Hola, amigos. We're deep in the thick of it now and by "it" I mean college hoops season, which means we can probably start paying a little bit more attention to the bracketology updates that sprout up like weeds around this time of the year. But first, a highlight video. Why? Because GO IOWA AWESOME, that's why. Look, just enjoy the sweet dunks, nifty passes, and swished threes, okay?
BRACKETOLOGY UPDATE: JANUARY 17, 2014
ESPN: Joe Lunardi (link)
UPDATED: January 16, 2014
THIS WEEK: 4-seed vs 13-seed Louisiana Tech in the West region
It's certainly not worth getting too attached to the region designations listed in bracket projections; for the most part, those are just a shot in the dark, especially for the teams further down the S-curve. (For the teams near the top, geographical favoritism DOES play a role.) Likewise, it's not worth getting too concerned (or excited) about the teams Iowa's projected to play in these bracket projections; things can (and absolutely will) change a lot between now and Selection Sunday and, anyway, these are just guesses.
Which is good, because Louisiana Tech would be probably the toughest potential 13-seed a team could draw. They're #38 (!) in the most recent KenPom rankings, with a win over Oklahoma to their credit. By way of comparison, Lunardi's other 13-seed teams are Belmont (#125), Manhattan (#62), and Mercer (#92). Obviously, Iowa could (and, on paper, should) beat Louisiana Tech if they were to play, but jeez, it would be nice if Iowa's first game back in the NCAA Tournament didn't come against a team that figures to be one of the most popular upset picks in the first round. (It would also be nice not to play another mid-major team from Louisiana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament BECAUSE SOME MEMORIES ARE SCABBED OVER FOR A GOOD REASON, DAMMIT.)
Lunardi's draw is a pretty tough one in general for Iowa, with Duke looming in the next round (although this is a Duke team defending and rebounding at uncommonly poor rates, making them considerably more beatable than your average stellar Duke squad) and a possible Sweet 16 showdown with Arizona.
Blogging the Bracket: Chris Dobbertean (link)
UPDATED: January 14, 2014
THIS WEEK: 4-seed vs 13-seed Delaware in the East region
SBN's Chris Dobbertean also has Iowa as a 4-seed, slotting them against Delaware out East. Delaware is nothing special (#101, per KenPom), just the best of a pretty average group of CAA teams this year. Should Iowa get by the Blue Hens in this bracket, they'd likely see Oregon in the second round, a rematch of Iowa's 2012 NIT second-round points orgy against the Ducks. Things haven't changed much for the Ducks: they still like to run (72.7 possessions per game, good for the 18th best tempo in the nation) and they still have a very potent offense (an adjusted offensive efficiency mark of 119.0, 6th best in the nation). They don't play very good defense, though (adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 103.3, 154th in the nation), which has been a bit factor in their three straight losses in Pac 12 play (they gave up at least 82 points in all three games, which is... not good). Syracuse is the 1-seed in Iowa's region here; I would really like to avoid them for as long as possible in the NCAA Tournament. They seem like a pretty nasty matchup for Iowa (and for a lot of teams, but we only care about Iowa, right?).
CBS: Jerry Palm (link)
UPDATED: January 17, 2014
THIS WEEK: 3-seed vs 14-seed Stephen F. Austin in the East region
Palm has the most recently updated bracket projection (fresh off the digital presses this morning) and he's also the most bullish on Iowa, slotting them in as a 3-seed against Stephen F. Austin out East. Stephen F. Austin has a bullish KenPom ranking (#60), which they've accumulated mainly by wrecking shop on the Southland Conference so far: they're 5-0 in league play to date, with their closest win being a 12-point road win over Northwestern State. They also racked up wins in non-conference play, although that includes a whopping 7 wins over teams ranked 249th or lower in the KenPom rankings, plus two teams that aren't even ranked. In other words, the Lumberjacks love them some cupcakes. That said, SFA is easily the best of the 14-seeds here; the others are Georgia State (#98), Delaware (#101), and IPFW (#143). I wouldn't mind if Iowa could catch a little break in the early going of the bracket.
