IOWA CITY, Iowa — Unlike the past few years when Iowa’s players, team personnel and a few select donors gathered in the Feller Club Room to take in the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, this time the team was on the basketball court.
The Hawkeyes (18-14) worked off any nervousness about possible NCAA Tournament slotting during a team practice concurrent with the bracket reveal. Players and coaches found out later they were one of the four last teams left out of the 68-team tournament.
“I think you always hold out hope,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said in a Sunday night teleconference. “I didn’t watch the show. We were practicing at the time. Then we had a meal so we just kind of waited, ‘OK, let’s see what our fate (is). If our name came up, that would great. It didn’t, so let’s see what happens with the NIT.’ We knew we’d be playing, and we just wanted to get our guys ready.”
Iowa earned a top seed in the consolation NIT and will face Summit League regular-season champion South Dakota (22-11) at 6 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN2) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The teams have played 10 times — the last meeting was 1964 — and Iowa has won all 10.
Hawkeyes to Host NIT Game vs South Dakota https://t.co/4mL7K2bSay
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 13, 2017
It was an inconsistent season for the young Hawkeyes. Iowa beat tournament champions Michigan (Big Ten), Iowa State (Big 12) and North Dakota (Big Sky) as well as earning wins against the top three Big Ten squads (Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland). But the squad’s RPI of 81 coupled with a vicious 22-point loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament pushed the Hawkeyes out of the NCAA Tournament field.
That aside, McCaffery said there’s been no conversations about morale in the wake of either disappointment. It’s Iowa’s third trip to the NIT in six years and eighth overall. The last time Iowa picked up an NIT bid, in 2013, the Hawkeyes advanced to the finals at Madison Square Garden.
“I felt like we were right there for the NCAA Tournament, so to be given a No. 1 seed is a great accomplishment for our players,” McCaffery said. “I have unbelievable respect for the quality of teams in this tournament. Always have. It really doesn’t matter what you’re seeded now; you’ve just got to beat a really good team that won over 20 games to advance. That’s just kind of how we’re looking at it.”
This year’s NIT will deal with a wave of rules experimentation. Among the changes:
- Team fouls will reset at the end of 10-minute segments in each half
- The shot clock will reset to 20 seconds instead of 30 when the ball is inbounded in the front court
- Each team is limited to four personal/technical fouls during each 10-minute segment
- When a team reaches four fouls, the opponent will shoot two free throws, not a one-and-one
- In overtime, three personal/technical fouls will result in two free throws
While the changes may confuse fans, observers and possibly players and coaches, McCaffery is fine with the NCAA tinkering with the rules.
“I’ve done this before,” McCaffery said. “A lot of times they’ve have experimental rules in tournaments and different times. I’ve been through this. I think it’s fine.
“It really doesn’t change anything in terms of how anybody is going to play. We’re going to play defense the same way, and I think everybody else will.”