Iowa CITY, Iowa - Iowa woke up Monday morning preparing to win an NIT championship this week. The Hawkeyes are one of eight college basketball teams still playing in April.
The spotlight adds value to the Iowa program. If you're a high school player wanting to see college basketball on Tuesday night at 8:30 central time, Iowa versus Maryland on ESPN2 is your choice.
"Every prospect in the country is going to watch those games," Hawkeye Coach Fran McCaffery said. "Sure, they're going to watch Saturday and Monday (the NCAA Final Four), but they're going to watch Tuesday and Thursday (the NIT Final Four). There's nothing else on.
"They're going to watch those games, and what are they saying about the coaching staff? What are they saying about those players? What are the players saying about their coaches? What kind of interest does that program have?"
McCaffery likely would have preferred to sell an NCAA Tournament bid to prospects right now. However, he can show progress with a deep run in the NIT for Year 3 of his rebuilding project.
One of Iowa's top targets in the '14 Class is Chicago area point guard Tyler Ulis. He is encouraged by the Hawkeyes' postseason run even if it isn't coming in the main event.
"Tyler continues to be impressed with Coach McCaffery and where he is taking the program," said Ulis' coach at Marian Catholic, Mike Taylor. "We like how the pieces are coming together and know that it is a system or style of play that Tyler would thrive in."
McCaffery and his staff have steadily improved the Hawkeyes the last three seasons. They took over a program that won 10 games the year before his arrival and led it to 24 victories in 2012-13.
McCaffery and his players were visibly disappointed when they didn't hear their name called during the NCAA selection show a few weeks ago. Iowa likely missed the Big Dance by a signature win or two.
While the Hawkeye run in the NIT is the best they could do after missing out on the Field of 68, it still is coming in a tournament they hope to avoid next season. The NCAAs are the ultimate goal for every player, including those prospects searching for a school.
To put that in perspective, '14 Illinois forward Malek Harris was unaware of what Iowa was doing this postseason.
"I really didn't catch too much of the NIT games," Harris said. "How have they been doing?"
Once he was made aware of Iowa's postseason march, Harris liked what he heard.
"The NIT is something to be proud of winning," he said. "There are some great teams in there that didn't have the best years but still are quality. So, it says a lot for what Iowa is looking to do in the future.
"To win it or even just make the final four is a major stepping stone."