Here's a peculiar stat to wrap your head around: the Iowa women's basketball team is 6-0 against teams ranked in the top 25 at the time they play the Hawkeyes. With a record like that you might expect the Iowa women to be undefeated -- they're not. They're not even that close to being undefeated -- they have five losses. What gives?
In truth, that stat (and the corollary, that Iowa has five losses against unranked teams) is a little misleading. Looking at Iowa's six wins over ranked opponents:
11/25/12: W, 79-70 over #12 West Virginia (neutral site)
West Virginia is no longer ranked, thanks to the fact that they've tumbled to an 11-8 record, 3-5 in Big 12 play. That #12 ranking was definitely too high for them.
12/6/12: W, 50-42 over #22 Iowa State (Iowa City, IA)
Not much change here: Iowa State is a very healthy 14-4 overall and was #24 in the most recent rankings. This was -- and still is -- a nice win for Iowa.
12/28/12: W, 86-63 over #20 Texas (neutral site)
West Virginia has struggled since losing to Iowa, but the bottom has completely fallen out on Texas -- they're 8-11 overall, 1-7 in Big 12 play. Ouch.
1/3/13: W, 77-71 (OT) over #24 Ohio State (Iowa City, IA)
OSU is another team that's struggled mightily as the calendar turned to conference play: they're currently 11-9 overall, 1-6 in Big Ten play. Woof.
1/20/13: W, 62-46 over #12 Purdue (Iowa City, IA)
This game was just last week and Purdue is currently 17-3 overall, 6-1 in Big Ten action. They're ranked 15/13 in the most recent polls, so this certainly still ranks as Iowa's best win of the season.
1/27/13: W, 63-57 over #23 Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
After this loss, Michigan drops to 16-4 overall, 5-2 in Big Ten play. They'll also probably drop out of the rankings, at least for now. Mind you, they're still a good team and beating them on the road is extra-impressive.
Meanwhile, what about the five teams Iowa has lost to?
11/18/12: L, 77-64 to North Carolina (Iowa City, IA)
North Carolina is currently 19-2 overall, 7-1 in the ACC and ranked 11/16 in the most recent polls. I don't really know why they weren't ranked back in November, but they're clearly a very good team.
11/23/12: L, 66-65 at Florida International (Miami, FL)
FIU is currently 13-7 overall, 7-4 in Sun Belt play. Not surprisingly, they're also not ranked.
11/28/12: L, 83-69 at Florida State (Tallahassee, FL)
Florida State is currently 17-3 overall, 7-2 in the ACC and ranked 22/21 in the most recent polls. Again, they've certainly proven to be a good team.
1/6/13: L, 68-64 to Michigan (Iowa City, IA)
As noted, Michigan is now 16-4 overall, 5-2 in the Big Ten. They were 23rd in the most recent rankings, but will probably drop out after Sunday's loss to Iowa.
1/17/13: L, 65-54 at Michigan State (East Lansing, MI)
Michigan is currently 16-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten and ranked 25th in the most recent rankings. They dropped two games this week, though, so they'll certainly be falling out of the rankings.
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Now the point of his exercise isn't to discredit Iowa's 6-0 record against ranked opponents. After all, you can only play the teams on your schedule and you can only play them when they show up on the schedule. It's not Iowa's fault that West Virginia, Texas, and Ohio State have imploded since they played Iowa. Iowa played them, Iowa beat them -- that's a job well done by the ladies. And that 6-0 record still includes very solid wins over Purdue, Iowa State, and Michigan, which should look very good when the selection committee is scanning their resume.
That 6-0 record is impressive, but I don't think it's really the most relevant record for Iowa right now. The record that is relevant for Iowa? 5-2. That's Iowa's record in Big Ten competition, just a game shy of the season's halfway point. That 5-2 record is good for a tie for 3rd in the league (with Michigan), a game back of Michigan State and two games back of Penn State. The next three games are favorable as well (@ILL, NW, @MIN; all three teams are .500 or worse in the conference so far), which could set Iowa up with a very good B1G record before a key four game stretch (NEB, PSU, @PUR, @NEB) near the end of the season.
It's hard to tell what effect all these wins are having on Iowa's NCAA hopes; the most recent Bracketology on ESPN(from a week ago) has them as a 6-seed. The fact that host teams get to play on their home court in the first round can lead to some bizarre contortions when it comes to the seeds handed out by the NCAA Tournament. The most important takeaway is that Iowa remains in very good position to make the NCAA Tournament -- and if they do they'll play at least one (and hopefully two) games on their home court.
As for this particular game, Iowa managed to avenge their loss to Michigan from three weeks ago and pick up a solid road win. Iowa trailed 32-30 at halftime, but took over in the second half, outscoring Michigan 33-25 on the way to their 63-57 win. Bethany Doolittle was the star of the show for Iowa, scoring 19 points on 9/15 shooting, while adding 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Sam Logic had another typically well-rounded performance (10 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals) and Jaime Printy followed up her 29-point explosion against Wisconsin on Thursday night with a 14-point, 5-rebound effort on Sunday.
Printy's shooting on Thursday really was remarkable: she made 8/10 field goals, 3/3 three-pointers, and 10/11 free throws. She also singlehandedly outscored Wisconsin 12-0 late in the second half to turn a 55-53 Wisconsin lead with 5 minutes to play into a 65-55 Iowa lead with 2 minutes to play. That might be the best stretch an Iowa player has had since those two games last season when Matt Gatens went nuts against Wisconsin and Indiana. Iowa's still not a terribly deep team beyond their usual six-woman rotation, although on Sunday three women other than regular sixth woman Melissa Dixon logged at least six minutes in the game. It's nice to see that they're not wholly reliant on one player like Printy, though; Doolittle, Logic, and Morgan Johnson have all had games this season where they carried the scoring load.
NEXT: Iowa plays at Illinois at 7:00pm CT on Thursday, January 31. There is no TV coverage for the game. (Iowa's next BTN appearance is against Minnesota at 7:30pm CT on Thursday, Feburary 7.)