Hawkeyes finish basketball season with top-25 ranking

Chad Leistikow

IOWA CITY, Ia. — It may be mostly symbolic, but Fran McCaffery’s 2015-16 Iowa basketball team achieved something his first five didn’t: a top-25 ranking in the final national polls.

The Hawkeyes, despite losing seven of their final 10 games, hung on to finish No. 25 in the final USA TODAY Coaches Poll released Tuesday. The 32 coaches dropped Iowa only one spot after going 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament, that 87-68 loss coming to eventual national champion Villanova.

Iowa also finished No. 25 in the final Associated Press poll, which was released prior to the NCAA Tournament.

Fran McCaffery, shown Dec. 29 against Michigan State, presided over a team that finished 22-11 and for the second straight year tied for third in the Big Ten at 12-6.

The Hawkeyes roared into the coaches’ poll at No. 23 on Jan. 4 after back-to-back wins over then-No. 1 Michigan State and Purdue to open the Big Ten Conference season. They soared to as high as No. 4 after a 7-0 Big Ten start and 16-3 overall record, but after getting to 19-4, they gradually slipped to Tuesday’s finishing point at 22-11 and No. 25.

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Still, it’s something that McCaffery can trumpet — that for the sixth straight year, his program took a next step … however gradual it may seem. The progression: 11-20 in Year 1, NIT berth in Year 2, NIT championship game in Year 3, NCAA Tournament First Four loss in Year 4, NCAA first-round win in Year 5 and NCAA first-round win plus final ranking in Year 6.

The Hawkeyes wound up being ranked in the final 12 coaches’ polls of the season. Iowa hadn't been ranked to finish a season since 2006.