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No Spring Break, No Problem For Iowa Players

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IOWA CITY Their peers are on spring break, soaking up the sun on South Padre Island or hitting the clubs along the Florida beaches.

Iowa's basketball players had their dream of an NCAA tournament appearance shattered on Sunday. The Hawkeyes earned a No. 3 seed in the National Invitation Tournament, which often means disinterested players going through the motions and dreaming of spring break.

Although it's cold outside and their season-long goals now are obsolete, Iowa players ignore sunny thoughts of Florida. They're thinking of New York City, site of the NIT finals.

"Spring break isn't really any fun if you're not playing basketball, really," Iowa guard Devyn Marble said. "I don't know what else I would find. I'm a guy who likes to travel and go to different places and stuff like that, so I'd rather be playing basketball. Our team feels the same way.

"Those days are over, having fun going on spring break. That was something I did my freshman year. I didn't really enjoy it that much. All I did was watch all the games on TV, so I might as well play in them. I don't think anybody is feeling like that (disinterested) at all."

But make no mistake: Iowa's players are plenty disappointed they aren't competing in the NCAA tournament. They watched Sunday's NCAA selection show from their houses and dorm rooms and felt the sting of disappointment when they weren't invited. The late mention of Iowa as one of the six best teams not to qualify was of no consolation, especially to players like senior Eric May.

May turned off his television Sunday and then met his teammates at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the NIT announcement. In that two-hour time frame he switched his mental focus from disappointment to opportunity.

"It was mixed emotions," May said. "You're getting really excited for that, seeing what could possibly happen. Once we figured it out, we moved on pretty quick and then it's on to see what we can do in the NIT. Go out here and get ready to win."

But it the NIT pairing didn't erase all the pain of this season. Marble couldn't shake a gut-wrenching Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss to Michigan State, nearly 48 hours after the game. Then to add the NCAA snub, Marble admits, "Yeah, I was mad. But who wouldn't be?"

That doesn't mean Iowa (21-12) won't be prepared for its NIT opener Wednesday against Indiana State (18-14). Same goes for the fans. Iowa's first-round NIT game last year against Dayton posted an NIT-best attendance of 13,190. By Tuesday, Iowa's NIT ticket sales hit nearly 15,000.

May said with the fan support coupled with a chance to finish his career at Madison Square Garden, his team needs to "raise the bar" and improve upon last year's two-game NIT performance.

"It's postseason play," May said. "If you look at the NIT, there's some good teams in there. There's a lot of teams that want to be playing right now that aren't. There's a lot of teams that want to be in the NIT but might not be in that. So, we're excited. We're ready to go. We've got a home-court game tomorrow."

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