Recapping challenges of Iowa men’s basketball since Tom Davis’ departure
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I'm sure that next level we were promised is coming any year now https://t.co/4bvFeSImYp
— adam s (@TheNotoriousADS) March 19, 2018
ANSWER: At the time when Tom Davis’ contract was not renewed following the 1998-99 season, the Iowa men’s basketball program historically was one of the Big Ten’s most successful.
Davis took the Hawkeyes to the Sweet 16 that year for the eighth time in school history. That NCAA Tournament appearance marked the 19th for the program, which was tied with Illinois for the second-most in Big Ten history. I repeat, after the 1999 tourney, Iowa was tied for the second-most NCAA Tournament appearances among Big Ten squads. That was more than Michigan (even with forfeitures included), Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue or future member Maryland. Only Indiana had more.
Even in 2009, Iowa was ranked as the 10th-best program in college basketball history by Sagarin/ESPN.
Since Davis’ departure, Iowa has slid from historically competitive to regularly irrelevant. The Hawkeyes have qualified for six NCAA Tournament appearances in 19 years with three wins and no Sweet 16 appearances the last 19 years. The program had advanced to five Sweet 16 rounds over the previous 19 seasons, including a Final Four and an Elite Eight.
Nine Big Ten schools — Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Maryland — have played in the Sweet 16 since Iowa’s last appearance. Seven of them have reached the NCAA title game over that span. But no program has replaced Iowa in the Big Ten basketball hierarchy the way Wisconsin has.
After the 1999 season, the Badgers had played in only five NCAA Tournaments, with just one win since 1947. Outside of Northwestern, Wisconsin was the Big Ten’s perpetual basketball loser. From 2000 onward, the Badgers qualified for every NCAA Tournament until this year. While Iowa hasn’t advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 19 years, Wisconsin has 10 appearances, including three in the Final Four.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has three NCAA appearances and two of the three NCAA wins, so the fault is not his alone. Former coaches Steve Alford and Todd Lickliter, as well as former and current athletics directors Bob Bowlsby and Gary Barta, bear at least as much — if not more — responsibility. But the latest generation of Iowa basketball bears no resemblance to the previous version, and that’s a shame.
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