April 17, 2021

March Madness is almost here

One of my favorite sports times of the year is March Madness. Filling out a bracket is tons of fun. And any time you can get college basketball games from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. for two straight days, sign me up.

I would watch anyway but when Iowa college teams are involved in the party, it’s even more interesting.

Right now, the Iowa Hawkeyes are firmly in the tournament. They will be at least a 4 seed. And that’s after some fans thought the world was ending because the Hawks lost a few games.

Is Iowa perfect? Nope. Are they even top-five elite anymore? Probably not. But are they capable of making a run deeper than fans have seen since Tom Davis was the head coach? For sure.

My expectations coming into the season were high. But you never heard me saying anything about national titles. Or even Final Fours. It’s been 25 years or so since Iowa has even made it to the Sweet 16. Let’s get there first and see what happens.

I think they have enough talent to make a deep run, but the expectation for all of us right now should be the Sweet 16.

The Drake men also are really good. But the loss to Bradley on Sunday could be crippling. The Bulldogs are still 24-3, but if you want to prove you belong in the at-large discussion, a loss to a now 12-15 team which is ranked 170th in the NET rankings won’t help that.

Drake and UNI are getting ready for Arch Madness this week. And it looks like both teams will have to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament to make the Big Dance.

There’s still a chance the Bulldogs make it in as an at-large team, but the committee will no doubt look to things like the loss to Bradley to keep them out.

Drake can certainly win the league tournament despite not having its two best players. One of them could be back for the conference tournament though.

Garrett Sturtz has moved into the starting lineup since the two big injuries. The Newton native on the season is averaging 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. He’s shooting 77 percent from the foul line and 56 percent from the floor. And that’s not counting his double-double from Sunday.

Sturtz has played in all 27 Drake games this season. And he’s started the last seven games. During that stretch, Sturtz’s minutes have gone up to 36 per game and he’s averaging 10.3 points and seven rebounds per game.

He scored 19 points in a win over UNI at the beginning of these seven games. He’s also had double-doubles in two of the team’s last three games and played 40, 39 and 40 minutes in those three games.

Drake will have a bunch of fans in Newton hoping the Bulldogs get to the NCAA Tournament. I hope the Bulldogs get there.

Back to Iowa, the Hawkeyes are currently ranked ninth in the country in the Associated Press poll. The NET rankings have Iowa sixth and Ken Pom ranks the Hawks fifth.

Pom ranks Iowa’s offense second in the country but its defense ranks 81st. Iowa also has five Quad 1 wins and is 6-1 vs. Quad 2 teams.

The Hawks are a very good basketball team. I just don’t think they are on the same level as Gonzaga, Michigan or Baylor.

I think Iowa is a top 10-15 team. But I think they can beat teams like Oklahoma, Alabama, Creighton and Texas, who are all top-10 type teams who lost games this past week.

Iowa losing Jack Nunge for the rest of the season doesn’t help. But they are still capable of beating some of the top teams in the country on a short scout. And getting out of the Big Ten Conference and facing teams who don’t know them as well could benefit them, too.

I will be there watching every second of their games. Hopefully, a Sweet 16 is in the cards this year. I will take more, but let’s get there first and then adjust our expectations.

Contact Troy Hyde at thyde@shawmedia.com