Iowa Gets Indiana State In The NIT

By Scott Dochterman, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa earned NCAA tournament consideration until the very end Sunday. But the Hawkeyes couldn't overcome several tight road losses and a weak non-conference schedule and missed the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight year.

"The last teams out were, in no particular order, they were Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Southern Miss, Tennessee, Virginia," NCAA selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski said Sunday night.

With its bubble burst, Iowa will compete in the National Invitation Tournament for the second consecutive year. Iowa (21-11) landed a third seed in its regional against Missouri Valley Conference's Indiana State (18-14). The teams will play at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said he didn't stress over whether the team would earn an NCAA spot or slip into the NIT.

"I really wasn't thinking about it one way or the other because I don't obsess over things I have no control over," McCaffery said. "But at this point in time, your fate is in the hands of committees."

McCaffery said his players handled the news "incredibly well."

"We're excited to be playing in the NIT and get ready to move forward and handle that challenge," he said.

Iowa likely fell out of NCAA tournament discussion for two reasons. The Hawkeyes' RPI of 79 was 12 spots worse than any team to ever qualify for the NCAA tournament. RPI is based on your record, your opponents' records and your opponents' opponents' records. Iowa scheduled five teams with an RPI worse than 300.

The Hawkeyes also were 2-8 on the road, lost four Big Ten games they led in the final two minutes and dropped two others in which they had double-digit, second-half leads.

"That's the transition of this team from becoming a middle-of-the-road Big Ten to an elite program in this league and eventually in the country," Iowa sophomore Aaron White said.

In the seeded NIT, Iowa might have to play two road games before the event's semifinals and finals conclude in New York's Madison Square Garden. UMass is the second seed, and Iowa would have to travel to Amherst should the Minutemen and Hawkeyes advance. Virginia is the regional's top-seeded team.

When McCaffery was relayed Bobinski's quote and then asked if he thought it was surprising Iowa wasn't seeded higher, McCaffery said, "In light of that, yeah, I guess."

"I think you always hope you're a little bit higher but you never know. Those rooms are difficult in so many different ways. I just look at are we in or not. I'm just happy that we're in."

Iowa has played Indiana State just once in 1940. The Sycamores are coached by former Iowa assistant Greg Lansing, a Harlan native. Current Iowa assistant Sherman Dillard was Indiana State's coach from 1994-1997.

The teams have two common opponents: Northern Iowa and Wichita State. Indiana State swept UNI, and the Hawkeyes beat the Panthers in Des Moines. The Sycamores split with Wichita State, which beat Iowa in the Cancun Challenge.

Indiana State also owns impressive wins over NCAA tournament teams Miami and Ole Miss. Junior Jake Odum was a first-team all-MVC selection at 13.4 points per game.

"We're thrilled to play a phenomenal field," McCaffery said. "I have tremendous respect for their conference, for Indiana State, the job they did this year and some of the impressive wins that they had. They've got some really good players.

"We know what's in store for us."

Iowa and Indiana State also are part of the eight-team Great Alaska Shootout next November.

This will be Iowa's seventh appearance in the NIT and second consecutive. The Hawkeyes were 1-1 last year, beating Dayton in the opener before losing at Oregon. Iowa's all-time NIT record is 5-6.
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