April 2013

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Random Thoughts By Rick Klatt W hat a great time of year this season of March Madness is. Absolutely wonderful. It's extremely entertaining, and exclusively our own. It's been wildly crazy so far…and, just think, the best is yet to come. I'm sure this is what University of Iowa head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery was thinking of in October and November…and reminded us of periodically through the season. He knew we had a team capable of shooting the ball because he witnessed it daily in the practice gym. On March 27, the Hawkeyes took that big step and it resulted in 49-percent shooting from the field, a hefty 47-percent from behind the arc, and a perfect 100-percent from the charity stripe. For me — and just about anyone else who cared to review it — those are the numbers that popped off the box score for the Hawkeyes' thrilling NIT win at Virginia earlier this week. In fact, those are eye-popping numbers, particularly from behind the arc. You will win a lot of games with numbers like that on a regular basis. There are other gems hidden in the box score, too. Chew on this one: 10 points in 15 minutes of play by Zach McCabe, who arguably has the hottest hand of all of Iowa's shooters in Iowa's three postseason games. Or how about Eric May, Iowa's lone senior: eight points, an assist, and the hustle play of the season. Or maybe the 4-for-4 from the stripe by freshman Anthony Clemmons. If my memory is correct, all four of those free throws came in crunch time of the game's final minutes. Consider how far McCaffery and his staff and the student-athletes have taken this program in three years. The best part? There's another rung of excitement yet to climb this season, and the Hawkeyes get to tackle that in one of the greatest venues in the history of sport, New York City's Madison Square Garden.  So, is it official? Is the "Big Road Win" monkey officially off the Hawkeyes' back? The victory at Virginia was an incredibly big win in a hostile environment against a very, very good team. Defense and a commitment to rebounding the ball wins games like these, and the Hawkeyes delivered, holding the home team to 38-percent from the field while dominating the glass and winning the turnover battle. On this particular night, the Hawkeyes took a punch and then punched back as suggested by the fact that the largest lead for the Cavaliers was just two points, and that came with almost 17 minutes left in the first half. I'm feeling pretty good about Iowa being the first men's basketball team in the Big Ten Conference to advance to a final four. Let's hope there's four more that follow the Hawkeyes' lead. Clearly, the NIT takes a back seat to the NCAA Tournament in terms of the attention it receives from the national media. The 700-pound gorilla chews up the sports pages and ESPN in big, big chunks, and that's probably right and unfortunate. It's right because, after all, the Big Dance is the sport's official championship and, as such, its field is filled with big time teams and big time personalities very much 29

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