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Iowa now off to its best start in 16 years after beating Minnesota

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Aaron White, left, and the Hawkeyes look to be among the best in college hoops. (USATSI)
Aaron White, left, and the Hawkeyes look to be among the best in college hoops. (USATSI)

At 15-3, Iowa is now off to its best start since 1997-98, when it also began that campaign by winning 15 of its first 18 games. The Hawkeyes got their latest W on Sunday, coming back from a 10-point deficit at home to beat Minnesota 94-73.

Count it up, and yep, that's a 31-point swing amid a 53-30 second half advantage for the best team most don't know (nearly enough) about. Do you realize, according to KenPom.com, that Iowa is the third-fastest offensive team in the country? Yes, Iowa, a group from the Big Ten, which is a league that's clearly proven it's better in basketball than formidable in football. These guys can move, and they can score. They've put up 80 points or more in all but three games this season, and entering Sunday, Iowa was scoring 86.4 per game, fifth-most in the nation; only Oregon (88.4) was ahead in terms of teams from major conferences.

So, yes, Iowa's damn good, folks. And it's now 4-1 in the Big Ten, which is its best start in the league since 1998-99. On Sunday it was Aaron White, a Big Ten Second-Teamer at worst, who had 18 points in the second half and helped surge the Hawkeyes to the win. Josh Oglesby -- coming off the pine and sinking five treys -- added a season-high 17 points. Devyn Marble, probably Iowa's best player, added 16, 15 of those in the second half.

"We had a lot of guys that I'm comfortable with having out there knowing that we have a team that can still score even though we're behind," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told the media afterward.

Andre Hollins put up 20 for the Golden Gophers, but he only got points by way of free throws in the second half, and the effort on defense was among the best for McCaffery's team that we've seen this season. Minnesota's now 14-5, with losses against the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and Syracuse. None of those decisions were as wide in deficit as what Iowa did on Sunday.

Now Iowa, currently ranked No. 14, has a very good chance at cracking the top 10 come Monday's poll release. McCaffery doesn't give a damn about that, though, and nor should he.

"You know, I understand why people talk about it, and I think it's great that people are talking about us that way," McCaffery said. "But I just think it's irrelevant. It's where are you ranked at the end of the year. It speaks to the fact that we're a good team. It gets more people talking about my players, our players, and I'm happy for them that people are saying that about them because they're the ones that did it. They're the ones that worked extremely hard to take our program from where we were an after thought to being a ranked team. I don't want to shortchange what they've done. But in terms of how I look at it, I really could care less."

The coach most known for his tirades and ejections is quickly doing a very nice job of winning fast and doing it quickly enough to redefine his reputation.

Some tests, and likely at least one loss, are forthcoming; three of the next four come on the road for the Hawkeyes. The Wednesday road tilt against Michigan is very intriguing due to the Wolverines somehow starting off 5-0 in the Big Ten. That team, without Mitch McGary, could have a huge say in the regular-season title if it was able to beat Iowa.

But only three teams have been able to do that so far this season, and those teams (Villanova, Iowa State, Wisconsin) have a combined 46-6 record. With a win over Michigan State on Jan. 28 -- Iowa's next home game -- it would tie the Carver-Hawkeye Arena record at 21 in a row. It's a big season of change, and high time we started noticing the speedy resurgence emanating from a once-sleepy program.

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