IOWA CITY, Iowa - For the first time in a long time, the Iowa men's basketball team is confronted with prosperity. Handling it is the newest challenge for the rising program.
The No. 14 Hawkeyes (14-3 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) still are receiving positive national publicity after Sunday's 84-74 upset of then third-ranked Ohio State in Columbus. A few analysts, including ESPN's Seth Greenberg, predicts they'll be in the Final Four.
Nobody at Iowa was complaining about the attention during Thursday's press conference here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It beat the alternative for a program that last went to the NCAA Tournament in 2005-06.
Encouragingly, the Hawkeyes appear to understand how this whole hoopla train travels.
"Obviously everyone is talking about us nationally, which is great, but it's amazing. It was only one game," Junior Forward Aaron White said. "That gets us all this hype but we're still doing the same things. We still have the same mindset that we had before that game.
"It's good that the national media is talking about us but you never can get too high or too low; just keep a level head and get to work like we've been doing."
Iowa has the week off before returning to action Sunday when it plays host to Minnesota (Noon CT, BTN). Six players in the Hawkeye rotation are upperclassmen who never have experienced the Big Dance. They're not satisfied by one big win over the Buckeyes.
"It really doesn't matter to us," Senior Forward Melsahn Basabe said of the positive press. "At the end of the day, you still have to have to play the games. You're not going to win the games just because the media is talking about you.
"Its good when you get the attention. Everybody likes getting the attention. But it really doesn't matter. Like Aaron said, we've been playing like this all season.
"Now it's just about us staying within ourselves and everybody just picking each other up; just keeping your eye on the prize because it's really far from over. You've seen teams have 15-2 starts and not make the NCAA Tournament. So, you never can get ahead of yourself."
The Hawkeyes are hungry and mature despite their absence from the March tournament that matters most. They're focused to change that.
"As we move forward, if we lose, it's going to be because we lose to a good team," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "It's not going to be because (they got distracted by the recent hype)."
If nothing else, Iowa can strive to win the school's first Big Ten regular season title since 1979. It's last outright championship was in '70.
While only one game, Iowa showed growth in Columbus after almost breaking through against top-flight teams away from home earlier in the season. It led Top 10 programs Iowa State, Wisconsin and Villanova at halftime before falling in the end.
Trailing by two at the intermission, the Buckeyes rallied for a nine-point lead midway through the second. Instead of allowing past failures to defeat them again, the Hawkeyes responded to adversity and closed out the biggest win in McCaffery's four years as head coach.
"It's the nature of the guys we have," McCaffery said of the team's composure. "It's also a function of experience. We have more experience than we've ever had before. They're better equipped to deal with those kinds of things. That's what you're seeing."
That maturity also allows McCaffery to lighten their physical workload this week with a four-games in nine-days stretch beginning Sunday.
"We've practiced well but we haven't killed them," McCaffery said.