Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wonderful Job, Oregon


Wonderful job, Oregon. 

And I sure hope all of you Kansas players, coaches and fans have a great time watching the rest of the tournament on TV.
Speaking of coaches, I noticed that Bill Self of Kansas--supposedly one of the nation's best--didn't bother taking any of the blame in his televised postgame comments for why the Jayhawks weren't emotionally or physically prepared in what amounted to a Kansas home game for an Oregon team that gave the university its first Final Four appearance in 78 years.
Shame on you, Bill.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


As I was leaving Mount Olive Lutheran church this evening, I shook hands with Pastor James Brammeier and thanked him for keeping the service short.
"Why do you say that?" the longtime man of the cloth asked.
"Because two Caholic universities are playing each other in the NCAA basketball tournament," I explained. "Now I know I'll be able to watch the last half on TV."
When I finally was able to see some of the game, Gonzaga of Spokane, Wash., was 20 or so points ahead of Xavier of Cincinnati and went on to win big, 83-59.
The victory meant Gonzaga, a school with 7,421 students, qualified for its first Final Four in the NCAA's Big Dance.
As I watched Gonzaga's players celebrate on the court following the victory, I couldn't help but think about another private university that went to its first [and only] Final Four 48 seasons ago.
I'm referring, of course, to Drake, which took eventual national champion UCLA to the wire before losing, 85-82, in the 1969 tournament at Louisville In the semifinal round, then went on to absolutely manhandle Dean Smith's North Carolina team in the third-place game, 104-84.
Gonzaga's nickname is the Bulldogs, Drake is the Bulldogs. Spike the bulldog is Gonzana's mascot, Spike the bulldog is Drake's mascot.
Similarities, similarities.
As the years have flown by, it's easy to forget what a marvelous achievment it was for Maury John, then the Drake coach, to magically guide Drake to the Final Four.
I don't think we appreciate enough what that man did.

Nobody's Happy


It's hard telling whose basketball fans are the unhappiest today--Indiana's, UCLA's or maybe even Iowa's.
The reason for such widespread emotion is that Steve Alford decided he wouldn't resign as UCLA's coach and go to Indiana, where he was a standout player many moons ago.
Once the decision-makers at Indiana learned that Alford didn't have interest in succeeding the fired Tom Crean, they named Archie Miller of Dayton today as their nexrt coach.

Shortly after UCLA lost to Kentucky, 86-75, in an NCAA Sweet Sixteen game at Memphis, Tenn., Alford said he's not loading the wife and kids into the family SUV and moving to Indiana.
There are a lot of UCLA fans who wanted him to take the Indiana job, and there are a lot of naive Indiana fans who think Alford actually knows how to coach and wish he would've come to the campus in Bloomington.
As for Iowa's fans, many of them would have liked Alford--who coached the Hawkeyes from 1999-2007--to return to the Big Ten so Iowa could've kicked his butt on the court.
Frankly, they don't think he knows that much about coaching. When he resigned at Iowa to take the New Mexico job in 2007, it was not a happy ending.
Many Hawkeye followers were thrilled that he was bailing out.
Alford is pictured in his years as Iowa's coach.
UCLA's fans are now frustrated and disappointed.
They wonder how Alford's team could end Kentucky's 42-game home winning streak in December, then lose to the Wildcats in the Big Dance when it mattered more in March.
Alford will lose four starters from this team--including freshman Lonzo Ball, who will be an early signee with an NBA team and also Alford's own son.
Prior to last night's game, I wrote that I hoped neither Kentucky nor UCLA would win. But the phone lines to the NCAA offices at Indianapolis were always busy when I called to ask if that was actually possible.
Just kidding about that.
Whatever. I finally picked Kentucky as the team I wanted to win. It was plainly a case of choosing the lesser of two evils.
Never in my worst and wildest nightmares did I think I'd be wanting Kentucky and its coach, John Calipari, to win a game--certainly not a game in the Big Dance.
Now that Calipari has knocked UCLA out of the tournament, I can resume hoping his Kentucky team loses.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Here's What I"m Hoping for Tonight


Here's the schedule for tonight's NCAA men's basketball tournament and how I hope the games turn out:

6:09--Butler vs. North Carolina. I like any team called the Bulldogs and I don't have much time for an outfit whose nickname is the Tar Heels and is coached by Roy Williams. North Carolina has already won 5 national championships, and that's enough. Consequently, I'm on Butler's bandwagon, at least when it comes to this game.

