The Iowa Hawkeyes did the unthinkable on Sunday afternoon, ending a 16-year drought in Iowa City by defeating the Purdue Boilermakers 75-66 in the Big Ten Tournament Championship. The win was an exclamation point on a season that has gone from likely rebuild to potential NCAA Tournament run over the course of the last six weeks.
Since February 1st, the Iowa Hawkeyes are the second best team in America behind only Gonzaga, which just earned the 1st overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Since the turn of the calendar, the Hawkeyes have rattled off 12 wins to only two losses while boasting the second best offense in the country and surprisingly good defense at 51st nationally. All of the Hawkeyes’ four quadrant one wins have come during that span and Iowa was incredibly close on multiple levels to adding a fifth on the road at Illinois.
All of that has meant the Hawkeyes have continued a steady climb up all the advanced metrics to finish the season inside the top-15 nationally in KenPom, Sagarin, NET, BPI, T-Rank and anything else you can find. That is every place except the polls voted on by coaches and the media. The AP and Coaches polls have lagged the analytics all season and as we saw on Selection Sunday, the NCAA Tournament selection committee seemed to also disagree with even their own metrics (NET) on how to seed a team that is among the top-16 in the country.
On Monday, the AP nearly got that rectified. On the heels of the four wins in four days, the Hawkeyes climbed a staggering eight spots in the final AP poll of the season to end the year at 16th nationally.
The Hawkeyes climbed as high as #3 in the nation a season ago and finished the year ranked #8. Before that, the 16th ranking would be the high water mark since Iowa climbed as high as #14 in 2018-2019. This marks the fourth consecutive season under head coach Fran McCaffery the Hawkeyes have gotten inside the top-17 nationally and the sixth time in McCaffery’s 12 seasons in Iowa City. This marks the highest the Hawkeyes have been ranked to end the season since 2006 (when Iowa closed the year at 15th) save for a season ago. It’s just the third time since 1993 the Hawkeyes have been ranked in the top-20 to close out the year.
At #16, the Hawkeyes are third in the Big Ten behind #10 Purdue, who fell one spot after the loss to Iowa, and #14 Wisconsin. Illinois makes it four Big Ten teams ranked overall as they come in at #19. The four teams for the Big Ten ties with the Big 12 and Pac-12 for most among conferences.
Here’s a look at the full AP poll.
- Gonzaga (54)
- Arizona (7)
- Texas Tech
- St. Mary’s
- Murray State
- Boise State
- Colorado State
The Hawkeyes will face off with unranked Richmond, the 12 seed in the Midwest region, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at 2:10pm CT on Thursday, March 17th. Should they will, they’ll face the winner of unranked 13 seed South Dakota State (27th inclusive of others receiving votes) and #13 Providence, the 4 seed in the Midwest.
You can watch Iowa’s matchup with Richmond Thursday on TruTV.