IOWA CITY, Iowa — Here Iowa sits, its NCAA Tournament chances gone after receiving the Steve Buscemi treatment in Fargo, dragged to the wood chipper by Indiana.
So, what do the Hawkeyes do next? Cue Pharrell Williams.
“We’re going to have a postseason tournament to play in,” guard Jordan Bohannon told Land of 10 on Thursday night. “We have to be happy either way because we’re going to be playing in the postseason and not many teams get to say that.”
Two days remain before the Hawkeyes learn their postseason destination, which is the NIT unless a March miracle occurs. The rest of the weekend should be used to work past the disappointment of the Big Ten Tournament and taking Bohannon’s advice to heart, even if it means playing Happy on a loop for 48 hours.
Because if the Hawkeyes can’t get excited about their postseason future, there won’t be much of one.
College basketball players dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. The NIT only appears in nightmares of top-ranked teams.
This isn’t the Eisenhower-era America anymore. The NIT isn’t the A-list tournament.
It’s not meant to degrade but to highlight a fact. Playing in the NCAA Tournament and NIT can be totally different experiences. The Big Dance can be like a Mardi Gras party. There are mausoleums with more energy and excitement than some NIT games.
Iowa likely is about to enter a tournament in which a team’s desire to be there and advance matters as much as anything else. Yes, talent and coaching is important, but it can be clear early on if an NIT team is just there to be there or if it’s truly interested in heading to New York for the championship game. The former get bounced early, while the latter tend to be tough outs — regardless of seed.
A team’s NIT experience is what it makes it. Sulk over not getting included in the NCAA Tournament and it won’t be a long stay. Decide that playing in the NIT is important and the season may extend a few more weeks.
This is the choice before the Hawkeyes.
A team playing and talking like an NCAA Tournament team at the end of the regular season didn’t look like one in the 95-73 Big Ten Tournament loss to the Hoosiers. Iowa flopped in its biggest game on its biggest stage of the season.
“Obviously, [Thursday] we didn’t play that well,” guard Peter Jok said after the game. “But credit to them. They were really locked in. They played really well.”
Moving on isn’t easy when an NCAA berth appeared so close but ends up so far away. It’s what the Hawkeyes must do, though. Some losses take more than 24 hours to get past. The Indiana defeat may be one. It’s a good thing there are two days left in the weekend before the bracket gets unveiled.
The Iowa squad from late February and early March could be a dangerous NIT team. The Hawkeyes can score in bunches. The defense came around late in the season. Jok will be as good as any player in the field.
They can last as long as they want in the tournament. That really is the question. Do they want it? Will their heart be in it? Are they happy to be here?
If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, it’s time to learn that happiness is the truth.
Even if it requires Williams singing to get there.