6:29--South Carolina vs. Baylor. Just to prove I have nothing against a basketball team with Caroliha in its name, I hope South Carolina wins. I know I'm disappointing my friend, Baylor and coach Scott Drew fan Paul Delger. But Paul and I have known each other long enough that he is aware it's nothing personal and it's all in fun. I'm going with Frank Martin, the South Carolina coach who is the son of Cuban political exiles. Besides, ol' Frank is just a little bit goofy in my estimation.

8:39--UCLA vs Kentucky. Both schools have had more than enough NCAA basketball success. UCLA has won 11 national championships and Kentucky has won 8. The fact that I'm not particularly fond of either coach [Kentucky's John Calipari and UCLA's Steve Alford] also influences me. I hope both teams lose, and I've got a call into NCAA headquarters to see if such a bizarre thing can happen.

8:59--Wisconsin vs. Florida. I hope the Badgers win the national championship. To accomplish that, they can't lose to Florida or any other opponent that confronts them in this tournament. So don't
screw it up now, Wisconsin. I'm a Greg Gard fan. He's the Badgers' coach who waited a long, long time to finally get a head coaching job, and now is making the most of it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Drake Gets Screwed Again


A 44-year-old guy with no hair [at least on his head] is the latest person to pull the wool over the eyes of people overseeing the athletic department at Drake University.
His name is Craig Smith, and he resorted to the oldest trick in the coaching manual to get a pay raise at the University of South Dakota.
Smith [or someone working for him] let it "leak" a few weeks ago that he might be quitting at South Dakota and taking charge of a hapless Drake men's basketball program.
I heard the rumor a while back while eating blueberry pie on free pie day at Village Inn.
I almost choked on a blueberry,
I didn't believe it any more than I believed Bobby Knight would come out of retirement and coach at Drake because he didn't want Maury John to be the only Bulldogs coach to take a team to the Final Four.
Smith, who is pictured, was no more going to take the Drake job than he was going to be a Supreme Court justice.
He wanted to let his bosses at South Dakota know that he might be looking for employment elsewhere so they'd pay him more than the $196,000 a year he was already making.
Smith got exactly what he wanted.
Now he's got a sweeter deal at South Dakota, and the naive people at Drake are still looking for a coach.
Drake has known for months that it would need a new coach. One guy quit after the first few games of the 2016-17 season. His supposedly temporary replacement lost his last 10 games.
Other universities are hiring new coaches a day or two after the old one either quit or was fired.
The whole deal about folks at Drake continually dragging their feet makes me sick.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Like I predicted, retired Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross came out swinging last night in his premier appearance on ABC-TV's "Dancing With the Stars."
Ross turned 40 years of age Sunday and was known as Grandpa when the Cubs won the 2016 World Series.
His dancing partner is professional Lindsay Wagner, and they scored 28 out of a possible 40 while doing a cha-cha version of the Cubs' theme song "Go Cubs Go!"
“That was one of my favorite dances of the night,” judge Carrie-Ann Inaba said.
I was doing something else and wasn't able to watch the show, but I've talked to some veteran "Dancing With the Stars" viewers and read enough stuff on the Internet to draw a few conclusions.
The fact that each of the four judges gave Ross and Wagner, dressed in Cubs uniform-type sequined outfits, an identical 7 score provided further proof to me that "Dancing With the Stars" and all of those other TV shows like it are scripted.
In other words, fixed.
And "fixed" is not a word you want to use around professional baseball.
Ask Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago Black Sox about that.
I mean, how and why would all four judges give Grandpa and Wagner 7's?
I'm predicting Ross and Wagner will stay on the show only as long as ABC wants them to stay on it--regardless of how many votes they get from viewers.
When the network bosses feel and Grandpa and Wagner aren't doing the TV ratings any good, they'll be [in baseball terminology] released.
I also pretty much feel the network bosses already know who they want to win.
But what the heck, as long as Ross and Wagner keep looking good and keep bringing some game to the show, it's fun watching 'em.
People thought it was fun watching Ross's young daughter on the program, and hearing him say, “My goal is to show my kid it’s OK to try something you’re afraid of.”
Great stuff, Grandpa.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Quandary


