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March Madness is living up to expectations

March is a beautiful time of year.

Or at least it’s supposed to be a beautiful time of year. It’s a time when the snow is supposed to melt, we put away our winter coats, grass starts to turn green again and we finally get to go outside and enjoy a bright spring morning.

This year, old man winter doesn’t seem to want to go away as we got snow once again this week on Monday with temperatures still in the 30s at times.

One thing remains constant this year, however, in that March has still been filled with the big dance in college basketball and college wrestling, both sports with teams and players for fans in the state of Iowa to watch and cheer on and there have been upsets, as usual as we get ready to enter the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 this weekend. Pair that with winter weather that won’t go away, and March has truly been madness this year.

I mean, who doesn’t like seeing 11th-seeded Dayton in the Sweet 16, defeating Ohio State in the first round after the Buckeyes refuse to play them year after year. They will be playing a No. 10 seed, Stanford for a chance at the Elite 8 on Thursday. Tennessee, a No. 11 seed, is also in the Sweet 16, but I’m assuming most Hawkeye fans don’t think that scenario is very cool.

This year is the first time the state of Iowa has had two teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament since 2006 when Iowa won the Big Ten Tournament Championship and qualified for the tournament as a No. 3 seed and Northern Iowa made it as a No. 10 seed.

Both teams that year lost in the first round of the tournament as UNI lost to seventh seeded Georgetown and Iowa was upset by the No. 14 seed, Northwestern State.

In 2001 Iowa and Iowa State both made the tournament. Iowa beat Creighton in the first round and lost to Kentucky in the next round while Iowa State, a No. 2 seed, was upset by Hampton, a No. 15 seed. Hampton was just the fourth team to upset a No. 2 seed as a No. 4 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

This season, there were high expectations for Iowa State and even higher expectations for Iowa. Near the end of the regular season, however, the Hawkeyes lost seven of their last 10 games, including their Big Ten Tournament 67-62 loss to Northwestern before losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in overtime 78-65 to Tennessee as a No. 11 seed.

Did the Hawkeyes take a step in the right direction by making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006, and can Hawkeye fans be proud of the way Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has turned this team around since his arrival in 2010? Or course. Is it still disappointing, however, to see such a fall at the end of the season when expectations were so high in the beginning? Absolutely.

It’s hard to call Iowa State’s Big 12 Tournament Championship and run to the Sweet 16 a surprise considering what Fred Hoiberg has been able to do in the last couple of years, but I don’t think anyone expected the Cyclones to put on the show they have this season.

They will be hoping to add another exclamation point to their season this weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York, but the latest was a special one as they beat sixth-seeded North Carolina with a layup by Deandre Kane with 1.6 seconds left on the clock. The most impressive part of the victory was having to do it without one of their top players as Georges Niang, who averages 16.7 points per game on a 47 percent shooting performance on the season.

Bill Fennelly has made Iowa State’s women’s basketball team a regular NCAA Tournament team. This season they were able to host the first round of the tournament at Hilton Coliseum as a No. 7 seed, but weren’t able to hit the shots they needed as they were upset by No. 10 Florida State on their home floor.

The Iowa womens’ basketball team defeated Marist in the first round as a No. 6 seed, but weren’t able to keep their momentum going in the second round as they were defeated 83-53 by a very powerful Louisville team. The Hawkeye women have also been pretty consistent lately in getting to the NCAA tournament.

Iowa fans got to watch as wrestler Tony Ramos won a national championship in Oklahoma City at 133 pounds as he made comeback after comeback to make it to the top of the podium. Iowa State fans had to watch as Kyven Gadson, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the nation at 197 pounds lost in the third-place match while their former coach and national champion Cael Sanderson won another team national championship with Penn State.

UNI’s Joey Lazor got a concussion in the consolation semifinals and took sixth place at 141 pounds.

The state of Iowa and its sports fans had a lot to cheer for this March, whether it be a Sweet 16 appearance, a wrestling national championship or simply a day with a little bit warmer weather in the middle of frigid temperatures and snow.

The madness of March is almost over. I think it’s time for the snow to stop, the sun to shine and the temperature outside to rise.

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