POLLWATCHIN': AT LEAST WE HAVE BRACKETS

Matthew Holst

In which we take solace in the brackets because the brackets have not forsaken us.

Welcome to POLLWATCHIN', where we watch polls. Let's get to the polls we're watchin while watchin' polls.

AP Top 25

lol nope

Iowa did receive 4 votes, though, which is 3 more than North Carolina Central received. EAT IT, EAGLES.

Coaches Poll

Yeah, no.

10 votes from the coaches, though, so... woo?

The polls held on to their Iowa love as long as they could, but getting swept last week -- including a home loss to Illinois -- to cap off a 1-5 swoon to end the regular season spelled the end of Iowa's time in the Top 25.  So it goes.  Despite the regular season implosion, though, Iowa's postseason aspirations don't appear to be any sort of life support at all -- Iowa is listed in every single bracket prediction compiled by The Bracket Project's Bracket Matrix, where they have an average seed of 8th.  Let's take a look at a few prominent bracket predictions.

Brackets!

ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Iowa as a No. 8 seed in the West, facing Gonzaga in round one and likely facing No. 1 seed Arizona in the Round of 32, should they beat the Zags.  On the bright side, San Diego is very nice this time of year.  (Also: every time of the year.)   The Big Ten places six teams in his bracket (Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska), with Minnesota missing out as one of his First Four Out teams.

CBS' Jerry Palm slots Iowa as a No.9 seed in the East, facing Oregon in round one and, if they win, Villanova in the Round of 32.  Re-re-re-rematch!  Like Lunardi, Palm has the same six Big Ten teams in his Field of 68, with Nebrasketball grabbing the last spot and Minnesota moving to the First Four Out category.

USA TODAY slides Iowa a little bit lower, as a No. 10 seed against UConn in round one.  Win and they'd face the winner of the Kansas-Eastern Kentucky game.  It's an intriguing prediction for Iowa since it puts them in St. Louis (one of the closest opening round venues for Iowa fans) and Kansas looks somewhat less daunting with the news that Joel Embiid is going to miss a few weeks with a back issue.  It's unlikely this scenario would come to fruition and of course Iowa would need to play much better but yadda yadda yadda -- give us our dreams for now.  The same six Big Ten teams make this field and Minnesota is once again in the First Four Out mix.  I'm starting to think they might have some work to do in the Big Ten Tournament, fellas.

NBC Sports sets Iowa as a No.9 seed in the East... against a red-hot Oklahoma State team.  Do Not Want.  Villanova is the No. 1 seed in that mock bracket.  They also have six B1G teams making the dance, although they're less bullish on Nebrasketball right now -- they have them in a First Four game in Dayton against Tennessee.  Minnesota is, yet again, one of the First Four Five Out teams.

Finally, SBN's own Chris Dobbertean puts Iowa as a No.8 seed against Kansas State, with Arizona awaiting the winner.  Hey, we could catch up with Bruce Weber!  Maybe he'll even wear the purple blazer!  Dobbertean has the same six B1G squads in his field and Minnesota is again a First Four Out team.

Oh, and Vegas is still fairly bullish on Iowa.

I think it's useful to look at the mock brackets to realize that as miserable and frustrating as the last few weeks have been for Iowa hoops, the roof has not completely caved in on us.  Bracket predictions are far from infallible, of course, but they're often pretty accurate, especially outside of the fringe teams in the field (and Iowa is not yet a fringe team).  I suspect that the only thing that can really change things for Iowa is a loss to Northwestern on Thursday -- that would be a legitimate bad loss on top of the disappointing losses of the last few weeks.  (Seriously, Iowa: don't lose to Northwestern.  Just don't.)

Don't obsess about the fact that Iowa's record is the same as it was a year ago, when Iowa was left out of the NCAA Tournament field.  Every year is different.  Numbers that weren't good enough in one year can be good enough in a separate year.  And when you look at some of the numbers beyond the most superficial numbers (like overall records), you can see that Iowa's profile this year isn't the same as their underwhelming profile last year.  Their RPI is better.  The record against RPI Top 50/100 teams is better.  They don't have losses to bad RPI teams (yet).

Did this regular season end the way we wanted it to?  Of course not -- not even close.  Is the sky truly falling and is Iowa hoops consigned to another year in the NIT?  It certainly doesn't look like it.  Not a single bracketologist is calling for Iowa to miss the NCAA Tournament field right now.  Maybe that's just the impact of groupthought or maybe they just have a better sense of the entire college basketball picture right now, while so many Iowa fans are wrapped up in the drama and angst of this recent losing spell.  Iowa's still in position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years.  That's a good thing, folks.

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