I'm in a quandary.

I can't decide if I want Gregg Marshall or
Steve Alford to be Indiana's next basketball coach.
Oh, I know neither guy exactly needs another job.
Marshall is already being paid $3.3 million a year to coach at Wichita State.
Alford's salary at UCLA is $2.6 million a year.
But the names of both Marshall and Alford are significant among those being tossed around to be the successor to Tom Crean, who was fired at Indiana a day after his team lost a game in a postseason tournament no coach wants his team to be in--the NIT.
The reason I'd kind of like Marshall to land the Indiana job is because I think he and his wife Lynn [especially Lynn] need a change of scenery.
I think Lynn has outgrown Wichita, KS.. Or maybe Wichita has seen enough of Lynn.
Let me tell you about Lynn, who is pictured, courtesy of Google.
She had to be escorted out of her seat in the arena after her husband's Wichita State team lost to Kentucky 65-62 yesterday in a second-round NCAA tournament game at Indianapolis.
Two reporters sitting in front of Lynn thought she'd had a couple of adult beverages too many, and that may have been the reason she was throwing the "F" word around so many times during and after the game.
Security people talked with her several times during the game, but that didn't stop her from shouting at Kentucky coach John Calipari to "shut the "F" up, and saying some other things you don't expect to hear a coach's wife saying in public.
Final statistics on the game did not include Lynn Marshall's blood-alcohol level, but I think she is exactly what Indiana University and the city of Bloomington deserve.
If her husband were to get the Hoosiers job, she'd light up the campus and the city the way they haven't been lit up since Bobby Knight was ccaching Indiana.
Indiana basketball needs a kick in the butt, and Lynn Marshall is just the person who can handle it.
Now to Alford, who once had a coaching stint at Iowa [1999-2007], and didn't leave the job exactly on the best of terms. One of his players there was Pierre Pierce. Enough said.
I don't have enough time and space to write about that mess.
After Iowa grew tired of Alford, he took the coaching job at New Mexico. He's been at UCLA since 2013.
Hand it to the guy. He has one of the best teams in America this season at UCLA, and it's one that could win the national championship.
At least one of his freshmen, Lonzo Ball, will be playing in the NBA as early as next season.
Alford played on one of Knight's teams at Indiana that won an NCAA championship, and Hoosier fans certainly are fond of him.
Dan Dakich, the former Indiana player who now is a TV and radio guy and has an opinion on everything, thinks Alford should be Indiana's coach.
If Dakich thinks so, I guess it should happen.
Because Alford still has a team in the NCAA tournament, he thinks it's necessary to be coy when asked about the Indiana job.
“When I quickly trusted God and my faith, my journey has taken me to a place I had no idea that was going to be my journey and I’ve fallen in love with every spot,’’ he told reporters. “I’ve met great people, great institutions. …
“I love Los Angeles. You’re talking about arguably the greatest brand anywhere on the planet, and we got things going at a very high level now and we’re very excited about it. We’re excited about being in this tournament and seeing what we can do in this tournament.’’
“I can’t control what gets talked about....We’re very focused on what we’ve got to do.’’
I think Alford would fit right in at Indiana. People say you can't go home again, but he is something special and he could go home again. Just ask him.
I think it would be great having Stevie-boy bring his Indiana team into Iowa City for a game in the next year or so.
I'll bet the ticket people at Carver-Hawkeye Arena wouldn't have problems getting a full house

