More and more early season hoops rankings are coming out. Most don’t matter….wait, none of them actually matter, but they are fun, especially for an Iowa fan base that hasn’t seen a pre season basketball ranking since the fall of 2005.
In fact, that’s the last time Iowa was ranked in any poll. Here was their 2006 Poll charting:
No Todd Lickliter or Fran McCaffery team has ever been ranked in an AP Poll. I expect that to change, as early as the pre season AP Poll which should be out in a couple of weeks. At some point in time this year, they will be ranked, if not then.
Prior to Steve Alford’s arrival in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes were ranked at least one AP Poll every year between 1979 and 1999, save for the 1994 season. The fire of Iowa basketball dwindled to embers in the Alford era then Lickliter came along and tossed water on the coals. McCaffery has done an amazing job of restarting things and this year should provide some payoff and people are noticing.
One of those people is Dick Vitale, who ‘released’ his Top 25 this week.
Vitale ranks Kentucky #1, followed by Michigan State at #2. Michigan is 8th in his poll and Ohio State is 12th. Iowa plays each of those B1G teams twice, or 20 percent of Iowa’s schedule (if you rounded up to 20 from 19.354%). He also has Kansas rated 5th and the Hawks could meet up with the Jayhawks if both teams make it to the title game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament next month. Whoa, did I just type next month? Sure did and that’s legit.
Vitale also included Wisconsin in his teams to watch and Iowa plays the Badgers twice, too. CBSSports.com released their preseason poll and while Iowa made three of the six panelist’s ballots, they didn’t make their ‘official’ Top 25. Wisconsin did, at 14. Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan were all in the Top 10.
While these polls may not MATTER matter, it is an interesting reminder for me. While many of us who follow and or root for the Hawkeyes are expecting a payoff season of sorts this year, you’ll see others from the outside who are thinking Iowa no better than 5th or 6th in the Big Ten. I spoke with someone yesterday who definitely roots for the Hawkeyes and knows a thing or two about the college game who thinks Iowa could finish 7th in the league. My quick run through of Iowa’s schedule back in September led me to a 10-8 Big Ten record, given how challenging it is.
As I look at that run through again, I think I’ll give Iowa a sweep against Penn State. I gave Ohio State a sweep against Iowa but I had Iowa splitting with MSU and Michigan…while some might say I should split with OSU, perhaps MSU or Michigan sweep Iowa so I will likely leave it alone. I have Iowa sweeping Minnesota but winning at The Barn is no gimmee, but Iowa could sweep Wisconsin or lose both. I am just comfortable going 10-8 or 11-7.
Either of those records will punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament with no worse than a six or seven seen. But this team looks capable of winning more games than that in a very good league.