Michigan, Florida State etc. will do well. These are established programs and players want to play for the top teams. The rest of the schools normally pick what’s left over. The real fear, however, is of the big boys coming in the last minute and taking a special player from a lower-tier-talent school.

Players can and will change their minds in these next two weeks. Until a player signs a commitment letter, they are free to go anywhere. So they are some nervous coaches still trying to hold on to players.

The game inside the game is generally fun, unless you are a coach on signing day left without a player who changes his mind near the end.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Manti Te'o Saga

I’m not a big fan of soap operas dominating the sports media world. I figure leave that to the magazines near the grocery checkout line or the news magazine programs after your local news.

My question is what is the fascination with the Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s apparent hoax regarding an imaginary girlfriend who died. The details continue to come forward and they will for a few more days. This story needs to go away.

The media is receiving some serious egg on the face here. Somebody, somewhere in this Twitter instant information age forgot to do Journalism 101. I was always taught to make sure you have all the facts. Somebody somewhere forgot that elementary journalism rule. The result: a story is blown way out of proportion. Somehow, a young lady died of a disease but she really didn’t die because in reality there was no such person.

Information or lack of information is a powerful thing. This case reveals the dark side of that equation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Mess With the Kansas Jayhawks

I forgot to mention Kansas the other day in my blog about NCAA basketball national championship contenders.

The only reminder I needed was watching the Kansas-Baylor game Monday night on ESPN. The Jayhawks destroyed the Bears like they do to most teams appearing in Allen Fieldhouse.

This was supposed to be a down year (don’t use the rebuilding word) at Kansas. Some down year. The Jayhawks are ranked No. 4 with just one loss. They are posed to take their ninth straight Big 12 Conference title. Can you say domination?

It’s difficult to stop Kansas because it has a sold inside-outside game. Center Jeff Withey is a solid inside scorer who also blocks shots. The outside game comes from the likes of Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. McLemore is the prize of that group and he went down with an injury against Baylor, so we’ll see if that has an effect on the Jayhawks. I think they have enough weapons to withstand a brief McLemore absence.

The long-term question is does Kansas possess the toughness to survive a grinding NCAA tournament? Are they tested enough in a league this year having a down cycle? Are they susceptible to a hot mid-major team in the NCCAA tournament?

Monday, January 14, 2013

College Basketball Race Wide Open

The last of the mighty fell in college basketball over the weekend.

Duke and Michigan were both undefeated heading into the weekend. Both suffered losses on the road. Duke lost to NC State and Ohio State beat Michigan.

This proves again the absence of an elite team in college basketball this season. Last year, Kentucky was crowned the king before the fact and the Wildcats didn’t disappoint. This season there has been contenders (Indiana Gonzaga, Michigan, Duke), but no WOW team.

March Madness could be especially exciting. Any one of the above mentioned four teams could earn the title or maybe a sleeper squad. Can you say UCLA or North Carolina State? How about Creighton or Wichita State?

Obviously a team needs talent, but getting hot in March and getting some good fortunate could result in a crown with several teams so evenly matched.

Who is your favorite to win the NCAA tournament? Who is your sleeper?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Creighton's Doug McDermott an Iowa Star

Creighton’s Doug McDermott is an All-American.

Yet there is a sense that because the junior plays in the Midwest and the Missouri Valley Conference that he doesn’t receive proper recognition. Put the guy in the Big Ten or ACC and college basketball fans all around the USA would know about McDermott.

Creighton has always been a basketball school but McDermott’s feats have provided the Jays with greater creditability.

Friday night, McDermott tossed in 39 points to lead his team to a road victory over Missouri State. Creighton is ranked 13th in the country with a 16-1 record. McDermott has been productive since his freshman year and is currently averaging 23.6 points per game.

The interesting thing is McDermott was the second best player on his high school team at Ames, Iowa. Harrison Barnes was the poster boy and received all the national attention. Barnes went to North Carolina and played two seasons before turning pro. I contend that McDermott is a better college player than Barnes.

There are still some fans in Iowa upset that McDermott left the state. He was scheduled to play for Northern Iowa but was granted his release when his father, Greg, took the Creighton job. Creighton and Northern Iowa are fierce rivals in the Missouri Valley. Greg McDermott was a former player and coach at Northern Iowa.