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rave Reviews


I'm sending rave reviews to coach Jennie
Baranczyk and the players on her Drake women's basketball team.
The Bulldogs' season ended today with a 67-54 loss to Kansas State in the NCAA tournament at Manhattan, KS, but they have a lot to be proud as the book closes on a banner 2016-17 season.
Drake won the regular-season championship in the Missouri Valley Conference with an 18-0 record, then seized the league's tournament title, had a 22-game winning streak and wound up 28-5.
Those are some kind of numbers.
I mean fantastic numbers.
What these Bulldogs did was almost beyond belief.
It's hard telling when, or if, another Drake team does what this one accomplished.
Congratulations to everyone associated with the team for an incredible season.

Saturday, March 18, 2017



A bigtime heartbreaker, that's what I'm calling it.

And I'm sure you're not feeling all that great about it either.
Actually, I kind of hate to use a word like heartbreaker because I know there are plenty of people reading these essays who've had coronary bypass surgery or are outfitted with such lifesaving devices as pacemakers and defibrillators.

So I hope all of those folks who watched on TV as Iowa State wiped out a 19-point deficit only to lose to Purdue, 80-76, tonight in a second round NCAA basketball tournament game at Milwaukee made it through all 40 minutes without having to make a trip to the emergency room.
For the Cyclones, for guys like Monte Morris, Deonte Burton, Nazareth Jersey Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas, it was an absolutely agonizing way to lose a game and end the season with a 24-11 record.
They looked down for the count when they fell behind, 58-39, in the last half.
But there's tremendous fight in this team, and it was clearly evident when Iowa State took a 73-71 lead and appeared ready to keep marching down the NCAA trail to perhaps yet another game against Big 12 riival Kansas.
But it didn't happen.
Purdue has a player named Caleb Swanigan, who stands 6 feet 9 inches, weighs 245 pounds and is quite the battler himself, as well as a tremendous basketball player.
Swanigan scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had seven assists for a Boilermaker team that won the regular-season championship in the Big Ten.
Swanigan was named player of the year in the conference, which is quite a tribute to a man who weighed 380 pounds as an eighth-grader, but had the personal discipline to lose more than 100 pounds and turn himself into a likely National Basketball Association player.
While watching the game on the tube, I was texting with a number of people, three of whom were my sons.
It was interesting to read observations and opinions streaming into my iPhone 6S as the dramatic game progressed.
"I told Julie [his wife] at the 12-minute mark when the Clones were down 12 that they were going to win the game," texted my son Lonn.
Steve Prohm, Iowa State's coach, his players and Cyclone fans everywhere wished Lonn had been right.
At another point, one of the kids texted, "Swanigan is unconscious."
Unconscious meaning the guy was doing everything perfectly.
That he was at various stages of the game.
Just think, so-called collegiate basketball experts around the nation have been saying all season that the league's overall strength in 2016-2017 doesn't measure up to what it's been in past years.
Don't try telling that to teams such as Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State.
Unfortunately for Iowa State's players and coaches, it will be Swanigan and the rest of the Boilermakers who will be playing in the Sweet Sixteen next week instead of them.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


If you didn't have fun during that one, you've forgotten how to have fun.
All basketball games are fun to watch when there's a lot racehorse offe
nse, dunk shots and 3-pointers, plus sometimes very little defense.
I know I had fun watching Iowa State exhibit all kinds of athletic skills while defeating Nevada, 84-73, in front of a massive Cyclone crowd tonight at the NCAA tournament in Milwaukee.

This was the first day and night of the tournament, and I'll tell you this: I watched some of most of today's and tonight's games, and I didn't see a team that was any better than Iowa State.

