For first time in years, Iowa men are excluded from NCAA’s Selection Sunday

The realization of being shut out of the big tournament hurt Hawkeyes players deeply after their 90-78 Big Ten tournament loss to Ohio State Thursday.

Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery talks with a referee during the second half of his team’s 90-78 Big Ten tournament loss to Ohio State Thursday night in Minneapolis. (Abbie Parr/Associated Press)


Tony Perkins didn’t know the NIT Final Four will be held in his Indianapolis hometown in a few weeks.

“I wasn’t paying attention to that,“ the Iowa second-team All-Big Ten senior guard said Thursday night, ”because I didn’t even want to be in it in the first place.“

That, however, almost surely is the postseason destination of the 2023-24 Hawkeye men’s basketball team. That fate was sealed Thursday when Iowa dropped to 18-14 after dropping a 90-78 decision to Ohio State at the Big Ten tournament in Target Center.

Perkins, like the rest of his Iowa teammates and their coaches, wanted to win and keep their NCAA tournament hopes burning. Instead, they’ll find out Sunday night if they get a first-round NIT home game as expected, and who they’ll play.

One presumes it won’t be a hot ticket.

Perkins wasn’t happy with the way his team defended, or didn’t defend, in Thursday’s loss. The Buckeyes had a 3-point feast in the first half, hitting 8 of 11. Six of their players made threes in the game.

“Everybody was open, honestly,” said Perkins. “Regardless of it was transition or half-court offense on their end. Everybody was just open. Late recoveries. Just not going off the scouting report, knowing who’s the shooters and stuff like that.”

The reality is Ohio State has morphed into a very good, deep team in the last few weeks, while Iowa had a very nice run before getting taken down hard this week by Illinois and the Buckeyes.

After this loss, their heads were down and words sometimes were hard to come by in their dressing room.

It’s a program that had participated in the last four NCAA tourneys, and would have been five had the 2020 event not been canceled. The NIT is nice when you’ve been down and out. When you’ve been going to the NCAA year after year, it’s not a prize.

Fifth-year senior forward Ben Krikke came to Iowa last offseason to, among many things, play in an NCAA tournament for the first time after four years at Valparaiso.

“It’s very frustrating and it makes me sad,” Krikke said softly. “It’s been a goal of mine as long as I can remember. To fall short today, it hurts. It really does.”


Junior forward Payton Sandfort, a third-team All-Big Ten selection, had a hard time talking about his feelings after the game.

“Emotionally,” Sandfort said, “it’s hard.”

“I know what we’ve put into this. I know what everybody’s sacrificed and what so many people have gone through this year. But nobody quit. Everybody stayed with it. Everybody kept their head down and grinded.

“That’s all I could ask for as a leader of this team.”

Fifth-year Hawkeye forward Patrick McCaffery was sorrowful in the postgame, too.

“As a senior, as a leader, as a guy who’s been here for a long time and takes a lot of pride in our program,” he said, “that really hurts. That really hurts because ultimately, I wasn’t good enough as a leader, as a player, as a captain.

“That’ll sting forever, that we weren’t able to make it.”

Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said “I’m pretty confident” the Hawkeyes will play an NIT game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena early next week, “but I wouldn’t say I know something.”

The NCAA women’s tournament will take over the arena at some point next week when the Iowa women host a first/second-round site. So the optimal thing for the men’s team is hosting an NIT game Tuesday.

Three wins would get Iowa to Indianapolis and the NIT semifinals in Hinkle Fieldhouse, not too far from Perkins’ neighborhood.

“We still get a chance to play basketball,” Perkins said. “We all love basketball and I think this will be a fresh restart for us.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Iowa’s last Sweet 16 team. NCAA Sweet 16, that is.



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