November is just around the corner, which means college basketball is also right around the corner. And that means we're only a few weeks away from getting to watch Caitlin Clark clown teams once again. Huzzah!
This year Caitlin & Co. are going to be doing so with a gaudy number attached to their name, at least to start the season -- Iowa is ranked 9th in the preseason AP Top 25, the first set of rankings for the season.
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As you might have guessed, #9 is the highest preseason ranking for Iowa women's hoops in quite a long time.
25 years to be precise. Iowa was ranked #6 in the preseason Top 25 back in 1996-97. (Unfortunately, they finished that season unranked, so I'd say they only thing we want to see this year's team copy from that squad is the high preseason ranking -- hopefully the season itself goes much better this time than it did back then.) Beyond that, you have to go to the early '90s to find a time when Iowa was a regular participant in preseason Top 25s -- the 1991-92 team started the year at #9, the 1992-93 team started at #7, and the 1993-94 started all the way up at #3. Not coincidentally, 1993 is also the last time Iowa women's basketball made it all the way to the Final Four.
Even Megan Gustafson's dynamite senior season team didn't have quite as much preseason hype as this year's Iowa team is set to have. That Gustafson-led team in 2018-19 started the year ranked #13 and stayed ranked the entire season before ending the year in the #8 slot on the heels of Iowa's first Elite Eight appearance since 1993. That team established the high water mark for the Bluder Era Hawkeyes -- and that's the bar that Caitlin Clark & Co. will be trying to clear this year.
As you can tell from those rankings, though, doing so doesn't figure to be easy. The annual Cy-Hawk clash is always a big game, but if both teams are ranked in the Top 15 (as they are at present), then it's going to be a really big game and one of the biggest non-conference games Iowa has played in years. Big Ten competition is also set to offer plenty of high-profile games for this Iowa squad as well -- including the Hawkeyes, there are four Big Ten teams ranked in the Top 11, led by Maryland at #4 and followed by Indiana at #8, Iowa at #9, and Michigan at #11. That's more than any other conference has at the top of the polls and could set up a pretty thrilling Big Ten title race this winter.
And, frankly, we can't wait to see how it all unfolds. Iowa women's basketball is going to be very fun to watch this season and we're excited to see what Caitlin Clark & Co. can do for an encore after last year.