Are you excited for Thursday's Iowa-Iowa State men's basketball game?

2017 matchup not one of the series' most-enticing

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) keeps control of the ball as Iowa State's Deonte Burton tries to steal it away during the second half of their basketball game at Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Dec. 8, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Several items:

1. Seldom has there been so little buzz about an Iowa-Iowa State men’s basketball game.

The Hawkeyes are going into their annual meeting with the Cyclones with a 4-5 record for the second-straight year. But last year Iowa State was supposed to be good. It was lousy at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Iowa was good, and the Hawkeyes rolled to a 78-64 win.

This year, ISU is picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12. It does, however, have a five-game winning streak after starting the season with two losses including a dreadful home-opener against Milwaukee.

But no one is saying the Cyclones are ready to take on Kansas, let alone the middle-of-the pack Big 12 teams. It’s an overhauled roster after ISU lost four seniors to various forms of pro basketball. There’s no Monte Morris on this season’s Cyclones.



However, Iowa State does have guards. Oh, how Iowa could use a Lindell Wiggington, a freshman who is popping in 15.1 points per game. Nick Weiler-Babb’s numbers are catchy, 13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists. And Donovan Jackson is a shooter who is averaging 17 points.

What the Cyclones do with Iowa’s Tyler Cook or the Hawkeyes’ other bigger players remains to be seen.

They aren’t great teams, but they’re a portrait in contrasts. I’m kind of looking forward to it. It may have to suffice for this winter, because no NCAA tournament looks on the horizon for either.

/ The Gazette

2. Scott Frost is Nebraska’s new football coach, and I don’t where that will lead the Huskers. The good people of Nebraska are happy about it, and that’s all that matters to me.

In time, the Big Ten West could actually get interesting for a change. With meat-and-potatoes Wisconsin in command, and Iowa and Northwestern staying true to themselves and being who they are under two tenured coaches, there’s a new guard that may make it a six-team donnybrook in time.

Or not. These things are fluid.

Jeff Brohm had the good sense to stay at Purdue instead of hop to Tennessee. The Volunteers will hire a coach any month now.

P.J. Fleck needs time to make Minnesota more than what it was in its first season with him. Closing the season by getting shut out twice makes for a cold winter.

And Frost? The good people at UCF certainly were happy with him.

But will any team from this division ever reach the national playoffs as long as they’re limited to four teams? Wisconsin, like Iowa two years ago, came up just a bit short in as good an opportunity as it’s ever likely to get.

As with Iowa in 2015, this year’s schedule set up the Badgers for a run at a 12-0 regular season. Like Iowa, it got those 12 wins. The CFP required a 13th.

Iowa’s 2018 nonconference opposition is Northern Illinois, Iowa State and Northern Iowa, all at home. Its league-opener is Wisconsin at home. It then plays five of its remaining eight games on the road. Those are against Minnesota, Indiana, Penn State, Purdue and Illinois. The other conference home games are against Maryland, Northwestern and Nebraska.

There’s no 12-0 to be found there unless the Hawkeyes zoom to a much-higher level. But a 10-2? Maybe. Or at least a 9-3? Why not?

If the Hawkeyes go 7-5 again with that schedule, something has gone haywire. I always liked that word, haywire. Great word.

3. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley wasn’t a Heisman Trophy finalist. Which has bothered a lot of people.

Many told me to go ahead and vote for him after his amazing September performance at Iowa. Which was as impressive as I’ve seen in person, perhaps the best. He was a maestro.

But the season is long. Barkley had just two 100-yard rushing totals in his final eight games. Yes, he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown at Ohio State. He also had 21 carries for 44 yards. He had 14 rushes for 63 yards in the Nittany Lions’ loss at Michigan State.

I signed something that forbids me to disclose my Heisman vote until after the award is handed out Saturday in New York. I may have placed Barkley among the three names I put on my ballot. I may not have.

I may or may not have voted for San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, who led the nation in rushing with 2,027 yards (Barkley was 33rd with 1,134) and was the only player in the country with more all-purpose yards per game than Barkley (224.8 to 179.5). Both returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Oh, but Penny doesn’t play in a Power Five conference. Yes, that’s true. Neither did Antonio Brown. Or Kareem Hunt. Or Ben Roethlisberger. Or Carson Wentz. Or David Johnson. Or Travis Kelce. Or the NFL’s current leaders in quarterback sacks and interceptions, DeMarcus Lawrence and Kevin Byard.

4. I, for one, will not miss Russia’s exclusion from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It’s not a politically formed opinion. I just don’t care about the Winter Olympics. I don’t know a slalom from the Slauson Cutoff.

OK, I would prefer that Russia stop interfering in U.S. elections and I’m not crazy about a nation that has had a high volume of journalists and dissidents murdered.

As you surely aren’t, as well.

5. Former Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has been placed on injured reserve by the Houston Texans after suffering his third concussion of the season. He also had one late last season.

That’s four in a calendar year. He is 26 years old.