Hawks to NIT

Iowa's NCAA Tournament bubble burst on Sunday when the Field of 68 was released. Instead, the Hawkeyes will head to the National Invitational Tournament for a second year in a row.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - The madness of March continued here on Sunday but not the kind for which Iowa basketball and its fans were hoping. The Hawkeyes missed the NCAA Tournament for a seventh year in a row.

It's hard to say with certainty what kept Iowa (21-12) out of the Field of 68. One can surmise that it was its low RPI (80 per CBS Sports) and Strength of Schedule (102) along with a lack of quality wins, which directly affected the first two components mentioned.

The Hawkeyes will head to the National Invitational Tournament for a second season in a row. They lost in Round 2 at Oregon, 108-97, last March as a seven seed.

Iowa is a No. 3 seed in this year's NIT. The Hawkeyes play host to sixth-seeded Indiana State on Wednesday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN2). The winner faces the UMass-Stony Brook survivor at a location, date and time to be determined.

Indiana State is coached by former Iowa assistant Greg Lansing. He is a native of Harlan.

Here's a look at the NIT Bracket.

If you're looking for a key reason for Iowa's exclusion from the NCAA Tournament, focus on its non-conference Strength of Schedule. The Hawkeyes' ranked No. 311 out of 347 Division I schools per CBS. Coach Fran McCaffery recently was asked, in hindsight, if he would have boosted that slate given another opportunity to do so.

"No. We did exactly what we wanted to do," he said. "We wanted to win games."

Scheduling is an inexact science. You have no control over the opponents of your opponents and it all affects your resume.

"Now you go back and say if we would have just played teams in the 150s instead of the 250s, would that really have made a difference? Maybe.," McCaffery said. "But if you stumble against a 150, then you say why did we do that?"

Iowa finished sixth in the Big Ten regular season and lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament this week. It quite possibly finished one quality win away from the Big Dance. Their last chance for one of those came on Friday in a 59-56 loss to eighth-ranked Michigan State at the league tourney.

Illinois and Minnesota were selected to the NCAAs despite finishing a game behind Iowa in the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes were 2-1 against those schools. The two wins came at home.

The Illini and Gophers, it can be argued, put together a better body of work over an entire season than did Iowa. Illinois owned wins against Gonzaga (on road) and Indiana, two of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota also defeated the Hoosiers as well as Michigan State and Memphis. It also won at Florida State, USC and Illinois.

Of Iowa's 10 conference wins (regular season plus tourney), seven came against Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue, the bottom four schools in the league. The other three victories were versus NCAA teams in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, but, again, all occurred at home.

NCAA tournament committee chair Mike Bobinski said Sunday when asked why several bubble teams received at-large bids that they showed they can win on the road.

A graphic during the CBS selection show indicated that Iowa sat among the first six schools left out of the field. They were listed in alphabetical order so it's tough to say how close the Hawkeyes really were to getting an invitation. Maybe a win against the Spartans on Friday would have gotten them in. Maybe it wasn't going to be enough.

McCaffery expects to lose only one player from this year's team, senior Eric May. He'll add Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff, redshirt freshman Kyle Meyer and incoming recruit Peter Jok to a veteran roster.

"So, moving forward, our team next year will be substantially more experienced," McCaffery said. "We'd be in more of a position to make some changes in (upgrading the non-conference schedule).

"I would say that we would probably spend more time thinking that through. Last year we did what I said, and that is to put a schedule together that we thought we could handle with the young guys we had, get them winning as we moved into the Big Ten."

Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, they couldn't get one or two key victories once they got into league play.


Hawkeye Insider Top Stories