The Cyclones are playing at an absolutely outstanding level.
Certainly not all of the time in every game. But most of the time.
I wrote earlier this week that I think they can go deep in the tournament, and I feel that way even more now.
Iowa State built a 40-27 halftime lead and virtually shot at will against a phantom Nevada defense. The TV announcers kept saying there were Nevada defenders on the court, but I never saw 'em.
Nevada did play better in the last half. Iowa State's lead slipped to 4 points for a short time, but the Cyclones had enough to finish the job and earn a game Saturday against Purdue in the next round.
I mentioned how much fun it was to watching tonight's game.
Certainly for me.
Another person who sounded like she was having fun was Debbie Antonelli, one of three TV announcers to broadcast the game on something called the Tru TV network.
Antonelli, who is from Charleston, S.C., has been a sportscaster on the national scene for 20 years. Today she became the first woman to serve as an analyst [not do sideline work] during a men's NCAA tournament since Ann Meyers in 1995.
She did other games prior to the Iowa State-Nevada game in Milwaukee today, and I thought she did an excellent job.
So did the Cyclones.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Evidently the rumors of Rembrandt's death are greatly exaggerated.
The history books say the legendary painter died in 1669.
I'm starting to think the history books are wrong.
Or else someone is doing a fantastic job of masquerading as
the old boy.
Only an artist like Rembrandt could be painting this incredible Drake women's basketball picture that gets better every day.
All the Bulldogs do is win.
Coach Jennie Baranczyk and her team were the unbeaten Missouri Valley Conference champions, and today they seized the league's postseason championship.
They've punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament, and there's no telling when--or if--they'll ever be stopped.
Enjoy the ride.
I know I am.

I'm On the Cyclone Bandwagon


Talk about a basketball team that's got it
A team that's on a roll.
A team that's red-hot at the right time.

A team headed for even more big things.
That's what I think of Iowa State.
I'm picking the Cyclones to definitely make it to at least the Elite Eight in the Big Dance.
Hey, now I'm going one step further.
I think Iowa State will make it to the Final Four.
The Cyclones are that good.
I'm on the bandwagon.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Iowa City West Too Much for Valley


Well, the McCaffery brothers--Connor and Patrick--sure had a better week than their dad.
Their dad, of course, is Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery, whose team was crushed by Indiana, 95-73, a couple of nights ago in the Big Ten tournament.
No such mishap [some would label it an embarrassment] was experienced tonight by Connor and Patrick.
They combined to score 31 points and totaled 13 rebounds in a 64-50 victory by Iowa City West over Valley of West Des Moines in the championship game of the class 4-A state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.
Connor will be a freshman on his dad's Hawkeye team in the 2017-2018 season.
Tonight's state title was the seventh for West, and it came in fairly easy fashion over a Valley team that had won 11 consecutive games and hoped to win the championship for the second straight season.
But West, which lost to the Tigers in last season's title game, had far too much talent, far too much power on both offense and defense this time.
The McCaffery brothers weren't the whole show, but they definitely had a strong influence on how West controlled the game at Wells Fargo Arena.
Connor was named captain of the all-tournament team. Valley players joining him on the squad were Quinton Curry and Charley Crowley, the senior twin towers who were defended well all night by West.
Crowley, who was a standout in Valley's victories over Des Moines North and Sioux City East earlier in the tournament, was limited to 7 points by West.
He attempted only 5 shots, and made 2 of them.
"The guards couldn't get the ball into me," he told me after the game.
Curry scored 15 points and had eight rebounds to end a season that didn't go the way he wanted it to go.
He suffered a serious knee injury last summer and didn't play a game for the Tigers until February.
West finished the season with a 23-3 record. Valley was 21-5.
Valley had a get-together of West Des Moines city and school officials, fans, players, coaches, student managers and cheerleaders following tonight's game.
It was held on the basketball court at the Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse where the Tigers play there games.
The state tournament runnerup trophy was prominently displayed in the center of the gym. Fans, players or anyone else could take or pose for pictures. Many did.
Curry spoke emotionally about what he went through this season.
"My team welcomed me with open arms when I came back," he said, fighting back tears.
Valley coach B.J. Windhorst said, "We've got something special going in this program," which means he expects the Tigers' success to continue in future seasons.

