IOWA CITY — For Iowa’s Devyn Marble, ratings rank second to results.
For the first time in 12 years, Iowa’s men’s basketball team entered the top 10 of both the Associated Press and coaches polls. The Hawkeyes (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) landed at 10th in both, their highest ranking since a No. 9 ranking on Jan. 1, 2002. That squad quickly fizzled out of the top 10, something this group of Hawkeyes hope to avoid.
Of course the players would love to stay in the top 10 because that means they’re continuing to win. But the ranking itself is only perception. The reality is, the players really don’t care.
“Sometimes it makes you wonder if we would have won the games that we lost that we probably should have won, where would we be?” Marble said Sunday. “But that’s in the past. Top 10, if it happens, it’s cool. But it doesn’t do anything. We have a lot of basketball yet to be played.”
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery has worked four years to put the Hawkeyes in this position. When he arrived, Iowa was 10-22. The attention is nice but hardly the destination McCaffery’s club.
“It speaks to the fact that we’re a good team,” McCaffery said. “It gets more people talking about my players, our players, and I’m happy for them that people are saying that about them because they’re the ones that did it. They’re the ones that worked extremely hard to take our program from where we were an afterthought to being a ranked team. I don’t want to shortchange what they’ve done. But in terms of how I look at it, I really could care less.”
Based on Monday’s polls, Iowa has six games left against opponents currently ranked in the top 25. That includes Wednesday’s game at No. 21/25 Michigan (6 p.m. BTN). The Wolverines (13-4, 5-0) re-entered the rankings after dispatching No. 9/8 Wisconsin 77-70 at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
Michigan steamrolled Iowa 95-67 last year at Crisler Center, and the Wolverines finished second in the NCAA tournament. Michigan boasts the Big Ten’s leading scorer in Nik Stauskas (18 ppg) and has won seven straight games. That’s enough to keep the Hawkeyes humble and their lofty ranking an afterthought.
“I’m trying to knock a couple of teams off the bucket list,” Marble said. “I’ve got Michigan. I want to get them there. It’s an important game because it’s the next one. Each game is important, especially in the race to try to get a Big Ten championship. So I’m trying to get these guys to look forward to now.”
While Iowa now has elevated into clear contender status, Iowa guard Mike Gesell bristled when asked if his team has “arrived” on the national scene.
“I don’t want to say that yet,” Gesell said. “Our goal is to win championships. That’s what we want to do. As far as I’m concerned, we haven’t proved anything yet. We’ve won a few ball games and we’re still very hungry and we’re going to go out there and try to get better every day and go out and compete.”