Iowa Hoops and Pigskin Grab Bag

Iowa has lost 13 games in a row in East Lansing. Their last eight losses have been by an average of more than 20 points per loss. Do the Hawks have any hope on Saturday at the Breslin Center? And what of Kirk Ferentz's contract extension, plus a not so rosy preseason prediction for the 2008 Iowa football team? HN Publisher Jon Miller weighs in with his thoughts on these topics and more...

The Iowa Men's basketball team plays at Michigan State tomorrow. Tipoff is set for 1pm. If this game is anything like the last several games in East Lansing, the outcome could be well known by around 1:25.

Iowa has lost 13 straight games at the Breslin Center, and the last eight games have seen double-digit margins of defeat. Iowa's last four losses at MSU have been by an average of 26.75. That is an AVERAGE! Iowa didn't play there in 2005 or 2006, two years that they made it to the NCAA tournament and Steve Alford's only two teams that were ‘at large' worthy for the NCAA tournament. It's a shame, because those teams might have only lost by single digits in East Lansing.

Iowa's average margin of defeat over their last eight games in East Lansing is still an eye popping 20.3 points.

If there was ever a sure fire day to spend a few extra hours chipping away at the ice at the end of your driveway, an Iowa men's basketball game in East Lansing is that day. Of course, we are not recommending that you not watch this game. Iowa held the Spartans to just 36 points in their first meeting this year, a Hawkeye win in Carver Hawkeye Arena. And we are talking about college basketball here, where there are no sure things.

But a Hawkeye roadie to the Breslin Center is about as sure a thing as we have seen over the course of the last 15 years.

Iowa's last win at Michigan State came in 1993, a 96-90 win in overtime. That was the first game the Hawkeyes played after the death of Chris Street, still on of the most memorable sporting events in Iowa history.

We'll be watching on Saturday, but far better Iowa teams than this year's squad have lost by 30 or more at Michigan State…

In a surprise announcement on Thursday, Iowa gave Kirk Ferentz a one-year contract extension. It's not a surprise that Ferentz was extended, but it was not expected, either.

It makes sense, as it lengthens Ferentz's contract to the end of the 2012 season. That's a five year window, almost a prerequisite to recruit at 100 percent efficiency. This way, opposing coaches can't use the length of contract as a negative recruiting tool. A four year contract could be spun in such a fashion on the recruiting trails, because many players spend five years in a program.

The length of Ferentz's contract also coincides with the length of time that Kirk's son James will likely be in the program; James will be a freshman this year and will probably redshirt. 2012 would be his fifth and final year at Iowa.

I expect Athletics Director Gary Barta to extend Ferentz's contract by one year in each of the next several years, for the recruiting aspects. I am certainly fine with that, as I just can't imagine anyone but Ferentz coaching the Iowa football team. I know that a few folks might argue with me on that front and that is fine, but I still have the utmost respect and faith in Ferentz, even if I question the number of Power-I formations Iowa uses during the course of a season, and when they choose to use it. Because I am also convinced that Iowa's offensively philosophy comes from Ferentz, not Ken O'Keefe.

Speaking of Ferentz and Iowa football, ESPN rated the Big Ten 1 through 11 recently, heading into spring practice. Here is the link.

They have the Hawks picked 10th.

While Iowa had a disappointing year last year, and in 2006, 10th place seems a little low to me. I may be biased, but I take predictions and talking about expectations pretty seriously. ESPN has Minnesota at #10.

Iowa doesn't play Ohio State or Michigan next year, they get Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern at home while traveling to Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota.

It's not a ‘cupcake' league schedule by any stretch, but it could be a lot worse. Iowa won four games last year, again, a year that was considered to be a disappointment. Three of their four wins came against teams they will play on the road in 2008. They nearly beat Wisconsin in Madison, too.

I think this year's offense will be much more productive than last year's, and I think this year's defense has a chance to be much more disruptive. The kicking game should be more consistent, as well.

10th seems low, but Iowa is going to have to prove itself to the ‘experts' all over again. Iowa has done nothing but make the pundits look foolish for the past seven years, for better or for worse. And it seems like the Hawks play better when they are in the role of the underdog.

They will certainly play that role this year.

Lisa Bluder's Iowa Hawkeyes came up short on the road Thursday night at Ohio State. The loss dropped them into second place at 11-5 in the Big Ten with two games to play. Ohio State improved to 12-4, and they play the two worst teams in the league, plus middle of the road Indiana the rest of the way.

A Big Ten championship is likely out of the picture now, but the Hawks are in good position to make it into this year's NCAA tournament as an 8, 9 or 10 seed.

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