Now I Get My Mail At the Arena


I've spent so much time at Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines last week and this week that the Post Office is automatically delivering my mail to me there.
That's what six Valley games in the girls' and boys' state high school basketball tournaments will do for a guy.
It's been worth it. Valley won the girls' stare championship last week, and Valley's boys' team plays for a second straight state title tonight.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Back To Normal

Things got back to normal today in the class 4-A division of the boys' state high school basketball tournament.
1. The public address announcer finally learned how to pronounce Charley Crowley's name.
2, The officials, who seem to come to Des Moines every year thinking their job in the state tournament is to exhibit their whistle-blowing skills whether or not a foul is committed, threatened to ruin a good game played by two good teams [Valley of West Des Moines and East Sioux City] by calling a ridiculous 43 fouls.
3. Defending champion Valley will play Iowa City West for the championship at 8 p.m. tomorrow in Wells Fargo Arena. It's the third time in the last four seasons the teams have played for the 4-A title.
Valley [21-4], which won last season's championship by beating West, advanced to tomorrow's finale by handling East Sioux City, 64-54.
West, with a 22-3 record and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery's two sons [Connor and Patrick, who combined for 33 points] in the starting lineup, had an easier time of it with a 61-37 victory over Kennedy of Cedar Rapids.
Crowley, a 6-8 Valley senior who is playing at a higher level in this tournament than he did at any other time in his career, scored 25 points and hauled in 8 rebounds less than 48 hours after making the winning dunk shot with 3 seconds remaining in the Tigers' victory over Des Moines North.
Like I said, the P.A. announcer screwed up his name throughout Thursday night's game, but ol' Charley didn't let that bother him. The announcer finally was told how to pronounce his name, and Charley again was the star of the show today.
Keep this up, Charley, and you'll be captain of the all-tournament team.
There will be no awards given in this essay to the three officials who worked the Valley-East game.
The whistle-happy zebras called 25 fouls against East and 18 against Valley, making sure they stopped play every time there was even a hint that one player might touch another.
Enough of that.
Following Valley's victory, someone associated with the team put this message on the squad's Twitter site for everyone to see:
"64-54 win. Another gritty performance by this group. Relentless effort & toughness down the stretch. Back at it tomorrow!"

Quit Calling Iowa a Young Basketball Team

I'm tired of people saying Iowa is a young basketball team.
The players don't think or say they're young.
It's the fans and coaches who are guilty of it--usually while looking for a reason or an excuse for why the team played poorly [like in yesterday's debacle against Indiana in the Big Ten tournament].
Iowa has played 32 games this season and the roster is loaded with tall, well-conditioned, strong, athletic physical specimens who play basketball 12 months a year.
Those individuals wearing short pants, tank tops and very expensive shoes while entertaining us are grown men, not young kids.
Sometimes they can have a bad day, just like you and me.
Yesterday was a bad day.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

NIT Here We Come


Well, I guess that does it.

No Big Dance for the Hawkeyes.

"Dead on arrival" is the way a TV guy put it.

No, sir, Iowa's basketball team had no game in a 95-73 loss to Indiana in a Big Ten tournament clunker that was downright shocking In Washington, D.C.

Iowa was supposed to be the team playing its way into the NCAA tournament and Indiana was supposed to be the team on life support.

Guess again.

The Hawkeyes needed to win at least two games in the Big Ten tournament just to be considered for the Big Dance.

What they didn't need was a 22-point loss to a team on the skids like Indiana.

National InvitationTournament here we come.

Dumb Idea


I'm what I guess you'd call a Big Ten guy.
I own a degree from the University of Iowa, a longtime member of the Big Ten Conference.
As a kid growing up in Cedar Rapids, I followed Hawkeye athletics closely.
As a professional writer, I've covered Iowa football and basketball extensively for more than a half-century.
Heck, I even wrote a few things about Hawkeye baseball, wrestling, gymnastics and swimming.
I wrote a book about Hawkeye football and two updated versions of that book.
I participated in a number of the old Big Ten football Skywriters tours.
That said, I see no sense to the Big Ten holding a postseason basketball tournament in Washington, D.C. now and New York City in the future.
I'm writing this as I watch the Iowa-Indiana game on TV in the Big Ten tournament in D.C.
Strange, that's what I call it.
In my opinion, the Big Ten tournament should be held in a centrial location.
That means either Chicago or Indianapolis.
Alternate the tournament between those cities, and keep it out of Washington and New York City.