A win over SFA would likely give Iowa a second-round game with... BAH GAWD THAT'S KENTUCKY'S MUSIC. Kentucky's recent struggles have dumped them down to a 6-seed in Palm's bracket, although I would be flabbergasted if they remain that low by March. Kentucky is a strange, strange team; on talent alone, they're probably the best team in the country. Unfortunately (for them), they also still play like a group of five AAU All-Stars thrown together on a court for the first time. A game with them would be fascinating clash between raw talent and continuity/experience. Also! This bracket also contains a potential rematch with Villanova, should both teams make it to the Sweet 16. Given how good their Battle 4 Atlantis thriller was, a rematch would be pretty swell.
College Sports Madness: USA Today (link)
UPDATED: January 12, 2014
THIS WEEK: 6-seed vs Dayton
This bracket hasn't been updated since Iowa's breakthrough win over Ohio State on Sunday, hence the 6-seed. Dayton is, of course, yet another recent NIT foe of Iowa's and is in the midst of a pretty solid season: 13-4 overall, 1-1 in the Atlantic 10 so far, and 44th in the most recent KenPom rankings. The Flyers had two solid non-conference wins (over Gonzaga and Cal), as well as a good near-miss (against Baylor). They also lost to Illinois State and USC in non-con play, which is... less good. They also play in a very solid A10: nine teams are ranked in the KenPom Top 100, with 5 of them in the top 50.
UPDATED: January 14, 2014
THIS WEEK: 3-seed vs Delaware in the West region
Another bracket with Iowa as a 3-seed; huzzah! Bracketville also has Iowa matching up with Delaware in the first round; we're comin' for ya, Blue Hens! This bracket has Iowa with a potential second round matchup with Pitt and a Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas (the Battle 4 Atlantis final we never got!), which would be... rough. Actually, that whole region is kind of nuts: #1 Arizona, #2 Kansas, #3 Iowa, and #6 Pitt are all in the current KenPom top-10 (#1, #9, #5, and #7, respectively). Yikes.
* * *
Iowa moved up to #14 in the AP poll this week. They're poised to move even higher in next week's poll. Why? Well, this is why:
MASS CARNAGE. Kentucky got things started by losing in stunning fashion at Arkansas on Tuesday night:
(GIF via @cjzero)
Baylor followed that up by getting ambushed in Lubbock on Wednesday night (PRO TIP: don't dig yourself a 43-22 halftime deficit on the road). And the blood-letting continued last night with Ohio State getting toppled by Minnesota in the furry-clad environs of The Barn. 8th-ranked Iowa State also lost their second straight game on Monday night, to Kansas. Oh, and 9th-ranked Oklahoma State plays Kansas (in Lawrence) on Saturday afternoon (3:30 PM CST, CBS), which means another team ranked just ahead of Iowa could easily go down before the next polls are released.
What I'm saying is: Iowa could be ranked in the top 10 next week, dudes, assuming they take care of Minnesota at home on Sunday. Obviously, we don't want to assume wins over anyone and Minnesota has looked mighty feisty of late -- they gave Michigan State all they could handle in an OT loss in East Lansing last weekend and, as noted, they're fresh off a win over the Buckeyes -- but still: holy balls. This is really a thing that could happen, you guys. And that's pretty damn cool.
And if you want to get really cart-before-horses (which obviously the coaches and players should very much not do, but we're just dumb bloggers on these here interwebs so we will put our carts where we want), well, go ahead and circle that Iowa-Michigan State game on January 28th. If Iowa keeps winning (they have road games against Michigan and Northwestern next week) and Michigan State avoids any prolonged slip-ups, that could be a clash of top-10 teams. In Carver. As the immortal Samuel L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park, "Hold on to your butts."
Again, there's a lot that has to happen before that can be A Thing That is Actually Happening (road wins aren't easy anywhere, Michigan will be tough in Ann Arbor, and Northwestern has lately had a lot of success dragging teams into the muck with them)... but it's now plausible. Woo. And I know that rankings are just a dog and pony show that don't really mean a damn thing, but still. They're an effective shorthand to letting you know which programs matter and it feels damn good to be one of those programs again.