Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After being one of the “First Four Out” of an NCAA Tournament berth, the University of Iowa men’s basketball team is turning its attention to the National Invitation Tournament as a No. 1 seed.
The Hawkeyes open NIT play Wednesday, hosting Summit League regular-season champion South Dakota at 6 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament, but getting a No. 1 seed in the NIT is a great accomplishment for this team,” said senior guard Peter Jok. “I am looking forward to playing every game we have left and trying to go all the way to New York City and win it all.”
It’s a goal, but UI head coach Fran McCaffery isn’t ready to put the cart before the horse.
“It’s OK to talk about it, but what you can’t do is forget the fact that to get to New York you have to beat three good teams and that’s hard to do,” said McCaffery. “You can’t get there if you don’t win the first one.
“(Getting to NYC) is so far down the road when you look at the teams we have to beat to get there. You have to be respective of those teams and play the way we are supposed to be playing. If we play the way we did against Indiana, we are not going to get to New York City. We have to play better.”
Wednesday’s NIT opener begins with a South Dakota team that won 22 games and was the top seed in its conference tournament. The Coyotes were upset in the semifinals by fourth-seeded and eventual tournament champion South Dakota State.
“This team was the No. 1 seed, it won 22 games, has multiple double-digit scorers, they make 3s, and don’t turn it over,” said McCaffery. “This is a team that is good and well-coached.”
The Coyotes have three players that average in double digits. Matt Mooney leads the team with an 18.5 scoring average, Tyler Flack averages 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds, and former Hawkeye Trey Dickerson averages 10.4 points and 2.8 assists.
“I watched (USD) play against Nebraska,” said McCaffery. “Trey played well; I was happy for him. He has had a good year; his numbers are good. I know the qualities he has; he’s quick and can score. He’s an older guy that has been through a lot; he has our full attention.”
Freshman Jordan Bohannon is excited for the opportunity to continue playing in the NIT for the present and future.
“Our goal was to get to the NCAA Tournament, but this is a good accomplishment for the young guys to get us experience,” said Bohannon. “We have a lot of guys that are willing to work hard for each game and each possession.
“Anything can happen in March, you have to be ready to play every game.”
Tickets are available for purchase through the UI Athletics Ticket Office at (800) IA-HAWKS or on www.hawkeyesports.com.
“(The atmosphere) in Carver is important,” said McCaffery. “You want it going crazy. Our fans have been tremendous this year. I have been appreciative of the atmosphere they have provided us. In recent weeks, we’ve had great crowds. When the place is like that, it’s a great feeling for the players.”