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By JAMES ALLAN
NEW YORK — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team is looking up in the preseason Big Ten Conference standings and that isn’t a bad thing.
The Hawkeyes were selected to finish eighth in the conference’s unofficial preseason media poll (the league doesn’t release an official poll). Michigan State was the unanimous favorite, boasting the preseason Player of the Year (Miles Bridges) and Freshman of the Year (Jaren Jackson, Jr.).
Purdue, Minnesota, and Northwestern rounded out the top four.
“We don’t pay much attention to it,” said sophomore Tyler Cook at the 2017 Big Ten Media Day at Madison Square Garden. “But we use it as motivation. We see where people have us slated to finish, then we think about where we want to finish.
“When those things don’t match up, we use that as fuel to our fire to start the season. We want to be solid defensively and offensively and do what we need to do to achieve our goals.”
The Hawkeyes won 19 games last season and finished 10-8 in the Big Ten to tie for fifth in the league standings. It was the program’s third straight top five Big Ten finish. Iowa is one of three teams to finish .500 or better in the Big Ten in each of the last five seasons.
“I can speak for the entire team, knowing we are all guys that don’t care what the outside says,” said sophomore Jordan Bohannon. “We know what we’re going to be capable of doing. We are the type of team that keeps working no matter what anyone says. We know what our potential is.”
Despite losing Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, McCaffery has a talented roster in 2017-18 with four starters and 12 lettermen returning. The talented quartet of Bohannon, Cook, Isaiah Moss, and Cordell Pemsl enters its sophomore season.
“I really like this team,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. “I say that all the time, but I mean it. It’s the deepest team we’ve had.”
Before going through Thursday’s Big Ten Media Day activities, the Big Ten student-athletes in attendance had a chance to see the Big Apple on a boat tour. The sights included the Statue of Liberty, financial district, and several burrows of New York City; the hotel was in the heart of Times Square.
It was an experience for New York City first-timers Bohannon and Cook.
“This city is amazing,” said Bohannon. “The sky scrapers, the people… Madison Square Garden. I was the only member of my family that had never been here before. It was awesome and the weather was perfect, but I couldn’t live here… too many people.”
“This has been exciting,” said Cook. “Being in New York City, the Garden, and among the bright lights in the city has been surreal. The energy in the city and the Garden getting ready for the Big Ten season is incredible.”
And it doesn’t matter where the Hawkeyes are picked, it only matters where they finish.
Iowa opens the 2017-18 season Oct. 27, hosting William Jewell College at 7 p.m. (CT) inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in an exhibition contest. Iowa’s season opener is Nov. 10 against Chicago State. Season tickets and select single-game tickets are available by calling the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-IA-HAWKS or visiting hawkeyesports.com.