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The Big Four

Todd Lickliter raised a few eyebrows when he suggested that playing instate rivals Drake, Northern Iowa and Iowa State annuallly on a home-and-home basis might not be in the best interest of the Iowa basketball program.

On the surface, talk like that raises the blood pressure of hoops fans within a state which has grown accustomed to seeing its four Division I programs play each other on an annual basis.

At this point, Lickliter isn't saying it's a bad thing, but he isn't saying it's a good thing, either. He simply wants to get a better handle on it before fomulating an opinion.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. His charge is to do what he can to put together the best program he can at Iowa and the coach should have some say in who his team plays and when and where those games are played.

Like his counterpart at Iowa State, Greg McDermott, Lickliter is intrigued by the idea of a four-team tourney, although he concedes that may not make financial sense for anybody and in the end, that is what truly drives things.

I suspect that Lickliter will learn over the next few weeks and next season -- Iowa's non-conference schedule is nearly set through the 2008-09 season -- that the instate match-ups do have value.

They prepare all four teams for conference play and for Iowa and Iowa State, they provide at least one road game into a semi-hostile environment on an annual basis at minimal expense. Win or lose, there is value in that as teams prepare for conference road play.

The games certainly make more sense than the endless stream of hyphens and directional schools that dot November and December schedules of most college teams.

While both UNI and Drake feature solid programs at this point, they have largely been fodder over the years for their instate counterparts. Iowa is 30-7 all-time against UNI and has a 52-8 record over the years against Drake.

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