DAYTON, Ohio — This is where you want to be next year, Iowa men’s basketball fans.
No, not Dayton itself for the First Four. But rather, the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament. And, with the kind of seeding Indiana and Ohio State received in getting sent here.
Two of the 2014 NCAA preliminary-round sites are Milwaukee and St. Louis. If Iowa were to take a leap forward and have the kind of regular-season performance that gets it a top-four seed, it would almost surely go to one of those two cities.
Which, obviously, would send a caravan of Hawkeye followers to one of those two cities that produce beer in mass quantities.
If you were at the University of Dayton Arena Friday for early-round NCAA games, you saw the goodies that are given to the high-seeds.
Indiana University is just 165 miles from Dayton, and Indianapolis is but 118 miles away on I-70. The Hoosiers were sent here to play James Madison Friday. It was bad enough JMU didn’t have a starter taller than 6-foot-6 to duel with 7-foot Hoosier Cory Zeller, but Indiana also had a booming support system in the 13,435-seat arena.
The Hoosiers would have beaten in Virginia, but it was sure nice for their fans that they didn’t.
Ohio State, meanwhile, had a mere 71-mile bus ride here from Columbus. The Buckeyes practiced in their own basketball facility Thursday, then bussed to Dayton that afternoon. Their fans owned the arena Friday night for OSU’s game against little Iona.
They had the fans on their side, the cushier travel on short notice, and most importantly, the easier early draws.
By virtue of being top-four seeds, Michigan State and Michigan are playing their preliminary-round games in Auburn Hills, Mich. In other words, home games.
Iowa State can relate to the difficulty of playing an early-round game in enemy territory. It would have taken a herculean effort for the Cyclones to have defeated Kentucky in last year’s NCAAs, but the Cyclones’ task was made even harder by playing the game in Louisville.
The 2014 buzz has already begun outside of Iowa, with basketball pundits saying the Hawkeyes should be Big Ten title-contenders next year.
If that comes true, Milwaukee or St. Louis could become Carver North or Carver South.
However, location only goes so far. Here’s where I insert the obligatory reference to 14th-seed Harvard flying all the way to Salt Lake City and upsetting 3rd-seed New Mexico Thursday night.
Hey, you still have to win the games.
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