IOWA CITY — Iowa sophomore Devyn Marble made no travel plans this week to the typical college destination like South Padre Island or Daytona Beach.
Marble already had non-refundable reservations scheduled, and it didn’t include a beach.
“You always want to play in the postseason in college,” Marble said. “You never want to be one of those players who always goes on spring break. So I think it’s a good experience.”
Iowa’s players will spend at least part of their spring break in Iowa City, a change from the last five years. Iowa (17-16) faces Dayton (20-12) in a first-round National Invitation Tournament game Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It’s Iowa’s first postseason appearance since 2006.
Dayton, the second seed in the eight-team bracket, was supposed to host Iowa, but the Flyers’ arena holds the NCAA tournament First Four games on Tuesday and Wednesday. If Iowa upsets Dayton, the Hawkeyes also could play host to a second-round game on an undetermined date.
Third-seeded Oregon plays host to sixth-seeded Louisiana State following the Iowa-Dayton game. Should LSU win, Iowa would host the Tigers, Iowa Sports Information Director Steve Roe confirmed Monday. LSU’s arena is hosting first- and second-round NCAA women’s tournament games, which conflicts with the NIT.
Iowa’s ticket prices are among the lowest in the NIT, and fans have responded. As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, the school had sold more than 9,300 tickets.
“That’s awesome,” Iowa guard Matt Gatens said. “It’d be great to have a good crowd here. It’s incredible how things work out. On Friday we had no idea if we were going to be playing, and now to have a home game in a tournament like the NIT is an incredible opportunity.
“It’ll be tough, but this team isn’t satisfied with just getting to this point. We want to compete in this tournament and continue to move on.”
Iowa is competing against an NIT veteran squad. Dayton has the second-most NIT appearances (24) and won the tournament in 2010. Dayton was one of eight Atlantic-10 teams to compete in either the NCAA or NIT this year. The Flyers and Hawkeyes have played one common opponent — Minnesota — and both earned victories. Dayton beat the Gophers 86-70 in the Old Spice Classic championship game on Nov. 27.
Dayton also owns a 4-1 record against teams from high-major conferences. Coincidentally, Dayton has played seven teams currently in the NIT field and owns a 5-2 record.
Gatens said the team isn’t just satisfied making the tournament; it wants to advance.
“We found out (Sunday) night we play (Tuesday),” Gatens said. “It’s not like we have a ton of time to relax and be satisfied with it. You’ve got to get to work and get back in the grind. I think this team is ready to do that and excited. It’s a great opportunity. Everybody seems positive with it.”
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