But regardless of where Doug McDermott plays, Iowans can celebrate the accomplishments of this All-American. The terms Iowan and All-American are a rare occurrence.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Iowa State's Gut-Wrenching Loss

As basketball losses go, this one had to be near the top of disappointment, frustration, pain—you get the idea.

Iowa State outplayed No. 6 Kansas on its home floor for most of the game. The Cyclones looked like they were going to upset the Jayhawks and stun college basketball.

The Cyclones held a three-point lead with less than a minute left but Kansas had one last chance to tie. Ben McLemore three-point bucket with 1.3 seconds remaining put the dagger in the visitors. It wasn’t like McLemore wasn’t capable because he was scoring all the night. But a bank shot to tie the score? Come on.

I knew right there that Kansas would win the game in overtime. And unfortunately, my prediction was correct. Kansas dominated the overtime. The Jayhawks had been on the brink of defeat and they weren’t returning there.

Iowa State played probably its best game of the season. The Cyclones haven’t been impressive until Wednesday. But a loss is a loss.

Kansas escaped with the win. Style points aren’t necessary. Good thing for Kansas.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Alabama Provided Me a Favor

Alabama’s blowout victory over Notre Dame Monday night in the BCS National Championship game was a good thing.

Since Alabama took control of the game early I didn’t have to watch it to the end. The game was over by halftime and really in the first half. I tuned out at halftime and I imagine others did as well.

Therefore, I spent little emotional energy cheering for the Irish. None was required. While I watched, the only time the Irish fans were vocal came on official questionable calls. That’s what happens when the opponent performs like a surgeon and accomplishes the task quickly.

I was surprised Alabama was a 10-11 point favorite against the No. 1 team in the nation. Turns out even the odds makers were probably shocked with the outcome.

While the game was painless, the aftermath wasn’t. People are bringing up the dynasty word again after the Tide’s third national championship in four years. The SEC has also won seven straight BCS National Championships.

Streaks do come to an end however. But I better not find solace from any Chicago Cub fans.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cheering for Notre Dame in BCS Championship Game

I don’t really dislike Alabama. Oh wait, maybe I do. The Tide has won too much lately. It’s time to spread the wealth.

The fact Alabama is a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) doesn’t endear me to the Tide either. Yes, I get that the SEC is the best college football conference in the country. Ask the SEC or possibly ESPN, the league may be the best on the planet.

Since Notre Dame is playing Alabama for the national title Monday night, my pick therefore falls to the Irish.

Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 and considered the underdog in the game. The Irish has walked the high wire to an undefeated season. If they defeat Alabama, the title will be earned.

I wonder how many non-Notre Dame fans like me will cheer for the Irish. As I have mentioned before, Notre Dame was the New York Yankees of college football. In the past, either you loved them or hated them. No middle ground. But that stance may have softened a bit because the Irish have been terrible in recent seasons. A win Monday night however might institute that anti-Notre Dame stance in the near future.

Notre Dame needs to win for college football. The SEC has been strutting around like a bunch of roosters. It’s time the league becomes one of the regular chickens again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Personal Essay--The Emotional Tie of Sports

It struck me late Monday afternoon when I was watching the Iowa State-Tulsa Liberty Bowl game.

I had just invested three-and-a-half hours rooting for Iowa State and the Cyclones were going to lose. It was a sad time. It was a sad two days actually. Sunday, I watched my favorite NFL team lose to a certain opponent north of the Iowa border. Therefore all told, Monday evening my emotions were definitely down.

The so familiar losing outcome in my sports watching world made me think. When I was young and my favorite team lost, my mother would say: “Somebody has to lose and somebody has to win.” My response was “Why do my teams always have to lose.” But really, why does an outcome of a sports game pull so much weigh on my emotions?

I think the answer lies in a word from the financial sphere. My emotions rely on the “investment” I place on a particular team.

I have watched hundreds of college football and basketball games. Currently, I cheer for Iowa State basketball and football and Baylor basketball. In the past, I was invested in North Carolina State. I always cheer for teams with a personal connection.

But similar to finance, when my investment is high in a particular team, my emotions will ride on a victory or a loss. But then I ask myself: “Isn’t sports a form of entertainment? Does it really matter in my particular life whether a certain college team wins a ballgame”?

Probably a good thing to ponder as I begin the year 2013.

What are your emotional ties to the sports world?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

Thank you to all my blog readers. I appreciate the readership. I read every posted comment, so feel free to share your thoughts and views. I want to wish everyone a blessed New Year.