For the past 12 years the Iowa basketball team and a top 10 national ranking haven’t been very familiar with one another. Then again that’s putting it much to lightly. In actuality the Hawkeyes hadn’t even sniffed such a lofty ranking amidst the program’s well documented struggles.
All of that changed this morning when the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls released their updated rankings. After a decade-plus hiatus, there sat Iowa at number ten.
While many programs (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, etc.) take such a recognition for granted, this is not something that Hawkeye fans should quickly forget. Such an accomplishment is a huge milestone for an Iowa program that for years would have been satisfied with merely a .500 record.
After hovering in the 20-25 range for much of the early portion of the season the Hawkeyes have made significant jumps each of past two weeks. With three victories by an average of 19ppg including one on the road at previously 3rd ranked Ohio State, Iowa leaped six and four spots respectively up to their current spot in the polls.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has worked tirelessly over his tenure in Iowa City to achieve results like this, and a top 10 ranking is truly a testament to his ability as a coach and motivator of young men. Those attributes will be further put to the test in the coming days as he looks to help his squad live up to their newly earned poll position.
For nearly an entire half of action this past Sunday versus Minnesota it appeared as though the national praise and attention was having a negative impact on the Hawkeyes. Iowa found itself in a ten point hole as the clock ticked down towards the end of the opening 20 minutes, and a home sellout crowd had a noticeable feeling of unease. However, a last minute barrage keyed by the hot-shooting Josh Oglesby closed the deficit to two as the teams head to the lockers rooms. With the momentum back in their favor the Hawkeyes continued what would ultimately amount to a 61-30 run that blew open what had been a very competitive game.
Games like Sunday’s will become more and more commonplace for this Iowa team so long as they continue to hold onto a lofty national ranking. Being a member of the Big Ten certainly won’t help either as it continues to stake its claim as possibly the best and deepest conference in America.
Iowa’s remaining schedule is loaded with teams talented and/or motivated enough to take them down should the Hawkeyes falter at any point. In fact their very next game comes Wednesday on the road against a suddenly streaking Michigan squad. The 21st ranked Wolverines have found their footing after a rocky start to the season, and will enter the upcoming contest with the Hawkeyes coming off of their own impressive road win against Wisconsin.
Wednesday night will provide a huge opportunity for both teams to solidify their position in the race for a regular season Big Ten Title. Michigan sits alongside Michigan State as the only undefeated teams remaining in conference play, but the Hawkeyes are nipping at their heels with only a single tally in the loss column. Both teams will also get a crack at the Spartans in the next 7 days (Michigan this Saturday and Iowa on the 28th), so Wednesday night’s clash in Ann Arbor is pivotal for either program to make a move towards first place.
With all of that being said, no matter how the week unfolds Iowa fans everywhere should take a moment to reacquaint themselves with this freshly minted top 10 ranking. I think you’ll find that it feels pretty darn good.