RANKING SZN IS BACK IN IOWA CITY! Fresh off their flat-out dominant performance at the 2K Empire Classic in New York, which included comfortable wins over Oregon and UConn, and sporting a snazzy 4-0 record, Iowa basketball is back in the Top 25 rankings, friends.
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) November 19, 2018
Iowa is ranked 20th in the new AP Poll and 22nd in the new Coaches Poll. It's the first time Iowa has been ranked in the polls since they finished the 2015-16 season ranked #25 in the AP Poll. Being ranked this early in the season is even headier territory for Iowa basketball:
First time Iowa hoops has been top 20 in Nov since 2005
— Chris Hassel (@Hassel_Chris) November 19, 2018
Iowa was ranked 20th in the preseason AP Poll that year and got as high as #12 in the rankings in December before tumbling down the rankings a bit (though they rebounded later in the year and finished the regular season 15th in the AP Poll). Iowa's inability to get over the hump against non-conference competition early in the season (particularly in the annual exempt tournaments they play around Thanksgiving) has routinely kept them from getting much early season love from the pollsters. Iowa got that non-conference tournament monkey off their back this year, though, and this is the result.
Obviously, there is a long, long, long way to go this season -- Iowa has another 27 regular season games alone, plus at least one Big Ten Tournament game! -- but at the very least this is an incredibly encouraging sign for Iowa basketball right now. This was (and is) a "prove it" season for Iowa hoops and thus they're doing everything right on that front. Now they just need to keep it going for the next 3-4 months.
It's not going to get any easier for Iowa hoops, though. The theme of this week's polls -- and, really, the early portion of the college hoops schedule -- might be: The Big Ten is back. It's too soon to say that with certainty, of course, but so far the league's teams have picking up solid wins at an impressive clip. Iowa is one of six Big Ten teams in this week's AP Top 25 and overall the league has nine of the Top "28," going by the Others Receiving Votes category. Michigan leads the pack at #9, followed by Michigan State at #11, Iowa at #20, Ohio State at #23, Purdue at #24, Wisconsin at #25, and Nebraska, Indiana, and Maryland in that #26-28 range.
KenPom also thinks the Big Ten is pretty loaded. The league ranks 3rd in the conference standings there, just .01 behind the ACC in 2nd place and .57 behind the Big 12 in 1st place. 12 Big Ten teams rank in the KenPom Top 50, which means the league accounts for 1/4 of the entire Top 50. Michigan again leads the pack at #7, followed by Michigan State at #12, Purdue at #13, Wisconsin at #14, Indiana at #18, Nebraska at #28, Ohio State at #30, Iowa at #33, Penn State at #35, Maryland at #36, Minnesota at #46, and Northwestern at #47. The only also-rans are Illinois (#77) and (of course) Rutgers (#134). There doesn't appear to be one particularly dominant Big Ten team this year, but the league's quality top to (almost) bottom looks pretty formidable; that's a recipe for a conference schedule that should be a nightly meat-grinder every night of the week from January to March.
But we'll worry about the terrors that might loom in league play down the road; for now, Iowa basketball is ranked again and it feels so good.