Tough Draw for Hoop Dawgs

ATHENS -- Georgia's basketball team is feeling very unloved this morning... very unloved and very cold.

Just hours after being left out of the NCAA Tournament field on Sunday, the Bulldogs (16-13) absorbed another slap when they learned their first round NIT game would be against Iowa State at 9:30 tonight in Hilton Coliseum, where the Cyclones are 15-1 this year.

"I'm not surprised by anything with the NIT, but I'm disappointed," Coach Dennis Felton said. "I felt like we deserved a whole lot more than going on the road to Iowa State in the first round. That's a pretty tough draw."

The Cyclones (17-12), who finished eighth in the Big 12, had the biggest homecourt advantage in the nation this year, according to the Massey Ratings. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are 1-9 on the road.

On top of that, Georgia was delayed in its trip after its charter plane was stuck in Buffalo, N.Y. , due to bad weather. The team expected Tuesday afternoon to be welcomed in Ames by sub-freezing temperatures and snow sometime late Tuesday night.

"We've already been delayed," Felton said. "The only question is how much we'll be delayed. We're playing it hour by hour."

He added, "There are a lot of schools (in the NIT field) that could have gotten on a bus and gone to Ames."

Georgia sought to host its first round game, but its traditionally poor fan turnout made that a long shot. The Bulldogs finished ninth in the SEC in attendance this year, drawing 8,619 fans per home game. Only Mississippi State (7,996), Auburn (6,749) and Ole Miss (3,639) averaged less.

Iowa State averaged 11,080 fans per game this year, fourth in the Big 12.

"The NIT is all about the bottom line," Felton said. "They are going to choose teams that they are most confident are going to have a full house. It has nothing to do with competitive fairness."

The winner of today's game will play the winner of the Florida State/Wichita State game but the site, day and time of that game haven't been set. Whether the Bulldogs make it to that game will be determined largely by their attitude following their NCAA snub, the coach and several players said.

"We all felt a little deflated because there's no doubt it was a real blow to our gut to miss out, but I feel everybody was doing their part (in Monday's practice) to grind it out and get back focused on the work we had to do," Felton said.

This will be Georgia's 10th appearance in the NIT, it reached the tournament's final four in Madison Square Garden in 1998, but the first for this year's seniors. The program's two four-year seniors, Rashad Wright and Chris Daniels, have played in two NCAA Tournaments and only missed a third due to a postseason ban.

"It's just hard because I've already been to the NCAAs twice," Wright said. "It's hard to go to the NIT."

"I know how we should respond," senior Damien Wilkins said. "I don't know how we will respond."

Georgia vs. Iowa State
9:30 p.m./Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa
Broadcast: CSS
Records: Georgia (16-13), Iowa State (17-12)
Coaches: Georgia -- Dennis Felton (16-13, first season); Iowa State -- Wayne Morgan (17-12, first season)
Iowa State starters: G Curtis Stinson 6-2, Fr. (15.4 ppg, 6 rpg); G Jake Sullivan, 6-1, Sr. (14.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Marcus Jefferson, 6-5,
Sr. (5.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Jackson Vroman, 6-10, Sr. (13.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg); C Jared Homan, 6-9, 245 (11.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg).
Georgia starters: G Rashad Wright, 6-3, Sr. (14.5 ppg, 3 apg); G Levi Stukes, 6-1, Fr. (9.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg); F Damien Wilkins, 6-7, Sr. (12.4
ppg, 5.4 rpg); F Chris Daniels, 6-7, Sr. (10.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg); F Jonas Hayes, 6-7, Sr. (11.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Outlook: Iowa State is led by guard Curtis Stinson, a product of the famous Rucker Park street games in Brooklyn, N.Y. Stinson leads the
Cyclones in scoring (ninth in Big 12) and was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. "He likes to get to the hole a lot and create for his
teammates," Georgia point guard Rashad Wright. "I'm going to try to make him do things he doesn't want to do." Stinson paces Iowa State's
high-paced attack, which was fifth in the Big 12 with 74.4 points per game this season. "They are very, very good at blowing it up the court
and scoring," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "It's a significant characteristic of their team." Or, as senior Jonas Hayes put it,
"They'll try to run you out of the gym." Defensively, Iowa State often plays out of a matchup zone that features many different looks. "It's
impossible to peg," Felton said. "They do most anything out of it." Senior Cyclone guard Jake Sullivan is second in the Big 12 in 3-pointers
(72) and is his school's all-time leading 3-point shooter. (He set that record earlier this year against Mercer.) Iowa State big men Jackson
Vroman, who is in just his fifth year of organized basketball, and Jared Homan, combined for 37 points and 23 rebounds the last time out against NCAA No. 2 seed Oklahoma State. "I have a lot of respect for who we are and how good we are, and I think Iowa Sate is right there with us," Felton said. "I think they're really good just like we are." ... This is the first basketball meeting between Georgia and Iowa State.
Next up: Winner vs. Florida State/Wichita State, TBA

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