Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery was holding out hope that his team would be selected for the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
But when the brackets were revealed live on CBS, the Hawkeyes were going through a practice, not watching television. What they didn’t see was a graphic listing Iowa as one of the first four teams to miss the cut for an at-large bid to the Big Dance. The consolation prize is a top seed in the 32-team National Invitation Tournament.
Iowa’s next game will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday against eighth-seeded South Dakota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It will be televised on ESPN2.
McCaffery told reporters in a Sunday night teleconference that he didn’t address the missed opportunity with his players.
“I felt like we were right there for the NCAA Tournament, so to be given a 1 seed is a great accomplishment for our players,” he said of the NIT.
“We knew we’d be playing (at least one more game). We just wanted to get our guys ready.”
Iowa carries an 18-14 record into the postseason after losing 95-73 to Indiana on Thursday in the Big Ten Conference Tournament in Washington, D.C. That snapped a four-game winning streak and likely kept the Hawkeyes out of the NCAA Tournament. California, Illinois State and Syracuse joined Iowa as the teams closest to getting into the NCAA, and all were awarded No. 1 seeds in the NIT.
That means Iowa will get to play at home three times if it keeps winning. The winner of Wednesday's game will meet the winner of the TCU-Fresno State contest at a date and time to be determined. Second-round games will be played Friday through Monday. Clemson is the second seed in Iowa's quadrant and Alabama is third.
McCaffery said the NIT can be a learning experience for his young team, since it rewards squads that can thrive in a win-or-go-home scenario when facing unfamiliar opponents with little time to prepare.
“We have to process information very quickly. That’s what you have to do when you get to tournament play in order to advance. You’ve got to be able to assimilate that information and execute it on the floor,” McCaffery said. “And then you’ve got to do it again, and again, and again, and again. That’s what playing in March is all about.”
The Coyotes are 22-11 and winners of the regular-season title in the Summit League. They lost to South Dakota State in the conference tournament semifinals.
Former Hawkeye point guard Trey Dickerson averages 10.4 points per game for South Dakota. Shooting guard Matt Mooney is the Coyotes’ leading scorer at 18.5 points.
The NIT is using experimental rules akin to those in women’s basketball. The halves will be divided into 10-minute segments, with team fouls reset at zero. Free throws will be awarded after a team’s fourth foul, and all will be two shots. In addition, the shot clock will be set at 20 seconds whenever the ball is inbounded in a team’s front court.
McCaffery said he doesn’t have a problem with the different rules and that they won’t alter his game preparation. That began with an analysis of the film of the Indiana game. The Hawkeyes will quickly turn their attention to South Dakota next, and not dwell on missing out on the NCAAs, McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes played in the NIT in 2012 and '13 under McCaffery, going 5-2. In 2013, Iowa reached the title game but lost to Baylor.
Iowa played in the NCAA Tournament the past three seasons.
Men’s basketball season ticket-holders and I-Club contributors can order NIT tickets through noon Monday. A limit of 10 tickets per household has been established at the regular rate of $20 for adults and $5 for youths. All fans can order tickets after 1 p.m. Monday. Tickets will be available during normal business hours at the ticket office on the north side of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, over the phone at 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or online at hawkeyesports.com/basketballtickets. The ticket office windows are open daily from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Parking will be $5, and only Lot 46 will be reserved for the game.
The final four teams in the NIT go to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the semifinals and championship. McCaffery said it’s inevitable that people will talk to his players — which include six freshmen and four sophomores — about the possibility of competing in one of America’s most renowned arenas.
“It’s OK to talk about it. But what you can’t do is forget the fact that to get to New York you’ve got to beat three really good teams and that’s really hard to do,” McCaffery said.
“If we play the way we played against Indiana, we’re not going to get to New York. That’s the bottom line.”