Ranked and Charging

Nov. 29, 2004

A little sun, a little basketball, and, now, a little national recognition.

Iowa’s men’s basketball team, fresh off a pair of victories over nationally ranked opponents last week at the 2005 EA Sports Maui Invitational, was rewarded Monday by the voters in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 who pegged the Hawkeyes as their No. 23 team.

Steve Alford’s squad, 3-1 heading into a game Tuesday at intrastate rival Drake in Des Moines, received a total of 367 points to finish as the third of four Big Ten Conference teams to included in AP’s elite list. Iowa defeated Louisville (17th) and Texas (18th) before falling to No. 9 North Carolina in the championship game of the Maui Invite.

After its game at Drake, Iowa plays five straight home games before squaring off against Bob Knight’s Texas Tech Red Raiders on Dec. 21 in the United Center in Chicago.

Iowa was at the top of the list of teams receiving votes who did not make it in ESPN’s men’s hoops Top 25.

“We’ve been here before, about a year ago to be exact,” Alford said Monday night during his weekly radio call-in show on the Hawkeye Radio Network. “I reminded the guys that we were 6-0 and spent exactly one day with a national ranking thanks to a loss the very next day at Northern Iowa.

“But, that was last year. We worked hard in Maui and played good basketball, and I think we are deserving of this recognition. Now, we simply have to roll up our sleeves and continue playing basketball like we know how and continue to improve because history shows that this game (Iowa at Drake) is not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination.”

Iowa plays at Drake on Tuesday before returning to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a Friday date with Centenary in first round action of the 2005 Gazette-Hawkeye Challenge. The field also includes Southern Mississippi and North Carolina-Greensboro.

“They’re going to give it their best shot,” Alford said of the Bulldogs, coached by Alford’s predecessor at Iowa, Tom Davis. “We simply have to respond with our best shot.

“We’ve had upbeat, enthusiastic practices since returning from Hawaii. I have every reason to believe we’ll be ready to play come Tuesday night,” he added.

In addition to the AP voters, CBS Sportsline’s Gregg Doyel also liked what he saw of Alford’s squad last week, suggesting that Iowa’s two wins in paradise were evidence of the fact that the Hawkeyes season will likely include a berth in the NCAA’s post-season party come March.