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Thursday, December 02, 2004
Gazette Hawkeye Challenge
Iowa hosts its annual two-day, no-one-has-a-chance-but-us tournament this weekend. Southern Miss plays UNC-Greensboro at 5:45 CST Friday night, followed by Centenary and Iowa. The losers of each game play Saturday, followed by Friday's winners.

Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles come into the tournament 3-1, with an opening loss to Georgia State. Southern Miss is from Conference USA, which it won in 2000-01. Three losing seasons later, they turned the program over to former Iowa State head coach Larry Eustachy. Yes, the same Eustachy who earned National Coach of the Year after leading the Cyclones to the Elite Eight in 2000 and won the Big XII twice. The same Eustachy who then left town after his drinking problems were revealed by the Des Moines Register in 2003. It's easy to overlook Eustachy's accomplishments in light of his battle with alcohol, but the guy was a solid coach. It should be interesting to see what he can do with a new program and a couple of years of recruiting. Recommended supplementary reading: Hilton Magic, Andy Katz.

Larry has a couple decent pieces in place for this year's team. His first recruit, Rashaad Carruth, is a juco transfer from Indian Hills with an interesting history. He was a McDonald's All-American who signed with Kentucky. His most memorable performance there was a 19 point game against Duke. He ended his freshman year with 134 points in 332 minutes, or 17.2 pts/40 min, which is very good for a rookie in the SEC. He then transferred to Oklahoma but never got to play after a marijuana suspension, and moved on to Indian Hills. He scored 18 ppg there last year. He's had games of 22 and 19 this year, and is 6-11 from three. Good Carruth read here.

Eustachy has another decent player in Jasper Johnson, a 6'8", 290 lb center. His scoring rate has been solid throughout his career. As a freshman he scored 23.4 pts/40 min, and had 22.0 pts/40 min last year. He's off to a hot start this year, averaging 18 points in only 23 minutes per game (31 pts/40 min). Iowa center Erek Hansen should be back by Friday, and he'll be needed to solidify the Hawkeyes' interior defense if they meet Southern Miss and Johnson in the championship on Saturday.

Southern Miss is also the school that has a new logo "confusingly similar" to Iowa's Tiger Hawk.

The Spartans hail from the Southern Conference (home of East Tennessee State and SI-praised Tim Smith), and have been a D-1 team for only 14 years. They are currently 2-1, including a 54 point loss to Dickie V's favorite team (at Cameron Indoor). Athlon Sports picks senior forward Ronnie Burrell for the all-conference team, after averaging 15.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg a year ago. He's currently the Spartans' third leading scorer with 13.0 ppg.

The Gentlemen (no typo) come to Iowa City with a 1-2 record that includes a 52 point loss at Texas Tech and a win over Northwestern State. They play in the Mid-Continent Conference (as did Iowa's first opponent, Western Illinois). Senior Chad Maclies, who averaged 7.4 ppg last year, lead's this year's team with 16.0 ppg and 10.7 rpg. Could be another good test for Iowa's big men, even if he is only 6'5", 220.

Stuff you didn't even know you wanted to know: Centenary is the smallest Division I institution in the NCAA and is the oldest college west of the Mississippi River.

Back to Reality
Alright, we're finally getting back to some home basketball - it's been two weeks since the season opener at Carver. Might not be the most exciting games of the year, but at least you can watch four games for the price of two. That's a good weekend for my money.

Judging by the words devoted to each team, you should deduct that I expect Iowa-Southern Miss on Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing Eustachy on the sideline again, and I think Johnson might provide another decent test for Brunner and Hansen's defense down low.

(This post caps off the Wednesday night hat trick, if you're scoring at home, or if you're by yourself.) Classic Olbermann.

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