I'm Glad Tim Miles Remains Nebraska's Coach


Good for the rest of the Big Ten Conference.
Tim Miles, whose Nebraska basketball team had a 12-19 record this season, is coming back in 2017-18.
Terrible coaches like Miles take away from the overall strength of the Big Ten, but coaches and fans of the other teams in the league like it that Miles and others keep hanging around because they're so easy to beat.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Classic

Let's see, I'm trying to think of the best word to describe the high school basketball game I just saw.
Some possibilities:
Oh, well, I guess I'll take the easy way out
and choose all of the above.
And go ahead. Call this one a classic.
Yes, sir, and yes, mam, Valley's 57-55 victory on Charley Crowley's dunk shot tonight with 3 seconds to play sent shock waves and shook the footings of Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines.
Ecstasy on the Valley side of the big building. Agony on the North side, where it seemed most of Des Moines showed up to root for the Polar Bears to beat the huge school from the suburbs that folks in the city can't decide whether to despise or envy.
Crowley is a 6-foot 8-inch senior whose basket ripped he hearts out of those Polar Bear fans who came to the arena hoping to help their team win its 19th game of the season and advance to the class 4-A semifinal round.
Instead, it was Valley [pictured]--last season's 4-A champion--marching into a Friday afternoon matchup with Sioux City East, which eliminated Bettendorf in tonight's opening game.
Crowley probably couldn't believe he was so wide-open to accept the pass, soar upward and stuff the basketball downward for the shot that won the game.
Make no mistake, it was the game of Crowley's life and the winning basket was the field goal of his life.
It gave Valley its 10th straight victory and a 20-4 record in yet another banner season under the guidance of coach B.J. Windhorst.
Stay tuned. Things are just getting interesting

Saturday, March 4, 2017

I Believe What the Principal Said


When I was in school many years ago, my mother told me to always believe everything the principal said.

That's still my philosophy.

I listened to Tim Miller, the principal at Valley High School in West Des Moines, say this at a victory celebration late tonight in the school gym:

"There's nothing like winning a state championship!"
Tim Miller is a very wise man.
My mother died at 94 years of age 11 years ago, but I'm glad I still follow her advice.
I believe what the principal says.
An hour or so before Miller talked about the effect of winning a state championship, he and I [plus thousands of other people] were still at Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines, where Valley's girls' basketball team claimed the school's first class 5-A state title with a 71-59 victory over Cedar Falls.
I expected a closer game between two teams that came into it with identical 23-2 records, but Valley took charge in the second quarter and wound up running away with it with a superb last half.
What a march to glory it's been for Tigers coach Joe Sigrist, who took two previous teams to the state tournament.
One lost to Southeast Polk in the opening round, another was beaten by Waukee in the championship game.
Sigrist and his talented players went for the kill tonight, and they got it.
I asked Joe at the celebration when he thought this team was capable of winning the 5-A title.
"From Day One," he said. "We didn't lose a game after December and our team just kept getting better as the season progressed.
"I feel so good for my players and I'm thrilled that we won this championship for Valley, which has so much athletic tradition,"
The championship trophy was present for all to see in the Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse, where the victory celebration was held.
Sigrist happily posed near the trophy for photographs with sons Drake and Grady.
This was Valley's 12th time in the state tournament. There were no championships in any of the previous 11 trips.
"This is something we'll remember the rest of our lives," said Hannah Fuller, who scored 16 points and had seven rebounds in the title game and was named captain of the all-tournament team.
Fuller and twin sisters Jackie Feldt and Jamie Feldt were members of the Valley team that lost to Waukee in the state title game two years ago.
Valley sophomore Zoe Young, who collected 21 points against Cedar Falls, was also named to the all-tournament team.
I considered it an injustice that Alex Honnold, a freshman who seemingly has a brilliant future ahead of her at Valley, wasn't named to the all-tournament squad after scoring 41 points in three games and hauling down nine rebounds tonight.
Sigrist agreed with me.
Cedar Falls came into the title game after upsetting No. 1-ranked and previously-unbeaten Indianola in the semifinal round. The team entered the state tournament ranked No. 5.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Valley Dodges a Bullet



