Let's be honest: this post was a lot more fun to write the last couple years. But those Iowa teams were more known quantities and had more players who were established and experienced. This year's Iowa team has Peter Jok and... yeah. That mysteriousness can make things exciting, but bracketologists tend not to be fans of the thrill of the unknown, unless those unknown players happen to be highly-touted recruits at blue-blood programs.
So it's not exactly a big surprise that Iowa's presence in the early mock brackets this year is pretty tenuous. But let's take a look at what they're saying:
ESPN: Lunardi is the most bullish on Iowa, slotting them as a #7 seed in the West against #10 seed Syracuse.
CBS: Jerry Palm has Iowa as a possible #12 seed in the East in a play-in game against Miami (the Florida one, not the Ohio one). That's a generous assessment compared to CBS' 1-351 ranking of every D-I college basketball team, where Iowa slots in at #85 with this commentary: "If Peter Jok hadn't opted to return, this would not be a top-100 team. Iowa is going to be low on offense overall, and its backcourt is baby-faced."
Bleacher Report: Kerry Miller has Iowa as the third-to-last team in the field of 68, noting that "Fran McCaffery will need to dig deep into his bag of tricks to get this team to a fourth straight NCAA tournament."
T-Ranketology: Once again, Iowa is in a play-in game as a possible #11 seed, along with Marquette, Kansas State, and Vanderbilt.
And that's pretty much it, from what I can see from the early mock brackets. There's not much love out there for the Hawkeyes. But again: that's really not surprising or a frustrating display of #DISRESPEKT! No one (including us!) has anyone what this Iowa team is going to be like. There are going to be a lot of new faces or semi-familiar faces who are going to be expected to play much bigger minutes this year. Iowa is bringing in one blue-chip recruit in Tyler Cook, but the rest of Iowa's new faces are not the sort that you tend to see on teams that reload with NCAA Tournament appearances.
The fact that Iowa is getting recognition at all in mock brackets is probably a sign of respect toward Fran McCaffery and what he's accomplished at Iowa over the last 4-5 years. He's built Iowa back into the sort of program that warrants acknowledgement as a possible NCAA Tournament team (at least among some bracketologists; this is hardly a unanimous opinion), even when they're breaking in four new starters. That's a very nice sign of progress for the Iowa hoops program, given where things were just 5-6 years ago. There's still much more progress that Iowa hoops can make, but for now this is not a bad spot to be in at all.