Iowa men's basketball team ranks sixth in initial coaches' poll, highest of Big Ten teams
The Iowa men's basketball team is ranked sixth in the initial USA TODAY Sports men’s basketball coaches poll of the season.
It is the first time in coach Fran McCaffery's 11 seasons leading the Hawkeyes that they have been ranked heading into a season, which is set to begin Nov. 25. On Monday, Iowa checked in a fifth in the Associated Press poll, voted on by writers.
It is the highest Iowa has been ranked in the coaches' poll since January 2016. The Hawkeyes finished last season at No. 25 in the poll.
Iowa is the highest-ranked of the six Big Ten Conference teams in the poll. Wisconsin is one spot behind; Illinois is No. 10.
Iowa is coming off a 20-11 season, but returns seven players with starting experience, notably senior center Luka Garza who was named a unanimous preseason all-American this week. Garza averaged 23.9 points a year ago.
The Hawkeyes are also aided by the return from surgery of guard Jordan Bohannon and Jack Nunge.
McCaffery, who scheduled a matchup with preseason No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 19 in South Dakota, said Monday that he believes his team is ready to contend for a championship.
"They're a special group of young people that truly love each other, and they put the time in. And when you see a group work as hard as they have, you want them to succeed in a way that's special, and that would be a championship, whether it be a (Big Ten) regular season or a tournament championship," McCaffery said. "A run in the NCAA Tournament is obviously what we all want.
"It's there for them as a possibility, but it's a long journey to make it happen."
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.