Iowa left the cold weather of the Midwest behind as it headed to the Bahamas this week. The Hawkeyes are bringing their first AP Top 25 ranking since 2006 with them.
The No. 23 Hawkeyes look to solidify their standing in the poll when they take on fellow unbeaten Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament Thursday night.
Iowa (5-0) jumped into the Top 25 this week for the first time since the poll of March 6, 2006, after Friday's 86-55 victory over Penn, coach Fran McCaffery's alma mater.
"I am happy for the players," McCaffery said of the ranking. "In some ways, it creates more interest and more people talk about you. I don't think about it very much, I am thinking about the next game.
"When you talk about the rankings, I get about why we talk about it in the process, but when it's all said and done, the most important ranking that matters is at the end of the year."
Reserve forward Jarrod Uthoff scored a season-high 19 points Friday, going 6 of 7 from the field and making all six free throws.
Uthoff, who sat out as a redshirt at Wisconsin in 2011-12 and then missed last season after transferring to Iowa, is third on the team with 11.8 points per game and second with 6.8 rebounds.
"I didn't really know how long it'd take me for the rust to come off," Uthoff said. "I've been playing basketball every day since, but game situations are a lot different. I didn't know what to expect."
Iowa has posted an average victory margin of 38.0 points in winning its first five games at home and is allowing 54.6 points per contest, while coming into the week with the nation's best field-goal defense at 31.2 percent. Teams have taken 122 3-pointers against the Hawkeyes, missing 102.
Penn, however, was its first major-conference opponent. The competition will change significantly this week, with Tennessee, Villanova, USC, No. 2 Kansas and Wake Forest all potential opponents in the final two games of the tournament.
"With all due respect to the five teams we've played, we're stepping up in class with this group coming up," McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes would be wise not to overlook Xavier (5-0), which is coming off a 93-65 victory over Abilene Christian on Monday and has a victory over the Volunteers among its five wins. Semaj Christon scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures for the Musketeers, who also outrebounded the Wildcats 45-21.
Matt Stainbrook powered Xavier's dominant inside game, as the 6-foot-10 center had nine points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocks. Stainbrook, averaging 10.2 points, 9.2 boards and 2.6 blocks, went 4 of 4 from the field.
James Farr added 14 points and eight rebounds, and the 6-9 forward went 5 of 5 from the floor and 4 for 4 from the free-throw line.
Xavier is now looking forward to facing Iowa after also playing its first five games at home.
"We're very excited about that," Farr said. "Each time we get to play a team like that, it just gets us a step closer to the NCAA tournament.
"At the same time, we just act like we're at the bottom of the map working our way up."
These teams have met twice, with Xavier taking the most recent meeting 86-73 on Nov. 19, 2010.
- Sports & Recreation