The Iowa Hawkeye men's basketball team has skyrocketed into the Top 5 of both the AP & USA Today Coaches polls. It's a place the program hasn't been in a very long time but there's similarities to the last team to get there and one big difference.

Iowa moved from #9 to #3 in the AP poll and from #9 to #4 in the Coaches poll. The #3 ranking in the AP poll is the highest since Iowa held down that spot December 8, 1987. Iowa hasn't been ranked in the top five since January of '89.

The 1988-'89 season, Iowa's squad featured Roy Marble, B.J. Armstrong, Ed Horton, Ray Thompson, and Matt Bullard. They all averaged, at least, nine points per game with the first four all averaging more than 11.5 per contest. That team would finish the season 23-10 and be ranked in the nation's top five four different weeks from early December through early January. That squad was also a pre-season Top 10.

Fast forward to this year's team. Not ranked in the pre-season, but on a meteoric rise the past several weeks. The Hawks are 7-0 in the Big 10 for the first time since the 1969-70 season. Their 16-3 start is the best since the 1986-'87 squad opened 18-0. This year's team also has terrific scoring balance, albeit not as high-scoring as that late-80's team. Through this season's first 19 games, Jarrod Uthoff leads the way at 18.9 points per game followed by Peter Jok (14.7), Adam Woodbury (8.9), Mike Gesell (8.8), Anthony Clemmons (8.6), Dom Uhl (7.4), and Nicholas Baer (5.2). How do you defend all that balance? Opposing defenses are struggling with it.

Iowa also doesn't turn the ball over very often. This year's team is averaging 9.9 turnovers per game. The 1988-'89 squad averaged more than 15 giveaways per contest. They also lost five conference games from February 9 through March 8, reminding us there's still a long way to go this year.

Thursday night brings a visit to Maryland. The Terrapins are ranked 8th in the AP poll and #7 by the USA Today Coaches poll. The target on Iowa's back continues to grow and Thursday night brings one of the biggest tests of the year. I think Fran and the Hawks will be ready and I can't wait 'til the 6 p.m. tip-off on ESPN. How 'bout you?

The Iowa State men's team is ranked #14 in this week's AP poll and 16th in the USA Today Coaches rankings. The Cyclones host Kansas (#4 AP/#3 USA Today) tonight at 8 in Ames. That game is also televised by ESPN. What a week for these two in-state powers. Is this fun or what?!

[via Iowa Sports Information]