BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – For the first time in three years, Indiana received the invitation it was waiting for on Selection Sunday.
After a two-year absence from the NCAA Tournament, Indiana (18-11) is dancing once again, earning an at-large invitation as the sixth seed in the Oakland Region. Indiana will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a first-round match-up on Thursday with 11th-seeded San Diego State (24-8), which earned an automatic bid by winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
"I feel great," said IU Coach Mike Davis, who has led Indiana to four NCAA trips in six seasons in Bloomington. "Our goals are the same as they were from day one. We're focused on doing something special in the NCAA Tournament."
San Diego State, which knocked off Wyoming 69-64 Saturday night in the MWC Tournament final, is coached by former Michigan Coach Steve Fisher. The Aztecs are led by the inside-outside tandem of guard Brandon Heath and forward Marcus Slaughter. The 6-4, 198-pound Heath averaged 18.5 points/game this season and knocked down 95 3-pointers, while Slaughter averaged 16.6 points and 11.0 rebounds. The 6-9, 220-pound Slaughter ranks fifth nationally in rebounding.
This marks the first NCAA appearance for Indiana since 2003, when the seventh-seeded knocked off tenth-seeded Alabama 67-62 in the opening round in Boston, followed by a 74-52 loss to second-seeded Pitt in the second round.
Indiana saw its 18-year NCAA Tournament streak end in 2003-04 when it went 14-15 and failed to qualify for the postseason altogether. Last year's team also failed to earn an at-large berth after going 15-13 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten. Indiana was selected for the Postseason NIT last spring, where it dropped a 67-60 decision to Vanderbilt in the first round.
Indiana appeared to be on the bubble as recently as two weeks ago, but by winning five of its last six the Hoosiers climbed to a No. 6 seed. The lone loss during that stretch was Saturday's 52-51 loss to Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, an effort against the Big Ten regular season champ that only added to the team's confidence.
"We're a different team than we were at the beginning (of the season)," junior Rod Wilmont said. "Even though we were scoring so much at the beginning, the last couple of weeks we've been digging down on defense and making stops.
"Guys want it more. We know we can play with anybody."
If Indiana gets by that first-round match-up with San Diego State, it might have a chance to go up against arguably the best player in college basketball. Looming in the second-round is potential match-up with third-seeded Gonzaga (27-3) and All-American Adam Morrison.
Indiana 2005-06 Statistics
San Diego State 2005-06 Statistics
Indiana 2005-06 Schedule
San Diego State 2005-06 Schedule
Note: HoosierNation.com will have comments from IU Coach Mike Davis along with a handful of Hoosier players later tonight as they react to their NCAA invitation.
Hoosiers Open NCAA Play With San Diego State
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