Iowa's NCAA Tournament history under Fran McCaffery

Let's take a look at Fran McCaffery's history in the NCAA Tournament with Iowa.
Iowa's coach Fran McCaffery reacts during the game against Illinois on Sunday, March 10, 2024
Iowa's coach Fran McCaffery reacts during the game against Illinois on Sunday, March 10, 2024 / Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen /

Fran McCaffery has been a head coach for four different schools, totaling 28 years of head coaching experience. He has spent 14 of those years coaching for the Iowa Hawkeyes and has a solid 279-188 overall record and is 136-127 in the Big Ten.

McCaffery took over for Iowa after they fired Todd Lickliter after a poor performance when he went 38-58 in three seasons with Iowa. Even though McCaffery struggled in his first season going just 11-20, he did break Iowa's 25-game losing streak against ranked opponents when the Hawkeyes beat No. 6 Purdue.

However, even after a rough first season, McCaffery has picked things up and never had a losing season since. He even became Iowa's winningest basketball coach this year with his 279 and counting wins.

When it comes to the postseason, McCaffery is no stranger. Before coming to Iowa, he made the NCAA Tournament five times with three different schools. So when McCaffery was brought to Iowa, March Madness appearances were expected.

It took some time, of course with the rough first season, there was no postseason tournament for the Hawkeyes. In his second and third seasons, the Hawkeyes came just short of the NCAA Tournament, but they did get bids to the NIT, where they were eliminated in the second round the first year and improved to be a runner-up his second year.

The next three seasons for McCaffery and the Iowa Hawkeyes would bring fans everything they wanted. Iowa was picked for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. The Hawkeyes finished that regular season 20-13 and were awarded an 11-seed playing as a "First Four" team. However, Iowa lost to Tennessee in that game and never made it to the round of 64.

McCaffery was able to bring the Hawkeyes back to the NCAA Tournament the following year, this time making it to the round of 32. Iowa finished the 2014-2015 season 22-12 and was given the seven-seed, beating Davidson in the round of 64 and then losing to No. 2 Gonzaga in the second round.

Iowa had almost an identical season in 2015-2016 when they went 22-11, but this time going 12-6 in the Big Ten Conference. Again Iowa was a seven-seed, this time facing Temple, who they beat, but ultimately they would fall to a two-seed again, this time Villanova.

The Hawkeyes would then go two years without an NCAA Tournament appearance. In 2019, Iowa was able to make it back to the NCAA Tournament but again was unable to make it past the second round. for the third time in a row.

There was no March Madness Tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Iowa would have probably made it finished third in the Big Ten going 20-11 and 11-9 in the conference.

For the next three seasons, Iowa would make it to the NCAA Tournament, but they still would not make it past the second round. In the 2020-2021 season, Iowa went 22-9 and 14-6 in the Big Ten, the best record conference record the Hawkeyes would have under McCaffery.

In 2021, Iowa was named a two-seed for the March Madness, matching the program's highest seeding since 1987. The Hawkeyes made it through the first round against Grand Canyon but was upset in the second round by seven-seed Oregon in a game that was not even close.

More heartbreak would follow McCaffery and the Iowa Hawkeyes the following two seasons. In 2021-2022 the Hawkeyes managed to win the Big Ten Tournament getting the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes were the five-seed in March Madness but were upset in the first round by 12-seed Richmond. Iowa had its worst game shooting all season and fans were devastated yet again.

The Hawkeyes' most recent appearance in March Madness was in 2023 where they were given the dreaded eight-seed which in my opinion is one of the toughest games to play. The eight-seed and nine-seed game is the toughest in my opinion because both teams are so evenly matched that it could be anyone's game. Iowa fell victim to this game, losing to Auburn, unable to make it past the first round.

While McCaffery has had success getting the Hawkeyes to the postseason, there seems to be a struggle making a significant run in March Madness. A McCaffery-coached Iowa team has never made it farther than the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.

Things could change this season, but the Hawkeyes have to make it in first, which seems like a tall task at the moment. Iowa is set to play Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, but they will need to make a bit of a run in that tournament first before they can turn their attention to March Madness. It is in or go home for the Hawkeyes right now.

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