The Ultimate Hawkeye Road Trip has reached Day Five and our second full day in wonderful Cancun.
The day started with a little bit of rain in the early morning, but by the noon hour it cleared off and made for a very nice day. You expect to see a lot of shirts from the various schools participating in the Cancun Challenge and I've seen plenty of them, especially from Wichita State and Iowa.
What you don't expect to see is a fan wearing an orange Illinois shirt. Yep, I saw that today. Then when I went over to the gym to get a quick workout in, I ran into a guy wearing an Iowa State shirt. I think both guys were lost.
After working most of the day on Monday, I kind of took a little time to sit by the beach and then the pool for a couple of hours to actually enjoy the Moon Palace before heading to work around 6 pm. Around 3:30 I headed to the pool area to work on reading a book called "Dream Team" by former Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum. So far it's a terrific read and if you are a hoops fan, I highly recommend it.
I took a look up from my book and across the book and there was Fran McCaffery and his wife enjoying a few moments of relaxation before the game against Western Kentucky tonight. It's one of those rare moments outside the public eye were they can sit back and enjoy themselves. Their kids are down here and they eventually joined them near the pool. Really nice to see a great family together and being allowed to have some family time on what McCaffery calls a business trip.
The ballroom at the Moon Palace was quite a sight tonight. Not just the basketball court in this setting, but a buffet for fans set up in the corner serving up ribs, hot dogs, burgers, fries and chips and the wait staff walking around bringing fans basically anything they want to drink. The resort is all inclusive, so that means eat and drink as much as you want and everything is already paid for.
A couple of fun moments tonight, one personal and another McCaffery family related. I was honored to be asked by Gary Dolphin to join the pregame show tonight to talk a little Iowa football and basketball recruiting. Had a blast going on for about ten minutes talking about the impact of Big Ten expansion on recruiting, how the football recruiting class is shaping up, and the signing of Peter Jok
The other fun moment was at halftime of Iowa's game with Western Kentucky. The folks who are running the event are doing something called the Sombrero Shootout, which has one fan from the team playing go on to the court, race to the middle and put on a sombrero and then make a layup and a free throw. The Iowa representative tonight was Fran McCaffery's oldest son, who is in his teens and as you might imagine, a pretty skilled basketball player. The Western Kentucky representative was a middle aged gentleman who was no match for the young McCaffery.
As far as the game tonight, it was kind of ugly at time. Honestly it was a game that had very little flow to it, but the key for Iowa was they build a solid lead and it never got to a one possession game once the Hawkeyes took control. Every time the Hilltoppers closed in, Iowa would get a big basket and push it back up to double figures. While Devyn Marble and Aaron White didn't have great games, Mike Gesell and Melsahn Basabe were terrific. Gesell ran the show and got the Iowa offense going early. Basabe was very active on both ends of the court and was probably the difference in the game tonight.
I was impressed with Wichita State and the Hawkeyes will have their hands full on Wednesday night. One of the names most familiar to Iowa fans is Malcom Armstead, who Iowa tried to land as a JUCO player under Todd Lickliter. Armstead eventually landed at Oregon and then eventually transferred to Wichita State, where his old JUCO coach is now an assistant. They also have two other good guards, including freshman Fred Van Fleet. One of their most impressive and hardworking players is Carl Hall. He isn't big, but he is very active on the glass. Iowa will have their hands full in what will be the toughest test of the season. Iowa will have to limit their turnovers, which is something they didn't do a good job of tonight, and they will have to be ready for a very physical game. The Shockers play terrific defense and Iowa is going to have to execute at a high level to win. This is a game the Hawkeyes can win, but they will have to play their best game of the year to do it.
Game time tomorrow night is at 8:30 and the game will once again air on the CBS Sports Network.
One last note, it's been great to meet so many Hawkeye fans down here the past few days, several of them are subscribers here at Hawkeye Report. I've been able to spend a some time with In Heaven There Is No Beer. Great guy and his crew have a Hawkeye flag flying from their balcony. Met Anti Social this evening at the game and also another long time sub who asked me to take a picture with him. I also ran into my kid's doctor down here. Turns out she and her husband are huge Hawkeye basketball fans.
Lastly, my friend Dave Creighton Jr., who is one of the hosts of the Hawkeye Huddle radio show that airs on The Champ in Des Moines every Tuesday evening, will be getting married tomorrow here at the Moon Palace. He and his bride, along with their kids were at the game tonight and they are very excited to get married on the beach tomorrow. I might have to wander down there to watch the ceremony. Very happy for Dave and Kristi and wish them the very best tomorrow afternoon.
It's been a lot of fun down here in Cancun and hopefully we get to enjoy it even more tomorrow evening.