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Column

Hawkeyes look legit

The teams I root for have had a good run lately.

The Iowa men’s and women’s basketball teams are both ranked in the top 20, the San Francisco 49ers are in the Super Bowl and the Cincinnati Reds just added another free agent signing in Nick Castellanos.

The Reds have only won the winter. I get that. But they positioned themselves with the additions of Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama, Wade Miley and Pedro Strop to make a push in the NL Central.

They still have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball as well as Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino so they will be able to hit and pitch. The defense will be suspect, but the pitching staff led all of baseball in strikeouts last year.

The 49ers are playing in another Super Bowl. They started 5-0 in such games but lost their last one because Jim Harbaugh passed the ball four times inside the 5-yard line instead of giving it to future Hall of Famer Frank Gore a couple times.

That won’t happen this season. I know Kyle Shanahan lost a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl when he was the OC with the Atlanta Falcons. I think he has learned from that experience.

The 49ers ran all over the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. The Kansas City Chiefs have a rushing defense that has been hit or miss. If the 49ers can run the ball, and play with the lead, I like my team’s chances.

I know the Chiefs have come back in both playoff games. And they are capable of doing that. But the 49ers aren’t the Houston Texans or Tennessee Titans. They can run the ball, throw the ball and have one of the best defenses in the league.

I will be nervous come kickoff. I am on pins and needles basically for every game. The Niners are my favorite professional sports team and it’s not close.

I wish they weren’t playing the Chiefs. I have too many friends who root for them. I don’t hate the Chiefs. They are a fun team with loads of talent.

San Francisco has five Super Bowl titles. Two of those came against the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. It would be fitting if the Niners also defeated the Chiefs. That would make Super Bowl wins over three of the four teams in the AFC West.

The Iowa women’s basketball team graduated the best player in school history last year but has stayed relevant because of a strong group of senior guards and some young talent.

Megan Gustafson got her jersey retired inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday after her Hawkeyes rallied to beat Michigan State. They are 18-3 overall, 9-1 in Big Ten Conference play and have won nine straight games.

The Hawkeye men had very little expectations coming into the season after losing three big pieces to last year’s team.

But Luka Garza is a first-team All-American, Joe Wieskamp is a silent assassin and C.J. Fredrick and Joe Toussaint play with a swagger that Iowa hasn’t had for a while.

The Hawkeyes were down by 12 at home to Wisconsin on Monday with 7 minutes to play. I thought they were toast. They couldn’t hit an outside shot and the defense was suspect.

But suddenly, things started to click and a 12-0 run tied the game with around 2 minutes to go before they pulled out another close one.

This group of Hawkeyes never quit. They play a great brand of basketball, have guys who shove back and are full of fight.

Garza is the top dog, but Wieskamp and Fredrick can go for 20 on any night.

Connor McCaffery doesn’t score a lot but can do just about anything else. Ryan Kriener is playing the best basketball of his career and Toussaint is a bulldog who is unafraid of the big moment.

Jordan Bohannon decided to have surgery. Jack Nunge also is out for the year. And Patrick McCaffery may not play again this season.

That was another reason expectations weren’t high from most fans. But no matter what has been thrown at them, they just keep fighting.

It’s certainly fun to watch. And it doesn’t appear that there is going to be a Fran fade in February. This team has a different feel to it.

Contact Troy Hyde at thyde@newtondailynews.com

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