For the first time this season, the Iowa men's basketball team* finds themselves ranked in one of the two major polls, cracking the #25 spot in this week's AP poll. (They're three spots outside the Top 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.) As we well know, rankings don't guarantee anything... but as we said last year when Iowa returned to the Top 25 for the first time in several years, they do help put a spotlight on which teams matter at a given point in time. And right now Iowa hoops, off to a 4-1 start in Big Ten play, matters. That's pretty fun.
The ranking is also a nice testament to the turnaround that the Hawkeyes have experienced over the last month. A month ago, Iowa was fresh off back-to-back ugly losses handed out by in-state rivals Iowa State and UNI. Iowa was 8-4 in non-conference play, with painful losses in four of their five games against Power 5 conference opponents (the lone exception being the weird, wonderful win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill). That start, coupled with the still-raw memories of Iowa's collapse last season, had many of us feeling a bit blue about the Hawkeyes. Things are looking a bit better now.
And speaking of those in-state rivals, how good is hoopyball in the state of Iowa this year? Historically good.
It's happened. Iowa State 9th, Northern Iowa 20th and Iowa 25th in @AP_Top25 - First time the state has had 3 ranked teams at once.
— LukeMeredith (@LukeMeredithAP) January 19, 2015
This level of success from Iowa State, UNI, and Iowa is basically unprecedented. There has been precisely one season in the entire history of Cyclone, Panther, and Hawkeye hoops when all three teams made the NCAA Tournament: 2005. That year Iowa State was a #9 seed, Iowa was a #10 seed, and UNI was a #11 seed. Iowa State was the only team to win their first round matchup, beating Minnesota 64-53 before getting torched by eventual national champions, North Carolina. 92-65. (Iowa lost to Cincinnati, 76-64, and UNI lost to Wisconsin, 57-52.)
There's a lot of ball to be played between now and the tournament in mid-March so lord knows what will happen to Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI over that time (or in the NCAA Tournament, if all three teams are able to punch their tickets there), but still. This has already been a damn good year for the state of Iowa in college basketball; there's a chance that it could end up being a very very good year, if all three teams are able to keep playing as well as they've been playing. ROLL DAMN HAWKEYE STATE.
* The Iowa women's basketball team has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for the entire season. Because they're awesome. We'll write more about them soon -- promise.