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Local Sports

March Madness will be without Iowa flavor

After both Iowa and Iowa State got off to slow starts to their conference seasons, I posted on social media that I thought no one from the state of Iowa would make the NCAA Tournament.

I thought both big schools from the state had a shot early in the conference season. Iowa started 0-2 in Big Ten Conference play but had just beaten a Colorado team which now has an RPI of 73.

Then the Hawkeyes lost at home to Michigan. That’s when I felt it was essentially over. They followed the Michigan loss up with a home loss to Ohio State and a road loss to Maryland. Starting 0-5 is just too much to overcome. Especially with an RPI of 172.

While Iowa had an NCAA Tournament expectations, the Cyclones are in rebuild mode after losing several standout seniors the past two seasons. Iowa State is young but talented. I just don’t think they can win enough games in a loaded Big 12 Conference to make the dance.

The Cyclones are the only team in the Big 12 not ranked in the top 50 in the KenPom rankings. They also have an RPI of 110.

Northern Iowa may have been the biggest surprise. The Panthers started off really strong, recording some solid non-conference wins. At one point, UNI’s RPI was in the top 20 nationally. But after a slow start to the Missouri Valley Conference season, UNI’s current RPI is 126 and that’s before Wednesday’s loss.

For those that are unaware, an NCAA Division I team typically needs an RPI of less than 70 to earn an at-large bid into March Madness.

That brings me to Drake. What a story. The Bulldogs won seven games in each of the past two seasons but have begun the Nico Medved era 4-1 in the Valley.

Drake is doing what no one expected. The Bulldogs were expected to be a few years away and the worst team in the state of Iowa.

My hot take is that the Bulldogs are probably still the worst team. UNI could get that distinction after the two teams meet in conference play.

But Iowa drilled Drake at Wells Fargo Arena earlier this season. And Iowa State appears to be in a better place right now than the Hawkeyes.

When my post about no teams will play in the NCAA tournament went live on social media, one of my friends who graduated from Drake and works for the university asked “not even Drake?”

That was when the Bulldogs were just 2-0 in the Valley. My quick response was no. That’s not me hating on Drake. I want them to make it. It’d be fun cheering for someone from Iowa come March.

But even at 4-1 in the Valley, Drake’s RPI is around 135. Of the four instate schools, only Iowa’s RPI is worse.

Unless some drastic changes happen, the NCAA Tournament will not have an Iowa team in it this season.

Iowa State is in a great spot under Steve Prohm. The Cyclones are just too young, but the future is bright, and the next recruiting class is strong, too.

UNI is mysterious. The Panthers are always competitive under coach Ben Jacobson. I am not sure why they can’t crack the win column in the Valley. It’s hard to count them out beyond this year though as long as Jacobson is still there.

Drake has five seniors. The success may have come because all of those seniors finally reached their potential in their final seasons.

It may be the Medved Effect. He’s obviously proving to be a great hire, but he’ll have to replenish the roster in a big way this offseason.

The Hawkeyes are just a complete mess. It’s mostly because of roster construction. Coach Fran McCaffery has built this team on tall, lanky stretch 4s. The lack of guards is glaring.

Iowa only loses one senior. Most of this roster is back. They’ll be a year older but unless McCaffery can nicely tell a few players they’d be better off somewhere else and add some point guards, we may be seeing this same story all over again next year.

Contact Troy Hyde at

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