What happens when the Iowa Hawkeyes follow up a dominant win over #1 Michigan State with an even more dominant win over #5 Michigan State in East Lansing and tack on a decisive win over a solid Michigan team as well, all while several of the teams ranked ahead of them lost (Michigan State, Duke, Miami, and Virginia each lost twice last week, while Providence and Kentucky each went 1-1)? They strap a jetpack on and rocket into the Top 10, that's what happens.
Iowa is the highest-ranked three-loss team, ahead of Michigan State, Arizona, Baylor, Louisville, Providence, USC, Purdue, and Indiana. They're also the second highest-ranked Big Ten team, behind only Maryland (#7 in the AP Poll, #5 in the Coaches Poll). That game with the Terps -- the only meeting of the season, bar a Big Ten Tournament rematch -- is set for next Thursday night (January 28) in College Park; that's gonna be a doozy.
The last two times that Iowa basketball made it into the top ten did not end well for those teams. The 2013-14 Hawkeyes rode the brilliance of Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White, et al. to a 15-3 start (4-1 in the Big Ten) and a #10 ranking -- they lost to Michigan immediately after achieving that ranking, went on to lose five of their last six regular season games, cratered in the Big Ten Tournament against Northwestern, and barely scraped into the NCAA Tournament as part of the First Four games in Dayton. The 2001-02 Hawkeyes were ranked as high as #9 on the January 1 AP Poll after a 11-2 start; they went just 5-10 the rest of the regular season (though they nearly backed their way into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big Ten Tournament -- they won their first three games there before losing to Ohio State in the finals), ultimately wiping out in the first round of the NIT.
The fates of those teams may inspire a little caution... but this feels like a very, very different team. This team is loaded with senior leadership -- Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury, Jarrod Uthoff, and Anthony Clemmons -- and what's more, those seniors had a front row seat for the 2013-14 collapse. They're surely extra-motivated to avoid that same fate this year. Fran and the rest of the coaches likely have a better idea of what buttons to push (or not push) to inspire improved results, too.
Iowa last achieved a ranking higher than #9 in that aforementioned 2001-02 season -- they were #7 in the November 27, 2001 poll -- but you have to go back to the 1988-89 team to find an Iowa team that's achieved a higher ranking than that. That team made it to #4 in the December 20 and December 27, 1988 polls. That Iowa team finished 23-10 and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, this is just the continuation of an incredible year for Hawkeye football, men's basketball, and wrestling.
Iowa has not lost a regular season Big Ten game in football, wrestling or men's basketball since February 15, 2015. That's 336 days.— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) January 18, 2016
Iowa football, wrestling and men's hoops are a combined 24-0 in regular season Big Ten games during that time.— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) January 18, 2016
What a time to be a Hawkeye fan. And with Iowa facing Rutgers in basketball on Thursday, those streaks ought to get a bit longer, too. (The rematch with Purdue on Sunday will pose a much more significant test for Iowa.)
Unsurprisingly, Iowa's also getting a lot of love from the bracketologists, too. Joe Lunardi has Iowa up to a #2 seed in the South region) in his new bracket, where they'd be playing first round (and a possible second round) games in Des Moines. I think there might be just a few Hawkeye fans in attendance for those games. Jerry Palm also has them as a #2 seed (also in the South region) in his new bracket. The Bracket Matrix -- last updated last night -- has Iowa as the top #3 seed for now, but they could certainly climb into #2 seed territory as more brackets are updated. Basically, if Iowa stays on their present path, they're going to get a very good seed -- and very likely get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament just a few hours from home.
Go Iowa Awesome.