It wasn’t long ago that one thought this could be Fran McCaffrey’s worst year at Iowa. The Hawks didn’t look dominating against SIU Edwardsville, got trounced by DePaul and were sluggish against Oral Roberts. There were questions at point guard, Jordan Bohannon’s health, and who was coming off the bench. Then came the Texas Tech game in the Las Vegas Invitational, the upset of Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, a respectable offensive showing in a loss to Michigan and domination of Minnesota (who just beat Ohio State) and Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum. Sure, it’s December and Iowa’s problems always seem to turn up at the end of the year, but through this first month and a half you could argue that this the finest job Fran has done at Iowa in his 10 seasons with the program.
The national media is taking notice as well. The Hawkeyes received 39 votes in this week’s AP Poll, putting them just outside the top 25 (they’re 28th if you want to look at it that way). Luka Garza was also named the NCAA’s POTW by Andy Katz:
KenPom and Team Rankings have Iowa projected to go 19-12 (11-8), which would likely put them anywhere from a 9-11 seed. With Iowa beating the Cyclones, the Hawkeyes took their place in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology as a #12 seed. They’d play #12 BYU in Sacramento, with Kansas and Kentucky as your #1 and #2 seed in that region, respectively. Lunardi projects the winner of Iowa v. BYU to play Arizona, followed by the victor of Florida State v. Louisiana Tech.
Bracket Matrix, which aggregates all of the projected NCAA brackets, has Iowa as a #9 seed, with some projections putting the Hawkeyes as high as a #6 seed. That’s a very optimistic projection as the Hawkeyes would have to avoid their late season woes and show up to the Big Ten Tournament, something they haven’t historically done. February/March is not pretty, as their schedule to close out the season is: Illinois, @ Purdue, Nebraska, @ Indiana, @ Minnesota, Ohio State, @ Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, @ Illinois. The stretch starting with Ohio State and ending with Purdue is especially brutal, as the Hawks will be playing 4 games in 12 days.
That’s all in the future, though. This week the Hawks get a nice layoff before playing Cincinnati in the Chicago Legends doubleheader that also features Colorado vs. Dayton. The Bearcats have had a disappointing start to the season with losses to Bowling Green and Colgate and their best win coming at home against Vermont. Iowa is projected via KenPom to win 77-73 and the game will start at 8 PM, this Saturday, on BTN.