IOWA CITY — The Iowa basketball team is on the national radar now.
After an 84-74 victory on the road Sunday against Ohio State, which was then ranked No. 3 in the country, seemingly every national expert is heaping praise on the Hawkeyes. They jumped up six notches in the Associated Press poll, to No. 14, this week. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has them projected as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa fans have taken notice, too, snapping up every remaining ticket for every home game this season.
The challenge now is to see how the Hawkeyes handle success and this newfound national notoriety.
Head coach Fran McCaffery said Thursday he has no worries about that as the Hawkeyes prepare to host an up-and-coming Minnesota squad Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I think as we move forward, if we lose, it's going to be because we lose to a good team," he said.
His players also don’t seem concerned about over-confidence or complacency.
“I think we’re a pretty level-headed team," senior guard Devyn Marble said. “We haven’t really had this before so to some extent, we need to be careful with it. I haven’t been able to tell anything being around the guys. I think we approach every game with the same intensity and energy level …
“We have higher goals than just being ranked and getting high praise in the national media. We know what we want to get accomplished this season and what it’s going to take to get there."
Junior forward Aaron White said he actually is a bit amused that the outside world suddenly has taken notice of the 14-3 Hawkeyes.
“We win one game on CBS and people are saying ‘Can Iowa make the Final Four?’" he said. “I think it’s kind of funny, to be honest with you."
White said he and his teammates always knew they were this good. He said this doesn’t alter their perception a bit.
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“And we’re still getting better, which might be the scary thing," he said. “I don’t think we’ve played the perfect game yet obviously. But I believe in our coaches and our guys that we’re a top team. I don’t really care what the national guys say or what other people think because of one game, whether it’s a loss or a win."
McCaffery and the players also were delighted to hear that every remaining home game is sold out.
The Hawkeyes have had four previous sellouts this season and Marble said he feels that on at least one occasion, against Notre Dame on Dec. 3, it played a major role in helping the Hawkeyes win.
McCaffery said the fact that the remaining games are all sold out is a testament to way team has played.
“We're just really excited that it's going to be like that," he said. “I don't think there is any question we'd all agree that you're going to play better in that atmosphere."