Iowa's program is at a critical point. For the first time since the 2006-2007 season, Iowa is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance and has the chance to make it to the Big Dance for the second year in a row. Last year also marked the first season that Fran McCaffery was able to take the Hawkeyes to the NCAA Tournament. Last season brought a great deal of success to a program that hasn't seen much in its recent history.
No matter your take, the 2012-2013 season was a successful one for Iowa. Winning 20 games, making the NCAA Tournament, and going 9-9 in the nation's best conference is nothing to overlook. In fact, there are many teams (even in the Big Ten), that would love to have done what Iowa did last season. The 2012-2013 season was easily McCaffery's most successful in Iowa City and easily the most successful since Steve Alford's last season at Iowa. Plus, if you overlook Alford's 25-9 season in 2005-2006, Iowa's performance last year may be the program's best since 2000-2001. When you're talking about having the second best season in over a decade, that's pretty significant.
Of course, as any person who watched Iowa last season will point out, that is a very, very positive outlook. The "results" perspective is one that looks kindly on 2012-2013 Iowa, at least compared to Iowa's recent history. But no Iowa fan can say that last season truly felt like the program's best season in nearly a decade and second best season in over a decade. In fact, I wrote just last week that Iowa's team last season was one of the most frustrating I could recall and that a pretty strong case could be made for Iowa to be considered as the single most underperforming team in the conference last season.
Think about this for a second. On February 15th, Iowa was 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the Big Ten. For a team like Arizona or Florida, that record would not have seemed that great, but let's set the table a little further. First, let's look at the wins. Iowa had already beaten Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Xavier, and a Nebraska team that turned out to be pretty good. That at least 5 or 6 quality wins right there. Remember, this is mid February. Iowa still had 8 guaranteed games left on the schedule so most considered Iowa an NCAA Tournament lock at this point. Looking at the win total, a remaining schedule that featured some easier games, and what would likely be an easier 1st Round Big Ten Tournament game, things looked excellent for Iowa.
The other thing to remember is that Iowa had avoided any truly bad performances. Sure, they had 6 losses in mid February, but it's really not that big of a deal, especially if none of the losses came against bad teams. Here were Iowa's losses at that time of the season:
|Loss #1||Villanova||Neutral||88-83 OT|
|Loss #2||Iowa State||Road||85-82|
|Loss #5||MSU||Home||71-69 OT|
A loss is never good thing, but not one of those losses should be considered a bad one. Hindsight is always 20/20, but every single one of those teams ended up doing pretty well. Every one of those teams made the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin made the Final Four, 3 teams made the Elite Eight, 4 made the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan won the Big Ten, Villanova won the Big East, MSU won the Big Ten Tournament, and Iowa State won the Big 12 Tournament. Again, losing will never be something to brag about, but Iowa made it to mid February without a single bad loss. Just to add a little more emphasis, here is each team's NCAA Tournament seed:
Iowa's First Six Losses' Opponents' NCAA Tournament Seeding:
- #2 Michigan
- #2 Villanova
- #2 Wisconsin
- #3 Iowa State
- #4 MSU
- #6 OSU