Whatever your opinion on Iowa's finish to last season, there is now doubt that the 2013-2014 season was a successful one for the Hawkeyes. It was their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 and tied for the best regular season record during Fran McCaffery's tenure in Iowa City. If the program was looking to take a step forward, there is no doubt that they did so last season.
During that run, Iowa not only put together a resume that was good enough to be relevant in March, but also put together some wins that will not be soon forgotten. As time moves on, Iowa fans will likely view 2013-2014 with some frustration at what could have been, but will certainly look fondly at the good moments.
The Best Games Of Iowa Basketball In 2013-2014:
3. Iowa at Ohio State - Iowa 84-74
It's one thing to go on the road and win. It's another thing to go on the road and beat a team that has been as great as Ohio State in recent history. Maybe the Buckeyes have not been the single best team in the Big Ten every year, but they have been incredibly consistent. In fact, when this game occurred, the Buckeyes were sitting pretty at 15-1 and only lost on the road in overtime against a Top 5 ranked team in Michigan State. Most had Ohio State as a legitimate Final Four contender and to see Iowa go in there and beat Ohio State in Columbus was very impressive. At this point, people were not only discussing Iowa as an NCAA Tournament contender, but also as a Big Ten title and Final Four contender. The game may not have been as competitive as some of Iowa's other games like the MSU or Wisconsin games at home, but the positive impact this game had on Iowa's season earned its spot here.
2. Iowa vs. Tennessee - Tennessee 78-65 OT
Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, this game didn't end well. However, it deserves attention for a few reasons. First, it was Iowa's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. For some programs, making the big dance may not seem like that big of a deal, but for a program that is still trying to develop its identity with a new coach, getting into the big dance can really change things. Everybody has to start somewhere and this was a huge step for Iowa. With that in mind, it's also important to remember that this was a great game as well. The game went back and forth and Iowa ended up coming just short in overtime. What might take some of the sting out of the loss is the fact that Tennessee went on to the Sweet Sixteen and played a close game against Michigan before falling out of the NCAA Tournament. This may have been a "First Four" game, but both Iowa and Tennessee should have probably been in the Round of 64, so losing here is far from embarrassing for the Hawkeyes.
1. Michigan at Iowa - Iowa 85-67
This is a game that's going to rub some people the wrong way. Look, this game was never close. As a diehard Michigan fan, I can assure you that this game was not even competitive. Due to this, it might surprise some people to see this game as the #1 game of Iowa's 2013-2014 season. However, it's important to consider that competitiveness is just one factor taken into account here. For Iowa, this game may not have been as thrilling as making the NCAA Tournament, but it was easily the "high water" mark of Iowa's season. Regardless of how Iowa's season is perceived, there's no doubt that the wheel's came off late and things really went downhill. When Iowa beat Michigan at home, they were sitting at 18-6 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten. What's even more significant is that the Hawkeyes had not lost a "bad" game at that point either. When Iowa played Michigan at home, this is the list of losses the Hawkeyes had on the season: Iowa State (road); Michigan (road); MSU (home/OT); OSU (home); Villanova (neutral/OT); and Wisconsin (road). Not only did all those teams make the NCAA Tournament, but their average seed was just over a #3 seed. Not exactly something to hang your head about. When Iowa not only beat Michigan, but completely blew them off the court, the message was clear. Iowa had been dealt a tough opening stretch, had rebounded, and were deep into the run for the Big Ten title. Iowa won their next game against Penn State, but followed that game by finishing the season with a record of 1-7 including losses to Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern. It's hard to imagine the same team that blew eventual Big Ten champion Michigan off the court would have such a rough finish to the season. That final stretch will forever haunt 2013-2014 Iowa, but this Iowa win over Michigan deserves the #1 spot because it represents everything positive about the season.