In 2011-12, Iowa had their first winning season in five years.
That excited Hawkeyes fans, as it should. They even have the potential to be better this year than last. However, don’t pencil the Hawkeyes into the NCAA Tournament field just yet, and here is why.
The first reason I believe that Iowa will not make the tournament is because of the difficulty of high expectations. The Hawkeyes are not used to this type of attention. After their first winning season in a while, as well as the presence of freshman center and top-100 recruit, Adam Woodbury, their will be very high hopes around Iowa City.
That pressure can be tough to handle for a team, especially one that is not used to it. I would not be surprised if they get upset in their non-conference schedule at home by a vastly inferior team. Winning isn’t easy, you have to learn how to win. Iowa, as with every team, will have their tough moments throughout this year that will demand resilience, so how will they respond?
The next reason I don’t believe in Iowa’s tournament hopes this year is their soft non-conference schedule. They have an incredibly easy ride through the first part of the season. The Hawkeyes play just two games against major conference teams (Virginia Tech and Iowa State).
The rest of their non-conference schedule includes schools most people have never heard of. The NCAA Tournament committee hates soft non-conference schedules. RPI and strength of schedule numbers are huge measuring sticks when it comes down to Selection Sunday. We have seen examples of teams hurt in this regard within the past year. Neither of those will be in Iowa’s favor when they are compared to other teams.
Finally, that gets me to the beginning of Iowa’s Big Ten schedule. They go from cupcakes to some to the best teams in the country. They open with Indiana, at Michigan, Michigan State, at Northwestern, Wisconsin, at Ohio State and at Purdue. Of those seven game,s Iowa will likely be underdogs in at least six of them, possibly all seven.
This will be one of those stretches that I mentioned earlier where you need to know how to win and to be resilient. It is very possible they win three or four of those games, which would be fantastic for them, but can they pull that consistency off?
Iowa will be a good team this year, but they won’t be good enough to overcome their weak non-conference schedule, extremely difficult conference schedule and lack of winning experience.
With that being said, this season will be Fran McCaffery’s greatest test yet at Iowa so far, as the Hawkeyes remain on the rise.