Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kansas-Iowa State: A Heavyweight Match

If you missed the Kansas-Iowa State matchup Monday night on ESPN, you missed a heavyweight battle.

Both teams were trading punches throughout the evening. Kansas just came up with more of them and prevailed in overtime 108-96.

This was a fan’s game. If you enjoy defense, you needed to change the channel. Shots were raining from all over. The three-point ball was definitely in play. It looked and felt like a NBA game.

Iowa State tries to outscore opponents. The Cyclones have been pretty successful doing that but mighty Kansas didn’t play along. Kansas knew what to do in overtime. Iowa State seemed out of gas. When a talented team like Kansas plays in overtime, it’s usually bad news for the opposite. That was the case for Iowa State. It wasn’t even close.

Kansas can thank Elijah Johnson. Johnson was uncanny in the second half and overtime. The senior threw in 39 points and numerous three-point shots.

Iowa State had its chance in regulation. But the Cyclones let Kansas up from the canvas and their 22-game home winning streak was history.

Friday, February 22, 2013

College Basketball Crunch Time

As the landscape in Iowa turned white overnight (yes, snow), let’s turn to something more positive: March Madness.

The regular season is quickly coming to an end. Some conferences hold their league tournament in early March and others wait about a week. Regardless of the dates, this is the time for all teams to make a move.

Some teams can handle the pressure, some cannot. For the NCAA bubble teams you either make your case now or stay home for NCAA tournament time.

Teams struggling need to turn it around. Each game is one game closer to either a good streak or a bad streak. Teams can make remarkable runs at this juncture or tank and finish with a bad taste.

One area the NCAA selection committee examines is the finish to a particular team’s season. Bubble teams that put together wins will receive utmost consideration. If you don’t win, the team puts itself on the mercy of the committee. And that’s a dangerous way to live.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Storming the College Basketball Court

Okay, boys and girls quit doing it. No more running on to the basketball court when your team wins. If you don’t quit it now, I will make you write on the blackboard 1,000 times “I will not storm the court.”

We have a new fade in college basketball this season. It’s called “storming the court.” Remember when students occasionally ran out on the court. This year, it seems like it is a right of passage.

Granted we have a number of upsets in the college game but doesn’t the novelty wear off after one time? For example, should the No. 15 ranked school’s fans rush the court after it defeats the No. 13 team?

Before I get labeled as the grumpy Gus, I applaud one school for storming the court. TCU beat Kansas a couple weeks ago in Fort Worth, Texas. How can I say this softly: the Horned Frogs are a terrible team? They have won one conference game and that was the stunner against Kansas. TCU fans never have the opportunity to storm the court and I say good for them. Glad you did it.

But to you other school fans. Pick your spots. Take a stand. Don’t be like your fellow fans. Cheer loudly in the stands and then go home.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

International Olympic Committee Decision Causes Wrestling Uproar

I can count on two hands the number of wrestling stories I have written in my journalism career. But the decision to drop wrestling from the future Olympics has created a fierce storm in this part of the world.

The state of Iowa is a wrestling hotbed. The University of Iowa has won numerous national team and individual championships. Former Iowa coach Dan Gable is a wrestling legend through the world. Iowa State also fields competitive teams and has crowned many individual national champions. The Iowa high school state tournament (held this week) is a big deal too.

So if you thought the Iowa wrestling people were a little upset about the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision that is an understatement.

Folks, I have never been into the sport of wrestling but it goes back to the days of the Greeks. Wrestling is an international sport, but not anymore according to the IOC.

The wrestling folks aren’t going to take this lying down (no pun intended). They would do well to tab Gable as their poster boy. Maybe bringing along some cash to the next Olympic meeting might also help.

These wrestlers are in for a tough fight. Once you render a major decision to take or replace something, it’s usually gone for life. But wrestlers are a feisty bunch and just maybe their can get the decision reversed.

There are some people in Iowa cheering for that decision.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This Race Too Close to Call

The Big 12 Conference basketball title chase is the most competitive in years and we can thank Kansas.

The Jayhawks are reeling. They have lost three straight and have lost their hold on first place. It’s been about 6-7 years since Kansas has lost three straight.

Kansas’ neighbor, Kansas State is a top of the Big 12 with an 8-2 record. Kansas and Oklahoma State are next at 7-3 and the log jam with Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor at 6-4.

This race could be like a horse one—a photo finish.

