That being said, what I hope to see in the program is some consistency, some stability from year to year. That hasn't always been the case in the Steve Alford era. And while I still think its too soon to say that is what we are seeing, at least the trends are positive.
First, lets take a look at some consistent runs put up by the program through the years.
Lute Olson Era
That five year run was something, and if you lived through it like I did, those are perhaps some of your fondest memories of Iowa basketball. For me, it's the reason that I am a Hawkeye fan, and why Iowa Basketball is something I care a lot about.
At that time, Iowa Basketball players were royalty, and Coach Olson was their King. It was about that time where the majority of Iowa games began being televised, and the Iowa Coach grew into an iconic figure. That wasn't something that Coach Olson and his wife Bobbie were all that excited about, unfortunately. But it was a sign of the times….enough on that.
Three straight second place finishes after the Final Four year of 79-80, The Fieldhouse was a snake pit and demand for Hawkeye tickets was very high. Carver-Hawkeye Arena was built partly due to this success and the amazing demand. Those were heady, steady times. Consistency was the hallmark, as was excellence.'
Tom Davis Era
Davis inherited some amazing talent from George Raveling. You have heard me say that about 1,000 times through the years. Davis' first team went 30-5, and is one of the best teams in college basketball history to have not won a national title. I am not the only person that feels that way, and I have heard others outside the state of Iowa say as much. That team was ranked #1 in the nation for a stretch and Tom Davis was the AP Coach of the Year. His style met the perfect collection of talent at exactly the right time.
It still amazes me that the teams led by BJ Armstrong, Roy Marble and Ed Horton never won a conference title, and I am still slightly bitter about the 1987 tourney loss to UNLV.
The most consistent aspect of the Davis era was not greatness, or near greatness, which was the hallmark of the Olson era. Davis' signature, aside from the press, zone defense and the bounce pass, was getting to and winning games in the NCAA tournament. He was at Iowa for 13 years, and 10 of those years ended with an NCAA tournament appearance. And under Davis, Iowa never lost a first round game in the NCAA tournament.
Steve Alford Era
03-04: 4th (16-13/9-7 NIT)
Alford didn't inherit a lot, something he had in common with Lute. And after it the wheels had seemingly come off the 2000-2001 season, one that had been so promising 17 games in, a Top 15 ranking and a great looking team only to see Iowa lose 7 of its last 8 games after Luke Recker and Ryan Hogan were lost to injuries, Alford's team had a Big Ten tourney run for the ages, winning four games in four days as the 6th seed. Reggie Evans was a beast on the boards, collecting 51 caroms in four games as Iowa punched its ticket to the NCAA tourney. It beat Creighton in round one, Alford's lone tourney win, before losing to Kentucky in round two.
The next year saw a preseason Top 10 ranking and then a hard fall from grace. Unfortunately, the trends of the first five years of the Alford era were off court problems, such as playing favorites, players transferring, academic casualties, be they players on the team or those that never made it to campus.
And while the 03-04 team didn't make it to the Big Dance, it won nine league games. And while the 04-05 team lost five of seven games in February, it somehow reeled off five straight wins, including a win against a much more talented Michigan State team in the Big Ten Tournament to earn an invitation to the NCAA tourney.
Then last year's team won 25 games, the second highest single season total in school history, it went undefeated at home, it finished one game out of first place for the regular season conference title (and beat champ Ohio State the two times they played) and won the Big Ten tournament title. Unfortunately, the Northwestern State loss took a lot of the luster off of that great season. Too much, perhaps.
Then this year's team finished fourth in the Big Ten in a year where no one, not even Marty Gallagher, picked them to finish fourth place.
I doubt that this year's season will end with an NCAA bid, but it should be an NIT bid.
No, the bar has not been lowered to where that is acceptable, but programs like Iowa's are not immune to regular, run of the mill rebuilding years that are not brought about by defections, transfers, etc.
But its been a solid year. Recruiting seems to be picking up and the coaches are very optimistic. Realistically optimistic, in my opinion. I'll leave the attendance numbers over the last five years for a different article, a different day.
A second and fourth place finish in back to back years is hardly a reason to go long on Hawk Hoop Stock. But here's to hoping that it really is the start of a good trend.