Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lose and You're Just a Cold Omaha

Minnesotans are raised with a healthy disrespect for Iowa, and why not? Some people like to say that, but for certain cultural amenities like professional sports and the Guthrie and so on, that Minneapolis and St. Paul would be a cold Omaha. Nobody ever says a cold Des Moines, because that's just unthinkable. I mean, Des Moines is already a cold Omaha.

And, then, there's the fact that some of the University of Minnesota's signature victories have come against Iowa's Hawkeyes. The signature football win of my lifetime was not the win over Michigan in 1977 or the Wolverines again in 1985. What did those get us? Berths in the Hall of Fame and Independence Bowls, that what. But a 1960 shellacking of the #1 rated Hawkeyes, 27-10, got us into the Rose Bowl. And then there was the 1983 basketball win--in Iowa City and in triple overtime, no less--that won the Gophers their only untainted Big Ten title since 1937.

So all of this would seem to have created in Gopher sports team a general disinclination to get up for games against the Hawkeyes, and this weekend's basketball games--both men's and women's--could provide a case in point. I hope not.

But, seriously, the Gopher men don't have to beat Iowa in Iowa City today for Gopher fans to know that our team is better. If coach Tubby Smith's charges share your over-confidence, and mine, however, they're pretty clearly headed for a fall.

Meanwhile, the Gopher women haven't shown themselves to be better than anybody in the Big Ten yet. Sure, they beat perennial doormat Penn State, but that was here in the friendly confines of the Barn. And they've had such a terrible time, lately, putting the ball through the hoop that nothing can be taken for granted.

Still, one worries whether the Minnesotans will be properly motivated for the contest. Iowa comes into the Barn on Sunday tied for last place in the Big Ten at 1-2, and with the second-worst overall record at 8-6. (Purdue, to whom the Gophers lost last week, has the worst record at 7-6, but the 8-5 Gophers could take over their position with a loss to the Hawkeyes.) Meanwhile, there are no such worries for Iowa's motivation. In addition to all else, two of the Hawkeyes' best players, Kachine Alexander and Kamille Wahlin, are from here and, oh, yes, didn't get recruited by the hometown university. Of course, Alexander missed the better part of her senior season with a knee injury, while Wahlin got torched by Brittany Chambers for 47 points in the state tournament. Still, all three--Alexander, a junior; Wahlin, a sophomore; and Chambers, a freshman--are averaging in double figures, Chambers at Kansas State, while among the guards whom Gopher coach Pam Borton has recruited, one is doing so.

But enough of that. The Gophers must face the Hawkeyes with the players they have, as certain folks are always reminding me, and the Hawkeyes will face the Gophers with the same--which means, with only 8 women dressing and active. Three key players, including two more Minnesotans, Hannah Draxten and Theairra Taylor, are out for the year with injuries. And, so, as these 2 teams with their talent shortages go at it--and with last place in the Big Ten at stake--the team that comes out with the greater energy and sense of purpose is likely to prevail.

Let's hope that for once it is our Gophers. Otherwise, our natural-born sense of superiority might be a little hard to wear for awhile.

1 comment:

  1. It will be great to watch Iowa Hawkeyes, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.