Kansas State may not hold the top spot alone for long. The Wildcats visit Kansas tonight (Monday). The Jayhawks won’t lose four straight will they? Kansas has already beaten their rival in Manhattan but Kansas State is playing well. Should be a competitive game.

One team not involved in the race is Texas. What has happened to the Longhorns? They have made the NCAA tournament 14 straight years under Coach Rick Barnes. That streak will probably come to an end this season.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Will the Rich Get Richer?

One of the sidebars of National College Signing Day this week has been the upcoming changes in NCAA football rules. The changes essentially occur for the 2013 season.

Schools will no longer need to monitor text messages or telephone calls because they will be unlimited. Schools can also hire additional staff to engage in the social media thing. Brochures can also return to the full-color spectrum of a number of years ago.

Some wonder if the schools with the big budgets will garner an additional advantage with the changes. But will this really help schools like Alabama, LSU, Florida, Michigan and Ohio State beyond their advantage already?

These schools and other big boy programs will always land most of the talented prospects. Simply put, the rich are rich and will also be rich. Opening these other avenues will basically help the NCAA because that body won’t need to monitor as closely anymore.

The other schools will still go after the less decorated prospects and hope to lure an occasional blue chip prospect. And really a text message is the same whether it comes from Alabama or Middle Tennessee State. Sure the brochures will look prettier but is that enough to get a kid to come to your school.

I guess we will find out as the changes actually occur. But don’t expect the rich to become poor. That I know.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Iowa State University's Special Place Basketball Place

I have written about Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum before. “Hilton Magic” is popular term in this state coined by a former Des Moines Register sportswriter. The magic seems to propel the Cyclones to victory.

The magic is working especially well this season. Iowa State has yet to loss a game in the building.

I experienced Hilton Magic again in person last week. The mission was to watch the Baylor Bears oppose Iowa State. Baylor played with Iowa State for about 35 minutes before the Cyclones pulled away. Baylor knows too well Hilton Magic as the Bears have never won in Hilton in 10 or 11 tries.

The crowd was 14,000 plus and electric. At times, you couldn’t hear yourself think or talk to the person next to you. When Baylor shot free throws, the students waved signs and made extreme noise. When Iowa State shot a free throw, a “quiet” sign went up.

Home court is talked about all the time in college basketball. There are numerous tough places to play. But once again, I was reminded that Hilton Coliseum ranks next to the toughest in America.

Just ask Baylor.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Big 12 Conference Basketball Race Becomes Interesting

Kansas was planning to run away with another Big 12 Conference title when Oklahoma State came to Lawrence, Kansas.

The Cowboys proceeded to pull off the shocking upset and remove the don’t-touch-Kansa-tag. It was the highlight of a “positioning” day in league play.

Kansas State was the other squad with the big road win dumping Oklahoma. Iowa State grabbed a home win over Baylor. The result of all these games was a jumbled conference race.

The Wildcats trail their in-state brethren by only one game. Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are all tied for third place two games behind Kansas.

There will be guaranteed separation in third place this week.

Tonight (Monday) Oklahoma travels to Iowa State. Wednesday Baylor travels to Oklahoma State.

Not only will these games affect the league race, but the post-season as well. In a down year in the Big 12, every win is precious to enhance the NCAA tournament resume.

And with every team playing each other twice, the Big 12 crowns a true league champion. Let the fun continue.

Friday, February 1, 2013

College Basketball Officials

There has been a major uproar in Iowa lately about college basketball officials.

In the Iowa State game last Wednesday night, a player-control foul was called in the closing moments on Oklahoma State after the refs were going to give Iowa State’s Chris Babb a chance at the free throw line. The Cyclones ended up getting the ball out-of-bounds and a final shot was no good for the win.

UNI was changed with a critical foul near the end of its game with Indiana State last week. That resulted in three free throws for Indiana State and a UNI defeat.

Overall, officials do a good job in a hostile situation. Their calls are magnified in a close game at the end. If the players take care of their business earlier in the game, it wouldn’t require so many close and exciting games at the end. Then, to many, the officials become non-factors.

My question is why aren’t officials required to answer questions about their performance? Officials are protected like gold at Fort Knox. Coaches and players cannot criticize them (or face punishment). Media cannot ask questions.

Maybe some officials would like to talk but their conference silences them. I think some basic explanations from officials after games would promote good will from coaches, players and certainly fans.