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Iowa Basketball: Hawkeyes Back in Top-5 After Win at Ohio State

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It’s March and the Hawkeyes are a top-5 team in the nation.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Iowa
The Hawkeyes rise to #5 nationally as we turn to March.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes experienced a season’s worth of ups and downs last week after getting thumped at Michigan and then turning around and handling Ohio State - both on the road. But a number of top teams around the country lost games last week, meaning both the weekly brackets and national polls will see some shakeups this week,

On Monday, we got a taste of just what might be in store as brackets begin to come out later this week. The AP released their weekly poll results and the top-5 showdowns from a week ago vaulted Iowa up four spots to #5 nationally.

Here’s a look at this week’s full poll:

  1. Gonzaga (60)
  2. Michigan (4)
  3. Baylor
  4. Illinois
  5. Iowa
  6. West Virginia
  7. Ohio State
  8. Alabama
  9. Houston
  10. Villanova
  11. Florida State
  12. Arkansas
  13. Kansas
  14. Creighton
  15. Texas
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Oklahoma State
  18. Texas Tech
  19. San Diego State
  20. Loyola Chicago
  21. Virginia
  22. Virginia Tech
  23. Purdue
  24. Colorado
  25. Wisconsin

It’s about as good as Hawkeye fans could have hoped for, though candidly not what we’ve come to expect. After watching Ohio State be unaffected by a home loss to Michigan while Iowa fell a seed line after suffering a similar fate on the road was no doubt a bit disheartening. But the dismantling of the Buckeyes by Iowa a few days later, coupled with several losses by other top teams, more than offset the negative impacts.

Speaking of those other losses, it was a complete bloodbath over the last week. In the top ten, we saw Baylor, Ohio State (x2), Alabama, Oklahoma (x2), Villanova and Iowa all lose games, while Illinois and Houston rebounded with wins after losing the prior weekend. The net result was a lot of shuffling around at the top, but only Oklahoma falling out of the top-10 entirely (they go from 7th to 16th).

Despite all the movement, the Big Ten keeps three teams in the top-5 and four in the top-10. Michigan moves up a spot to #2 after the beatdown they handed the Hawkeyes while Baylor dropped their first game of the season to Kansas. Illinois also got a one-spot bump thanks to Ohio State’s fall and come in at #4. As noted, Iowa is at #5. The Buckeyes fall to #7.

In total, the conference has six teams ranked this week. Purdue enters the polls at #23. As noted in our look at Big Ten seeding scenarios, the Boilermakers have quietly put themselves in a position to earn a top-4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament next week. Wisconsin rounds out the group, falling to #25 after a loss to Illinois over the weekend.

Over in the Coaches Poll, Iowa also jumps four spots, but remains at just 8th after continuing to be underrated in the poll for weeks. In the advanced metrics, there seems to be consensus with the AP for the first time all year (the advanced rankings have been much higher than humans for some time). KenPom and the NCAA’s NET both have Iowa at 5th nationally. Sagarin is the only divergent with Iowa ranked 4th, just ahead of Illinois. That difference is likely to take care of itself by next week. If Iowa wins their next two and Illinois can’t come away with wins in their trips to Michigan and Ohio State, the two are a lock to flip in other rankings.

Perhaps the most notable move in the advanced metrics this week came for Iowa’s adjusted defensive efficiency. After holding Ohio State to just 57 total points - the 5th Iowa opponent held under 70 in the last seven games - the Hawkeyes moved from 79th to 59th (hat tip to BoilerHawk for pointing out as impressive as that jump appears, it’s a change of ~1.1 ppg on an adjusted basis). This just a few weeks after falling all the way into the 130s.

If Iowa can maintain the higher level of defense we’ve seen over the last several games while also channeling the offensive output we saw earlier in the year, this is indeed a top-5 team that will have earned a top seed in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

The Hawkeyes close out the season with a pair of home games this week. They’ll pay host to Nebraska on Thursday evening for an 8pm tip on BTN before closing out the regular season with #25 Wisconsin at 11:30 am on Sunday for senior day. That one will be on FOX.