Mar 27, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery coaches from the sidelines during the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers in the quarterfinals of the NIT at John Paul Jones Arena. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
So the Terrapins have a pretty big game next week. No, they aren’t playing Iowa State, but they are going up against the other very good team from Iowa. The Hawkeyes. Normally there’s essentially nothing about Iowa that elicits anything approaching excitement, but I can’t say that’s the case here. Iowa (the state, the school, their corn, everything related to Iowa) gets a bad rep for being obscenely boring, but this game promises to be anything but for a number of reasons. Please, allow me to explain.
That doesn’t mean I can’t also rag on their school in the process.
1.) Iowa is full of nerds, and their coach is a nerd too, but they play exciting basketball.
Maryland is a pretty smart state, but it’s not really close to Iowa, which holds America’s highest literacy rate. Ever heard of the ACT? Well, that terrible test is an offshoot of Iowa’s nerdiness, as it’s based in Iowa City. Their schools are academic hubs, and that’s probably a result of their tiny population; all three million some-odd residents don’t even account for 1% of the U.S. population. You can really hone in on the slackers with an iron fist that way.
Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery is also summarily a nerd as well, but he’s also an absurdly good coach. How nerdy? Well, his nickname is “White Magic.” That’s about a -14 on the Soulja Boy Scale of Swaggertude. A player at Wake Forest, he had the nerve to bag them for smarter pastures by transferring to Penn. He’s not a guy you’d want to face on Jeopardy, and he’s not a guy you’d want to face on the basketball court, either.
In the mid 80’s, he coached over at Lehigh for three seasons. Each year, his record improved, and by his final year there he had led them to the NCAA tournament. For the next 12 years, he bided his time at Notre Dame. Any by biding his time I mean completely wasted ten years on a program that made the tournament only three times while he was there. But then White Magic resurfaced over at UNC-Greensboro and pushed them into the tournament on his second try.
Of course, he truly became a Gulag at Siena, from 2005-10. Everyone remembers those Saints teams: The 2008 #13 seed in the NCAA tournament that upset Vanderbilt in the first round; the 2009 squad that beat Ohio State and almost took down Louisville in the Round of 32. He made the tournament three of five seasons at Siena, and if you think that’s a fluke? Well, consider that since White Magic has left, they’ve had a winning season a grand total of zero times.
At Iowa State, it’s been much of the same in the Big Ten. He just keeps getting them better and better; their record has improved every season. What makes him so incredibly talented as a coach? It’s his tenacity and his up-tempo playing style. Don’t let the gargantuan glasses fool you, McCaffery is a bad dude. He broke a chair last year when his team was down twenty points against Michigan State. He’s vocal on the bench, and knows how to push the right buttons for each player.
His teams play up-tempo attack, and they score a whole lot of points in transition. A testament to his attitude, his team is also going to be one of the toughest rebounding team’s Maryland will face. They currently sit at tenth in the nation in rebounds per game at 39. Nine times this season they dropped 80 or more points in regulation, which is a far cry from the snail’s pace that most Big Ten teams play at. The Hawkeyes pumped Virginia to earn a trip to the semi-finals by outrebounding them, forcing 16 turnovers, and shooting 47% from deep. And they did it in Virginia’s building, which the Cavaliers have only lost twice in. They dropped 70+ on an ACC team that probably should have made the tournament and only gives up 55 points per game. That’s McCaffery, and that’s what you have to respect this nerdy coach; he maximizes potential.
2.) It’s a future B1G matchup, and…THEIR SCHOOL IS RANKED 2ND BEST PARTY SCHOOL?!?!?!?11?1!??1?!?
Are you kidding me? I wrote this expecting to discover things like “Iowa is the nicest place in the world!” and “The bluffs are so great here!” or “Lots of white people.” Instead, a simple Google search tells me that the Hawkeyes rule the partying roost in America, being rated the #2 party college in union. I have a hard time even believing that ranking is remotely scientific. Maryland pummels Iowa in terms of party-bility in it’s own way.
But then I think to myself, “Michael, Iowa has enough corn to feed the world…how much moonshine do you think is readily available at any hodunk shop there?” Perhaps it’s the ample amount of corn whiskey and absolutely nothing to do that makes Iowa people party harder. After all, they really only have two options in life: go to class and become a farmer or get drunk and become a farmer? It’s an easy choice.
Still, Terrapin fans travel relatively well when the location is MSG. I’d like to think that plenty of fans are going to show up and make this game extremely exciting. We are, after all, a pretty notoriously rowdy program that likes to tip over buses, throw water bottles at opposing player’s parents, and chant “You Suck!” at the top of our lungs. Not many fan bases like to take pride in that, but we’re going to own it and take it in stride. We also like to orchestrate Harlem Shake dances in arenas, dress up like our coaches, and chastise opponents in creative ways. As well as party hard before most every game. So suck it.
I’m looking forward to a matchup between two schools that have certainly made names for themselves in the partying sector. Maryland, you’d better show up, and if you’re of the legal age, you’d better get lubed up before this match and embarrass Iowa and yourselves in more ways than one.
3.) This is actually a future B1G matchup
Iowa just bounced one historic ACC team in Virginia, and they are prepped and ready to face off against the future of the Big Ten in Maryland. There is a pretty good chance these two teams are going to play against one another often in the future, and that gives the Terrapins a chance to sow the seeds of hatred deep inside. We could theoretically enter a rivalry here, folks.
The Hawkeyes are a similarly young upstart team, with one senior on the entire squad and four total upper classmen. They also have a highly touted, young, big man in Adam Woodbury, who looks like creamed corn compared to Len. In the future both of these teams are going to be vying for a top five Big Ten team spot (after Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin/Michigan). Iowa is knocking at the door, and is probably going to get better after this season with the talent they’re bringing in. There aren’t that many spots for greatness in the Big Ten, with the big boys up at the top cramping everyone’s style.
So who better than Maryland to come in and give them a good ‘ole fashioned ACC-style thumping upside their corn-infused craniums? The Terrapins could go into Madison Square Garden and deliver a powerful statement to the Big Ten as a whole. Iowa wants to prove that they should have made the tournament over Iowa State, and the Terrapins just want to prove the ACC and the Big Ten made a mistake in rejecting/accepting them into their league. This statement could signal to the rest of the league, and the nation for that matter, that a power shift is coming.
Either way, I’m looking forward to the Terrapins shipping Iowa back home with a big loss on their hands. And I hope they have to go back on a bus that isn’t powered by their corn-based biofuel.