For a team that returns four starters, including preseason All-Big Ten selection Jarrod Uthoff, you'd figure that the college basketball world would be higher on the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2015-2016. Yet, most publications have the Hawkeyes finishing in the bottom half of the conference. So what's the deal? Well, it's not so much a knock on Iowa as it is a testament to how deep the Big Ten is this year.
Melo Trimble could be the Big Ten POY and have Maryland at a one seed, Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams will have Indiana right in the thick of things, Denzel Valentine and Michigan State will never go away and neither will Nigel Hayes and Bo Ryan. Seriously how old is A.J. Hammons? Wait, so Michigan is healthy again? Ohio State is very young and very talented. Have absolutely, positively, no doubts about it. The Big Ten is stacked. And it should be the best conference in the nation.
So what are they saying?
Athlon has Iowa finishing 7th in the conference and making the first round of the NCAA Tournament. From their preview:
This could be McCaffery's best shooting team at Iowa. With Uthoff, Jok, Gesell, Clemmons, Ellingson and newcomers Andrew Fleming and Jones, Iowa has a stable of capable shooters. That should create better floor spacing and more room for Uthoff and Woodbury to perform near the basket.
Big Ten Network:
BTN has Iowa finishing 9th overall in the conference and one writer has the Hawkeyes has his sleeper team.
CBS has Iowa finishing 7th in the conference and readily admits that they snubbed Jarrod Uthoff in their top 100 (and one) college basketball players. Matt Norlander and Doug Gottlieb are highest on the Hawkeyes, ranking them 5th in the Big Ten. Four other writers have Iowa ranked 8th. From their preview:
With some good fortune, they could crack the top four of the Big Ten.
ESPN has yet to release their college basketball preview but Joe Lunardi's hair has Iowa as one of the next four out of his Bracketology.
NBC Sports has Iowa finishing 8th in the Big Ten and lists Uthoff as one of their "names to know." An unnamed coach also has Iowa as their sleeper pick. From their preview:
Iowa's returning backcourt of senior point guard Mike Gesell and Peter Jok and Anthony Clemmons can be counted on but returning frontcourt starters like Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury face additional pressure now that Aaron White and Gabriel Olaseni are gone.
SI projects the Hawkeyes to go 9-9 in conference and finish 9th overall. Uthoff will be Iowa's leading scorer and rebounder, while Gesell and Jok will also average more than 10 PPG. SI is also very high on Dale Jones, projecting him to average 9.2 PPG and 6 rebounds per game. From their preview:
Iowa has four returning starters, but maintaining its third-place finish should be harder in a more competitive conference.
This is a theme across the nation. Yeah, Iowa is pretty good but unfortunately the Big Ten is also pretty good. If this sounds familiar it's because a many a publications had Iowa finishing middle of the pack, middle of the pack and middle of the pack in 2014-2015. Iowa finished 3rd in the Big Ten, by the way.