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IU earns No. 3 seed in NIT



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IU Coach Tom Crean answers questions from the media after the 70-60 loss to Wisconsin ended IU's Big Ten Tournament run. Crean was fired last Thursday afternoon, and spoke out for the first time since his firing on Tuesday. Greg Gottfried Buy Photos

IU men’s basketball will be heading to the National Invitation Tournament for the 2017 postseason.

The Hoosiers earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament and will play Georgia Tech in the first round of the 32-team single elimination bracket at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Atlanta on ESPN.

The higher seed usually hosts the game in the NIT but IU declined to play the first weekend in Bloomington due to a large portion of season ticket holders being on spring break. The Hoosiers will host moving forward if they’re the higher seed and not eliminated after the first week.

This is the second time in four years the Hoosiers have failed to make the NCAA tournament under IU Coach Tom Crean. IU also went 7-11 in conference play in 2014 and missed the tournament after winning the Big Ten and making a Sweet Sixteen run in 2013.

It will be just the fifth time in school history the Hoosiers will play in the NIT and the first time since 2005. Although it’s not the big tournament, junior guard Robert Johnson said he thinks his team will respond and play well.

“If you get to put the uniform on and go out and play it shouldn’t be a question of how hard you’re gonna play or what you think it’s worth,” Johnson said Friday following the Big Ten tournament quarterfinal loss to Wisconsin. “At the end of the day we still have to go out there and play.”

IU will play in the Syracuse quadrant of the bracket with the Orange being the No. 1 overall seed in the NIT. If they advance to the next round they’ll play the winner of No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 7 Belmont.

Fellow Big Ten member Iowa joins Syracuse on the top line in addition to Illinois State and California.

A promising start to the season turned south for IU as a 7-11 conference record and losing in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament to Wisconsin ended hopes of making the NCAA tournament. IU finished the season 18-15 overall and 10th in the Big Ten one year after being a No. 5 seed in the big dance and winning the regular season conference title.

The Hoosiers started the year defeating Kansas in Hawaii and North Carolina at home in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Both the Jayhawks and Tar Heels earned No. 1 seeds this year in the NCAA Tournament marking the first team to beat two top seeds in nonconference play and miss the big dance.

This is the second time in four years Crean’s team has failed to reach the NCAA tournament after making the Sweet Sixteen a year before. In 2014 the 17-15 IU club didn’t receive an invitation to the NIT and declined an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational.

With rumors swirling around the status of Crean’s future at IU, he will remain on the job for the postseason, as IU Athletic Director Fred Glass has made no comment about his head coach. Hoosier players were supportive of their coach following the loss in the Big Ten Tournament.

After being ranked No. 3 in the nation at one point, the Hoosiers slipped and could never become the team they once were to begin the season. A surge at the end of the season after losing five straight gave IU some momentum, but it wasn’t enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament.

“I think we just fell off a little bit as a team,” freshman forward De’Ron Davis said following the loss to Wisconsin. “We started to pick it back up and we were getting better every day. We just gotta keep our eyes on the future.”

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