Your preseason Top 5 Iowa Hawkeyes? That is officially a reality now that the AP has released its official preseason poll for the 2020 season.
FIRST AP POLL— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 9, 2020
This is unprecedented territory for Iowa hoops. While many of Fran's Iowa teams have ended up ranked -- and a few, like the 2014 and 2016 iterations, managed to ascend high in the mid-season polls (before tumbling to earth in the season's final weeks) -- he's never had a team ranked in the preseason Top 25 until this season.
In fact, the Iowa program hasn't been ranked in the AP preseason poll in 15 years, dating back to [REDACTED]'s penultimate team in Iowa City in 2005-06. That team started the year ranked #20 by the AP and ended up going 25-9 and winning the Big Ten Tournament. Strangely, all records of that team's performance in the NCAA Tournament that season have been erased from existence.
Iowa has only been ranked higher than #5 in the initial AP polls twice -- and not since 1954 and 1955. In both seasons Iowa entered the polls ranked #4 overall. But neither of those were truly preseason polls if we want to be technical about it; Iowa had already played two games before the first poll came out in 1954 and they had played one game before the first poll came out in 1955. But if you want a good omen for this year's Iowa squad based on those teams? Both the '54-55 and '55-56 Hawkeye teams paid off those lofty early rankings with trips to the Final Four; the '55 Hawkeyes lost a heartbreaker to La Salle in the national semifinals, while the '56 Hawks lost to Bill Russell's undefeated San Francisco team in the national championship game.
Since 1980, six Iowa teams have been ranked in the preseason Top 10. In 1981-82, Iowa was ranked #9 in the preseason poll and finished 21-9 overall, second in the Big Ten, and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In 1983-84, Iowa was ranked #7 in the preseason poll before things imploded in George Raveling's first season as head coach; they finished 13-15 overall and ninth in the Big Ten. In 1986-87, Iowa was ranked #10 in the preseason poll in Tom Davis' first season as head coach; they started the season 18-0 and briefly ascended to the #1 ranking in the polls before finishing 27-4 in the regular season and third in the Big Ten. They lost a nailbiter to UNLV in the Elite 8 that season.
In 1988-89, Iowa was ranked #7 in the preseason poll, but went 22-9 overall and finished fourth in the Big Ten. They lost to NC State in double overtime in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In 1995-95, Iowa was ranked #8 in the preseason poll and went 22-8 in the regular season while finishing fourth in the Big Ten. They lost to Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Iowa's most recent preseason Top 10 team (until this year) came in 2001-02, when they were ranked #9 in the preseason poll. That team fell apart on their way to a 16-14 regular season and finished seventh in the Big Ten. They won three in a row in the Big Ten Tournament to make it to the championship game, but lost there and ultimately ended their season wth a loss to LSU in the first round of the NIT.
So there have been some up and down results for Iowa in years when they start out ranked in the preseason Top 10. Of course, what happened to Iowa teams 18 or 36 years ago isn't going to have any bearing on what happens to this Iowa team. They're ranked so highly partly because of the form they displayed last year in going 20-11 and finishing sixth in a brutally difficult Big Ten -- and mostly because they return everyone of consequence from that team, including reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and consensus All-American Luka Garza.
Here's the full Top 25:
Iowa is the highest-ranked of seven Big Ten teams ranked in the preseason Top 25. Yes, that's right: over 25% of the preseason Top 25 hails from the Big Ten. No other conference has more than five teams ranked in the Top 25 (Big 12). Two other Big Ten teams crack the preseason Top 10, Wisconsin at #7 and Illinois at #8. Perennial preseason Top 25 resident Michigan State is ranked #13 in this poll, while Ohio State, Rutgers, and Michigan wrap up the Big Ten contingent in the poll. One thing is extremely clear, though: the Big Ten is very loaded this season.
How will Iowa handle the pressure and high expectations that come along with such a gaudy preseason ranking? TBD. The good news is that we won't have to wait too long to find out -- the 2020-21 college hoops season is expected to tip off in a little under three weeks, on November 25. In the meantime...
GO PRESEASON TOP 5 AWESOME.