Hawkeyes can use NIT to toughen up on road
Winning at UMass and Virginia would clear a hurdle
Unless you were in it, no one remembers the NIT.
Don't believe me? What was the NIT's Final Four last year? I couldn't have told you. I looked it up, and found it was champion Stanford, runner-up Minnesota, and semifinalists Washington and Massachusetts.
Only Minnesota from that bunch advanced to the NCAAs this year.
That said, the 2013 NIT could be a good thing for Iowa. A very good thing. It offers the Hawkeyes the chance to clear some hurdles before next season, to toughen up. How? By beating decent teams on the road.
First, the Hawkeyes have to knock off Indiana State in Iowa City Wednesday night. Indiana State beat Miami. But it also lost at Drake, Missouri State, Bradley and Evansville. So you have to win that game if you're Iowa.
Next, in all likelihood the Hawkeyes would play at Massachusetts. That's a sixth-place Atlantic-10 team, a club that has lost at home to NCAA teams Temple and Butler, as well as George Washington. It's also a team that beat Temple in the A-10 tourney, and won at NCAA-bound LaSalle. So it's a good team, not a great one. Winning at UMass would be nice.
If Iowa won at UMass and the seeds hold up on the other side of that bracket, the Hawkeyes would go to Virginia.
The Cavaliers are 21-11, and went 11-7 in the ACC. Think about that. Iowa is feeling unloved by the NCAAs for winning 21 games and going 9-9 in the Big Ten. Virginia went 11-7 in the ACC, tying for fourth.
On its homecourt, Virginia has beaten Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State. In fact, the Cavaliers won all of their ACC home games. It also has six road defeats by four points or fewer. Sound familiar, Hawkeye fans?
So if Iowa wins at UMass and UVa, it's done something. The world won't notice, but what it could instill in the Hawkeyes for next season could only be useful.