The Iowa men's basketball program is earning national respect six months from the start of 2013-14 training camp.
With 25 wins, a run to the NIT championship game and nearly 93 percent of its scoring returning next year, Iowa has a pedigree to make a move next year. Some national media sites also are taking notice.
Within hours of the national title game, which Louisville won 82-76 over Michigan, a few national websites have put together early versions of next year's preseason rankings. The USA Today's Scott Gleeson has Iowa 16th. ESPN's Jason King ranked Iowa 25th.
As for Iowa's possibilities in the Big Ten, that depends largely on the league's returning stars. Iowa finished sixth this year in Big Ten play.
No. 16. Iowa (25-13, lost in NIT final): The Hawkeyes were extremely close to netting an NCAA tournament bid in 2012-13, eventually falling to the NIT due to several narrow losses to Big Ten powers Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Returning starters Mike Gesell, Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White led Iowa to the NIT championship game. That experience will give Iowa the confidence it needs to turn those close losses into wins come next season.
25. Iowa Hawkeyes: The Hawkeyes missed the NCAA tournament, but they should feel good about going 9-9 in the rugged Big Ten and finishing second in the NIT. Both were major accomplishments for a rapidly improving program. Don't be surprised if 2013-14 is the season when Iowa really turns the corner. Every key player will return from a team that went 25-13 overall. Included in that mix are leading scorers Roy Devyn Marble (15 points) and Aaron White (12.8), who also averaged a team-high 6.2 rebounds. With teams such as Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and likely Michigan losing a lot, the well-coached Hawkeyes have a chance to finish as high as third in the Big Ten while earning an NCAA tournament bid for the first time since 2006.
For a look back, here's last week's introductions at Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship game against Baylor: