It's hard to say for sure, but your first place Hawkeyes sit atop the standings at 6-2 on February 3rd. As for 2/03/06, it's the latest Iowa has been atop the standings this late into a season since 1982 when that Iowa team started 10-1 in the league to later finish in a tie for second at 12-6.
Either way, it hasn't happened all that much.
What is a good way to notice if fans are jumping back on the bandwagon?
Lower levels of hostility on the message boards is one thing I look at, and we have seen that here at HawkeyeNation.com. Sure, there is a ‘faction' that is still very skeptical and probably always will be, but some long-time dissenters are starting to make their way out of the woodwork a little bit more and are voicing their guarded optimism for what they are seeing.
Another factor that one can look at is fannies in the seats of Carver Hawkeye Arena. It was announced on Thursday that Iowa's season finale against Wisconsin is now a sellout. Of Iowa's other three remaining home games against Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, the game against the Nittany Lions is the only non-sellout. Iowa's last home game against Ohio State was also a sellout.
So that means that at least four of Iowa's last five home games will be played before a full house. Not too shabby, based on what we have seen in recent years.
I think people are starting to like this team because it's breaking some negative tendencies we have seen in recent seasons. To date, there have been ZERO off court issues. To date, Iowa has not lost a game in league play that it clearly should have won.
Last night's game against Purdue is an example of this year's team ‘bucking' its recent trends. I know that some of you were thinking, ‘Here it is; here is where things revert to the past.' Iowa was down by eight points at halftime and they couldn't throw the ball into the ocean from the beach while Purdue was scoring at will.
But then the Hawks score 52 points in the second half and pick up their second road win of the year. ‘Old' Iowa teams might have found a way to have lost that game; Iowa lost at Purdue one year ago, in fact.
Not this year.
Another thing we are seeing this year is Iowa changing defenses in games and really mixing it up. After getting inexplicably torched inside in the first half last night, Iowa mixed in a little 1-2-2 zone and that moved Purdue to the outside where it could not get its shots to fall.
It's not time to put on the party hats and break out the kazoos, but this team is exactly halfway through it's league schedule, which also means its 73.3 percent done with its regular season. On a senior-laden team, that gives one more confidence that what we are seeing has a chance to remain consistent in the second half of the season.
It all starts on Saturday against Michigan. This is a frightening game for Iowa, as Michigan just creates so many mismatches for the Hawkeyes. They have some agile big men and some explosive guards. In fact, there might not be a more talented team in the league man one through eight.
However, Michigan will not have 15,500 screaming fans backing them on Saturday. Know this; this Iowa team is feeding off of you, Hawkeye fan. They know that you are believing in them and that allows them to more easily believe in themselves.
If you have been to Kinnick Stadium in recent years, you know how the love affair the team has experienced with its fans and it seemed to pour out of Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge as if they could not contain all of it. It's what makes Kinnick one of the toughest places to play in college football.
Steve Alford's players are starting to get that feeling, too.
NUMBERS & NOTES
In Big Ten play, Iowa is 6-2 despite outscoring its opponents by a total of six points…four the fourth game in a row, Iowa will face the team that is leading the Big Ten in three-point percentage…Iowa is #1 in the league in rebounding margin at +4.5…Michigan's Daniel Horton is third in the league in scoring at 18.6 points per game. He is also 40 of 40 from the free throw line and is second in steals…