February 2013

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Random Thoughts By Rick Klatt S o here we are at the end of January and what do we have? Well, from my vantage point, it's been a pretty exciting basketball and wrestling season to dateā€¦and there's much more to come. Tom Brands' squad is fighting and scratching and clawing, and will carry an unblemished Big Ten Conference record into its dual against top-ranked and defending national champion Penn State Friday night on Mediacom Mat inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The way I look at it, the Big Ten's regular season title and a little momentum heading into this year's league championship to be staged at the University of Illinois in early March is on the line. Matt McDonough and Tony Ramos have been, predictably, solid. Like many fans of the Hawkeyes, I've enjoyed the work of Mike Evans at 174. Brands has done everything but stood at the top of a mountain and yelled, "bonus points!" all season. He did the same after the UI's win in the "Border Brawl" with Minnesota. "I don't want to nitpick here but we could have scored some bonus points," he told hawkeyesports.com. "You have to get bonus points when you can. We had some close matches that came down to finishing. If we finish, we'll see more things go our way." If you haven't purchased your ticket for Friday night, get on it. It should be electric. ** Last weekend was also a big one for Bluder's Bunch, which travelled to Ann Arbor looking to avenge a loss to Michigan on Mediacom Court earlier this season, and to ride the momentum gained from a stirring victory over Wisconsin on Jan. 24. They accomplished 29 both and in so doing, racked up their sixth victory over a nationally ranked team and improved to 16-5 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play. From where I sit, the Hawkeyes are clearly on the path to yet another invitation to the NCAA postseason party. And it's worth noting that Lisa Bluder's squad could play its first two 2013 NCAA Tournament games in Iowa City. But, I probably shouldn't put the cart before the horse. Lisa would be the first to note that there is plenty of basketball left to be played. Having said that, I think the Hawkeyes have done a great job of successfully shifting the focus from "if " to "when," and are entering the month of February eyeing an opportunity to solidify high seeds in both the upcoming Big Ten Tournament as well as the national championship. ** Finally, as I noted in my most recent installment of "Random Thoughts" delivered in last Sunday's Hawk Talk Daily, Fran's Hawkeyes aren't interested in "coulda-shoulda-woulda." They want wins and, as we know, they came tantalizingly close to getting a good one Sunday against Purdue in West Lafayette. The good guys fought through a difficult first half and a double-digit Boilermaker lead in the second half to have the home team right where they wanted them in the game's final seconds: The ball was in Roy Devyn Marble's capable hands with victory just a bucket away. Alas, Dev's four-footer bounced off the back of the rim and Melsahn Basabe's effort at a game-winning tip-in came up two fingers short. I won't even begin to hazard a guess what will happen between now and the end of the regular season in the Big Ten. It is too incredibly competitive and balanced

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