Enjoy a weekend of hoops, and get ready for more spring football next week, as six Big Ten teams open practice.
Joel from Bismarck, N.D., writes: I'm a Hawkeye fan, and many people (don't let me put words in your mouth, but I'll include you) view them as legit contenders for the B10 title this fall and to continue to be a strong program for years to come. I'm a contrarian fan in that I'm nervous about the high expectations. So many of the games this past year had such close scores, and the haters weren't wrong to say that more of those wins could easily have turned out differently. (But they didn't, was Hawkeye Nation's reply.) Yet the same could be said in the 2008 season when Iowa's 4 losses were by a total of 12 points. Were they just "unlucky" then? Help me to reconcile these mixed responses. Is it enough to simply say that good sports teams win close games? And in predicting Iowa's continued future success, is it enough to say that they have good coaches? These were the same coaches that were in place just one forgettable season before 2008. Bottom line: I hate to concede to the haters that style points matter -- plus Iowa's close games have been very exciting to watch -- but do they need more style points, more consistently (not the W's as they've been earning them) before they can get national respect and before they can safely garner predictions of being among the B10's leaders in the coming seasons? Apologies for the wordy question(s), but I hope you can find something there to respond to. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg: Joel, you've got some interesting thoughts here, and I'll try to address them all. It's true that good teams find ways to win close games, and Iowa was a good team in 2009. Also, Iowa's track record the last decade or so backs up the claim that the Hawkeyes have good coaching. I wouldn't be too concerned about Iowa players facing high expectations in 2010 because they also faced high expectations -- and an incredibly daunting road schedule -- in 2009. I remember Kirk Ferentz saying in August that Iowa could be a better team (than 2008) with a worse record, which didn't turn out to be the case as the team went 11-2. Style points matter in the polls and with national perception, but I'm not sure Iowa is a team built to win 45-7. You would like to see Ricky Stanzi cut down on his interceptions, especially the pick-sixes, but Iowa will win with defense, strong line play and timely big plays. As for national respect, Iowa got some by beating Georgia Tech rather soundly in the Orange Bowl. Iowa should enter 2010 as a top 15 team and one of the three favorites for the Big Ten title. I understand Iowa fans' frustration about national respect, but the coaches and players really don't seem to care that much. They just win games.
Sam from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, when are the announcements made about the times and television schedules for this upcoming season? I ask this mainly out of interest for my Badgers, considering that they have a couple of home games that would appeal to be nationally televised. I was merely 50 feet away when Terrell Pryor ripped my heart out and scored the winning touchdown with about a minute left two years ago at Camp Randall. Regardless, the experience was in my opinion the most exciting atmosphere at a Badger game in my lifetime and was just curious if there was a good shot at seeing the Buckeyes come into Madison under the lights again.
Adam Rittenberg: The Big Ten's primetime schedule should be finalized in the next five weeks. I know these decisions are starting to be made right now, and Ohio State-Wisconsin has a decent shot at being played under the lights. It all depends on what else is happening around the country that night. I was on the opposite sideline at Camp Randall when Pryor scored in 2008, and it was a pretty exciting/demoralizing moment, depending on whom you rooted for. No guarantees on a night game for Oct. 16 in Madison, but it looks like a pretty good bet.
Michael from Los Angeles writes: With people already talking about Michigan's next head coach, why has Les Miles disappeared from the conversation? He's a Michigan man, like Jim Harbaugh, but Miles has a National Championship on his resume, which is a lot more impressive than running up the score against an overrated 'SC team.
Adam Rittenberg: Maybe time is running out on Les Miles. Sorry, bad joke. I'm sure if Michigan has an opening, Miles' name will be mentioned. But his stock has fallen off a bit since the national championship in 2007, especially with the time-management problems his teams had last season. I totally agree with you that Harbaugh gets too much credit for simply making Stanford respectable again, but the guy clearly is a hot coaching name right now, and I bet Michigan would be extremely interested if it has to replace Rich Rodriguez.
Anthony from Chicago writes: After watching your interview with JJ Watt, I was wondering if you're looking to bulk up a little. I do some work as a trainer on the side. I'd be happy to help you out.
Adam Rittenberg: Haha, thanks, Anthony. I'm sure my wife would appreciate that. I think I'd have to put in some serious weight-room work to get anywhere near as big as J.J. Watt, or his Wisconsin teammate Jay Valai, for that matter. Thanks for the offer. I'll let ya know.
Daniel from Grass Lake, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, Do you think this news of Michigan playing the first ever night game at the Big House could have been a move by Dave Brandon to get some positive stories out there about Michigan Football? If so i think it is genius.
Adam Rittenberg: I think it's more Brandon responding to his head coach's desire to improve the game-day atmosphere at Michigan Stadium and create a stronger home-field advantage with a night game. Most Michigan fans wanted to see this happen, and I think Brandon would have seen it through even if the football program were thriving right now. He's looking to make his mark early in his tenure as AD, and Thursday's announcement certainly shows that things are changing in Ann Arbor. Night football is tremendous. Fans love it, players love it, most coaches love it and TV loves it. I see very few downsides.