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NCAA Basketball Big 10 BasketballIowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Basketball Is Almost Back

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Remove an overtime loss to Villanova, and the Iowa Hawkeyes would be receiving much more attention. Villanova skyrocketed up in the polls after defeating Iowa and for good reason. The Hawkeyes are riding high after winning their first game in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge since 2005 on Tuesday night against Notre Dame.

There was a lot of squawking from the Hawkeyes camp after their second place finish in last season’s NIT tournament. Many believe that Iowa basketball is effectively back after an appearance in the NIT championship last season. Hopes may be high, but Iowa has not won an NCAA tournament game since 2000-2001. The Hawkeyes haven’t broken into the tournament since 2005-06.

There is one more thing; Iowa has to beat Iowa State. The Hawkeyes beat the Cyclones last season 80-71. The two teams took two different directions following that game. Iowa State was in the top half of their conference, whereas the Hawkeyes struggled to keep their head above water. Iowa State made the NCAA tournament. Iowa did not.

The Hawkeyes have a date with the Cyclones on December 13, but they first had to face the Drake Bulldogs. Iowa took care of business with little resistance from the Bulldogs, winning 83-66. The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights will be Iowa’s next opponent.

With all due respect to the Knights, this game should be an easy win for the Hawkeyes. The real test will come on Friday night when the clash of the cornfield titans takes place. Both teams are high-tempo teams and are nearly identical in offensive efficiency numbers.

Iowa and Iowa State will effectively be playing for the bragging rights of who owns the state after Friday night. If the Hawkeye bench can provide 39 points like they did on Saturday, Iowa could very well remain the Hawkeye State.

Jack Dooley is a Big 12 Basketball writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JackDooleyOCS and Facebook.