Feb. 2014

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49 By Rick Klatt B oth Fran McCaffery's and Lisa Bluder's Hawkeyes had big games on their schedules to close the book on the month of January and we had mixed results. Some will say that Fran's squad entertained Michigan State on Mediacom Court in Carver- Hawkeye at an opportune time, banged up pretty good and coming off a tough, emotional loss. Both observations are true, however, some also say the last 10 yards of the 100 yard dash are the hardest. It's clear we are so close to being "tough enough." And, I don't think it takes a genius to know that that hurdle gets cleared very soon. It's also clear that what Tom Izzo has done and continues to do at Michigan State is remarkable. Bluder's Bunch continued its roll with a nice win at Minnesota. Balanced scoring again led by a freshman — Ally Disterho — was one key to the win. She's been on a nice roll personally since being inserted into the starting five. A solid performance on the defensive end of the floor was also important as it always is when you're playing away from home. e win was No. 17 of the season for the Hawkeyes so, what are you waiting for? Take the plunge. Make the purchase of tickets to the first and second round NCAA Tournament games that will be played in Carver in March! Another point about Iowa-Michigan State: Wasn't the environment fantastic? Electric. Engaged. "Loud and Proud." Just like the good old days. e good part about that is we have a few more environments like that yet to come this season. You could get whiplash following the Top 25 for men's basketball, particularly if your primary interest is teams from the Big Ten Conference. I'll take the whiplash any day. It's what makes this time of the college basketball season so entertaining. Based on the recent goings-on in our league — Penn State knocking off Ohio State in Columbus in overtime and Northwestern winning inside Wisconsin's shiny and seldom down- trodden Kohl Center — much of the same can be said about the Big Ten and tracking the standings, and the remaining schedule and projecting those into the brackets for the tournament in Indy. Whiplash plus craziness equals highly entertaining for the fans, nerve-racking for the coaches. It's been an interesting season thus far for coach Tom Brands' squad. Some eyebrow-raising upsets of Hawkeyes and some eyebrow-raising performances by Hawkeyes. I'll go out on a limb and predict what remains of the 2013-14 season — including the month of March when champions are crowned — will be equally as interesting. We introduced some changes to the game day parking at historic Kinnick Stadium recently. In my opinion, lost among the buzz of change — parking, as you know, ranks a very close second to seat location inside Kinnick and, for some if not many , ranks first — are two facts: Prices for parking on game days is not changing and fans who are members of the National I-Club who park in UI parking lots on game days will, for the first time in the history of football at the UI, know with 100 percent certainty what lot they will park in each game day. Football signing day is approaching and here's my annual advice: Don't fall into the trap of national rankings. As Kirk Ferentz suggests annually, let's check back on this class two or three or maybe even four years from today. at's the time to be passing judgment. Lastly, it's good to see Iowa baseball team cranking it up for the first season under new coach Rick Heller for lots of reasons including it's real, tangible evidence that winter's icy grip on all of us is beginning to loosen. Go Hawkeyes! Random Thoughts

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