At halftime, I wouldn't have given you a nickel for Valley's chances of surviving its semifinal round game today in the class 5-A division of the state girls high school basketball tournament.

The second-ranked Tigers from West Des Moines were listless, couldn't shoot and couldn't rebound against Iowa City West.

It was the worst I'd ever seen a Joe Sigrist-coached team play in one half.

Maybe it was the worst Sigrist had seen, too.

Needless to say, he no doubt burned the game film if one of his teams had ever played a poorer half.

And today's game came just 48 hours after Valley was hitting on all cylinders while breaking the tournament scoring record by putting up 87 points in its tournament opener against crosstown rival Dowling.

You'd never know it was the same Valley team in the first 16 minutes of today's game.

The Tigers shot just 22.7 percent by making 5 field goals in 22 tries in the first half while falling behind Iowa City West, 21-14.

The only reason Valley wasn't even further behind was that West wasn't exactly shooting the lights out either, making only 5 of 20 attempts [25 percent] in the opening half.

But the Tigers got their act together in the third quarter and went on to win, 55-48, to advance to Saturday night's 8 o'clock championship game at Wells Fargo Arena against Cedar Falls, which pulled off the tournament's big shocker with a 48-44 victory over previously-unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Indianola in the other semifinal round game.

Both Valley and Cedar Falls have 23-2 records.

This is the 12th time Valley has been to the state tournament, but the Tigers haven't won a championship yet. They lost in the title game in 1965, 1995 and 2015.

Valley shot 55 percent in the last half. Drake signee Hannah Fuller led the Tigers with 13 points and freshman Alex Honold scored 12.

Shea Fuller tallied 9, sophomore Zoe Young, Jackie Feldt and Jaime Feldt each scored 7.

Valley won't be able to afford another poor first half performance against Cedar Falls, which saddled Indianola with its first loss in 25 games in the other semifinal.

I'm figuring Cedar Falls will give Valley everything it can handle.

My guess is that Sigrist will make sure his players are up to the challenge.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

I'm Thinking the Hawkeyes Will Be Dancing


This Hawkeye basketball team is starting to make a believer out of me.

Tonight's 59-57 road victory over a 22nd-ranked Wisconsin team that's definitely doing the old fold-up a at the wrong time of the season has me more convinced than ever that Iowa can make it to the NCAA tournament.

Maury John, the late and legendary Drake coach, used to tell me that what Wisconsin is doing is "going into the tank."

The Badgers have a 22-8 record and Iowa is 17-13, but the Hawkeyes were definitely the better team tonight in Madison,Wis.
Indeed, Iowa has been one of the better teams in the entire Big Ten Conference recently.

There's a regular-season finale at home against Penn State and a conference tournament still to play, but I'm starting to think the Hawkeyes are playing the best basketball the league.

Unlike a lot of other people, though, I refuse to call Iowa a young team. Instead, it's a team with senior Peter Jok and a lot of talented underclassmen that is demonstrting more maturity with every game.

There was nothing young about how Iowa won tonight over a Wisconsin team that was tentative and uncertain.

The Hawkeyes scored the game's final 7 points to knock off a second straight ranked team.

And Wisconsin has now lost 5 consecutive games to unranked teams.

The way the Hawkeyes are playing, they have just as good a chance of winning the Big Ten tournament as any other team.

Then there will be no doubt they'll be in the NCAA's Big Dance.