The 3 for 3 blog, with the basketballs flyin’ …
1: THEY LIKE MIKE — A mix of frustration and envy reveals itself when asking those around Nebraska basketball about Iowa guard Mike Gesell.
The native of Nebraska made his first college visit to Lincoln in an out-state uniform Saturday for the Cornhuskers’ 64-60 upset in the second to last game ever to be played at the Devaney Center.
Matt Davison is an analyst for Nebraska basketball, even though he’s know more for playing wide receiver for the Cornhuskers football team from 1997-2000. Davison, who left as the second-leading pass-catcher in program history behind just Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, etched a spot in ’Husker history with his “Miracle in Missouri” catch in ’97, when Davison corralled a pass off the foot of a teammate in the end zone during the final seconds to force overtime and save what became an unbeaten season.
“It was kind of a shot in the gut when he left for Iowa,” Davison said before Nebraska’s tipoff against Iowa. “It’s been a long time and a long drought since Nebraska has been to the NCAA Tournament. This is the kind of guy who could be the heart and soul of a team, and he’s from Nebraska.
“If you want to get players form outside of Nebraska, you’ve got to get the in-state kids.”
Nebraska has made just six NCAA Tournament trips, without winning a game, and none since 1998.
In 1999, Davison played 15 games for the basketball team (starting two). Davison, who also attended a small-town Nebraska high school, said Gesell’s decision to leave the state after winning two state championships and playing in a third for South Sioux City, Neb.
“I was not happy to see we lost him to Iowa,” Davison said. “He’s a smart kid, a tough kid, the kind of kid we need in the program. It’s weird. I root for Mike when I watch Iowa play. I’m a small-town kid from Nebraska, so I can relate about reaching the Big Ten level.”
Nebraska student Joel Hunter-Pirtle said ’Husker fans respect Gesell — but feel the duty to heckle him with a bit more oomph.
“Yeah, I think he’d probably take a little more flack,” Hunter-Pirtle said. “He’s a power player for Iowa though — he’s a good player. We’d like to have him here with the new coach (Tim Miles), new arena (next season) to build some momentum.”
Joe Knowles of Sioux City was one of a large group wearing “Nebraskans for Iowa basketball” shirts, illustrating the mixed bag of feelings about their favorite college — and one of their favorite sons.
Knowles said the uncertainty of the coaching situation at the time — Doc Sadler was on the way out, and Miles was yet to arrive — likely helped open the door for Iowa.
“Mike’s dad is a very staunch Nebraska supporter, but a lot was up in the air,” Knowles said. “We’re Nebraska followers, we want Nebraska to win, but we also want Mike to play phenomenally. He was so dedicated in practice and you don’t see that much in kids these days. We knew he was going to be special.”
Gesell said after Saturday’s game that the location spurred memories, but the loss left a bitter taste.
“It’s a great atmosphere in here, the last time I’ll ever get to play in here,” said Gesell, who controlled the pace of the game early and finished with six points, six assists (just two turnovers), five rebounds and a block and steal despite missing some minutes after tweaking an ankle.
Gesell added: “(But) every loss hurts equally. I’m a competitor. I want to win every one.”
I think Gesell will become an all-Big Ten player in Iowa City. What do you think?
Here’s Iowa’s freshman guard after the Nebraska loss:
Hunter-Pirtle, a Nebraska senior, said the work is an inside job. He said each head costs about $10 and interns in Nebraska’s marketing department help students giant-ize the images.
2: BIG MONDAY IS BIG, INDEED — Opportunities rarely get much bigger than the one available tonight for Iowa State, which hosts Top 10 Kansas on Big Monday.
The rough, Roman translation of Big Monday: Television event where anyone with an interest with hoops in arm’s length of a remote control clicks the game living rooms coast to coast.
Watching, too, are some of those people who sit in the Big Room on Big Selection Sunday for the Big NCAA Tournament.
Among the things within reach for Iowa State, as ESPN’s 8 p.m. tipoff nears: A win over a Top 10 team, a chance to pump up its RPI (one of those Big NCAA Tournament Deciders) from No. 49 against a team sitting at No. 6, and push records into the round numbers (20 wins overall, 10 wins in conference).
Prediction No. 1: Ben McLemore doesn’t go 6 for 6 from 3-point range this time.
Prediction No. 2: The Hilton Coliseum winning streak moves to 23 games.
Iowa State played perhaps its best game of the season during an overtime loss at Kansas earlier this season, with six players in double figures — led by a monster night from Melvin Ejim (19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists).
Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg understands tonight’s spotlight well, playing in the program’s first five Big Monday games. Hoiberg averaged 18.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in those games, including a win over then-No. 7 Kansas.
A win against the Jayhawks would be an NCAA Tournament seed-waterer. Win, and watch it grow. Most bracket scientists already have Iowa State in the tournament, though not so firmly that Hoiberg can sleep without a bit of toss-and-turn. That could change in a matter of hours, though.
This is the first Big Monday game in Ames since 2006, with Iowa State owning a 3-10 record in those games. Two of the three wins, however, were against the Jayhawks (1993, 2001).
And, oh yeah, Prediction No. 3: It will be loud at Hilton tonight. Very, very loud.
3. SPORT’S FAR-REACHING FAMILY TREE — What do Dwight Eisenhower, Jay Leno, Geraldo Rivera, Sugar Ray Leonard and Garth Brooks have in common?
They all competed in the sport of wrestling.
Find a complete list of the wide-ranging people connected to wrestling on the website of Ken Chertow, a former Olympian, HERE.
The Register launched a seven-month project last week to examine the sport’s fragile status at the Olympic level, following a preliminary vote by the International Olympic Committee that could remove wrestling from the 2020 Games and beyond.
We’ll add a new “chapter” every week on Wednesday — 29 chapters in all, by the time the IOC vote arrives in September.
To read the coverage so far, visit the page at DesMoinesRegister.com/OlympicWrestling … linked HERE.
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