Clearly, the pollsters haven’t been very impressed with anything the Iowa basketball team has done over the past few weeks.
After the Hawkeyes blew out Northern Iowa on Dec. 15, they dropped one spot in the Associated Press Top 25, falling from No. 22 to No. 23.
Following lopsided victories over Western Carolina and Savannah State, they dipped another notch in the poll, to No. 24.
After a narrow 72-67 escape Saturday against Bryant University, the Hawkeyes fell one more slot to No. 25 Monday in the final poll of the calendar year.
After barely scraping past a team that went 3-28 a year ago, they’re probably lucky to still be ranked at all.
But, as Fran McCaffery would be more than happy to point out, none of that really matters.
Polls provide great grist for conversation but when all is said and done, they’re meaningless.
The really important thing for the Hawkeyes at the moment is what they do on the playing floor, especially in the next week or so.
You could make a strong case for this being the most important week of the season for McCaffery and his team.
They began the Big Ten season with a pair of losses — to Wisconsin and Michigan State — and can’t really afford to dig themselves a deeper hole in the league standings if they hope to make the NCAA tournament. A loss Thursday in a tough road game at Purdue and another Sunday at home against 24th-ranked Nebraska would be very costly.
It won’t matter that the Hawkeyes went 11-0 in the non-conference season, including quality wins against Iowa State, Oregon and UConn, if they go 8-12 in the Big Ten. They probably need to go 10-10 in the league and it will be hard to get there from 0-4.
Although they have a five-game winning streak, they will need to play with much more fire and efficiency Thursday to have any sort of chance.
At first glance, it would appear that beating Purdue might be easier than it is in most seasons. The Boilermakers lost four starters from that rock solid team of a year ago and are only 8-5. They don’t appear to have their usual balance as only two starters average more than 7.3 points per game.
But those two — Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline — rank 1-2 in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals. Edwards ranks among the top five scorers in the country at 25.8 points per game.
And coach Matt Painter still has some other valuable pieces. Matt Haarms is a dominating shot-blocker, Nojel Eastern is a hard-nosed wing player and transfer Evan Boudreaux, who averaged more than 17 points and nine rebounds per game in two seasons at Dartmouth, has provided some offensive punch.
The Boilermakers have played one of the toughest schedules in the country and they don’t lose very often in Mackey Arena. It’s not going to be easy.
Time set: A game time finally has been set for Sunday’s home game against Nebraska. The contest will start at 4:30 p.m. and will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Good omen?: The last time Iowa went undefeated in nonconference games was 1986-87. That was the debut season of Dr. Tom Davis. The Hawkeyes won their first 17 games that season and finished 30-5.
Still Cooking: By collecting 19 points and 12 rebounds Saturday against Bryant, Tyler Cook became only the third Iowa player in the McCaffery era to have 15 or more points and five or more rebounds in seven straight games. Peter Jok and Aaron White were the others to do it.
Cook also played the full 40 minutes for the first time in his college career.
Impressive preseason: After going 11-2 over the weekend, Big Ten teams finished the non-conference portion of the schedule with a record of 121-32, a winning percentage of .791.
Iowa and No. 2-ranked Michigan were the only teams to go 11-0 in non-league games, but Ohio State, Minnesota and Nebraska were 10-1 and Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern were 9-2.
Winston wins: Michigan State’s Cassius Winston was named the Big Ten player of the week after making a career-high six 3-point field goal attempts and scoring 24 points in an 88-60 victory over Northern Illinois. Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis, who scored 21 points in a victory over Binghamton, was named the freshman of the week for the third time this season.