NEW YORK — Iowa's NIT seeding was less conspiracy and more democracy, committee chairman C.M. Newton said Monday morning.
The Hawkeyes (24-12) were seeded third in their eight-team regional, below what many fans had hoped for the tournament. Newton, a Hall of Fame player, coach and administrator, said "it was strictly a committee vote" that pushed Iowa below other teams.
"They were in with Virginia as the one seed," Newton said. "We felt like UMass had earned the two and Iowa was the three in that. It becomes very subjective, but we vote. All eight of us vote on each round on who gets in the tournament and who is seeded.
"The only seeding I really felt bad about it as a Louisiana Tech’s (five) seed. I felt like they were kind of forgotten by the committee and a little too low. But you can play your way out of a bad seed. That’s what Iowa has done. If they feel like they’ve been seeded incorrectly, then they proved it by being here."
Iowa still earned two home games in the 32-team tournament, beating six seed Indiana State in the first round and then knocking off seventh-seeded Stony Brook (which upset UMass) in the second round. Iowa knocked off Virginia at Charlottesville to qualify for the NIT semifinals.
The NIT was an independently run tournament — much like a college football bowl game — until 2005 when the NCAA purchased its rights. The tournament field was cut from 40 to 32 and now includes all regular-season champions that fail to qualify for the NCAA tournament. This year 10 teams gained automatic berths.
Iowa has qualified for the NIT seven times, including in each of the last two seasons. The Hawkeyes sold out both of their home NIT games this years, but Newton said attendance had nothing to do with determining seeds or host sites.
"We don’t pay any attention to that," Newton said. "Unlike the other committee, we want a true basketball championship. It really is meaningful that they sold them out, but just like sending Kentucky on the road. They would have drawn a helluva lot more than Robert Morris, too. But that’s just the nature of our tournament, too, as a true basketball championship."
The pre-2005 tournament included mostly high-major basketball programs and sites were determined largely by ticket sales.
"The old process was a made-for-TV reality show instead of a basketball championship," Newton said.