Phase I of Fran McCaffery’s plan to return Iowa to college basketball’s top shelf is almost complete.
Now all he has to do is not get knocked off.
The Hawkeyes just breezed through a who’s who of hyphenated, directional doormats in winning their first four games, three in blowouts. That got them noticed by the voters in the two major polls. The Hawkeyes cracked the top 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, coming in at No. 25 for the first time since 2006. They came in at 26 in the Associated Press poll. And it marked the first time a McCaffery-coached team has been ranked by either poll.
Now comes the hard part.
After a home date against Penn, the Hawkeyes will get tested quickly. After Penn, Iowa will play Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Tennessee and UTEP complete the bracket. After that comes a date with Notre Dame. Both are Xavier and Notre Dame are tradition-rich programs with a history of success in the NCAA Tournament. If Iowa can win either one or both of those games then it should firmly cement itself in the 15-20 range in the polls until the start of the Big Ten season. And, more importantly, it will help with Iowa’s RPI rating, a major factor in determining if a team receives an at-large bid to the big dance in March.
Iowa was ranked 23rd in the final poll after the 2006 NCAA Tournament.