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March 11, 2012

Hawkeyes are NIT bound

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa men's basketball team has been selected to compete in the 2012 National Invitational Tournament. Iowa (17-16) is a seventh seed and will host second-seeded Dayton (20-12) of the Atlantic 10 Conference on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

"We are absolutely thrilled," said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. "I'm so proud of our guys and how they persevered and grew throughout the season. We have a phenomenal leader and captain in Matt Gatens and we got great play from Bryce Cartwright. Our young guys really developed throughout the course of the season."

"I am absolutely thrilled for Fran, our seniors and the entire team; that we are in postseason play," said Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta. "It is something we felt they had earned, and to have that come to fruition, is just a great way to move to the second phase of the season.

"Playing Tuesday is a quick turnaround; tickets are on sale immediately, and I am confident that our fans will be excited. They have been filling Carver-Hawkeye Arena throughout the season and we need to continue that home court advantage again Tuesday night against Dayton. We were able to price the tickets reasonably, and our goal in doing that is to fill the building as much as we can on short notice."

Season ticket holders can order tickets tonight until noon (CT) Monday. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for UI students and younger. Season ticket holders may order as many tickets as they would like, but seat locations are not guaranteed to be the same as during the season.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public beginning at 1 p.m. (CT) Monday. Tickets may be ordered online, at hawkeyesports.com, by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or in person at the UI Athletic Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The ticket office windows are open daily from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m.

The winner of the Iowa-Dayton first round contest will meet Oregon (22-9) or LSU (18-14) in the second round.

This marks Iowa's sixth appearance in the NIT and first since 2004. Iowa also appeared in the 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004 tournaments. The Hawkeyes best finish in the NIT was in 1995 when Iowa advanced to the quarterfinals. The Hawkeyes have played nine games all-time in the NIT and hold a record of 4-5. Iowa's nine NIT games have all been decided by nine points or less; its five NIT losses have come by a total of 14 points and the four victories have come by a total of 16 points.

Iowa has played Dayton once before. The Hawkeyes beat the Flyers, 61-54, on Dec 23, 1979 in the Dayton Classic. The Hawkeyes later advanced to the Final Four that season (1980). Iowa is 21-13 (.618) all-time against current members of the Atlantic 10.

Iowa, as the seventh seed, is the lowest seed to host a 2012 first round NIT game.

"We were fortunate to get a home game with the unique circumstances (Dayton hosting NCAA Tournament games)," added McCaffery. "I think it's great because our fans have responded to this team. They continue to prove what Hawkeye fans are about throughout the United States. They have made (Carver-Hawkeye Arena) a very difficult place to play, and that's what we want. We are playing a style that they enjoy watching and have embraced. I encourage all fans from all over the state to come out and support us as we take on a very good Dayton basketball team."

This marks the seventh time McCaffery has taken a team to the postseason as a head coach, including the second time in the NIT. McCaffery's UNC Greensboro squad in 2002 lost in the NIT first round at Memphis. McCaffery took his 1988 Lehigh team, 2001 Greensboro squad, and 2008, 2009 and 2010 Siena teams to the NCAA Tournament. He also was an assistant coach at Notre Dame when the Irish advanced to the NIT finals in 1992.

"When we completed the Big Ten Tournament, we were confident we had a good chance at postseason play," Barta added. "I am just so happy for our seniors, for Bryce (Cartwright) and Matt (Gatens) in-particular, that they have the opportunity to keep playing. I've said it before, but I am absolutely thrilled with the progress that Fran and his team have made through the end of his second season."

Iowa tied with Northwestern for seventh in the Big Ten standings with an 8-10 league record. Matt Gatens was a second team all-conference selection, leading the team scoring 15.7 points per contest. Aaron White ranks third on the team in scoring (10.4) and first in rebounding (5.5), and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. The Hawkeyes posted four top 25 wins, notching wins over Indiana, Michigan and two over Wisconsin.

Dayton tied for fifth with four other teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 9-7 league mark. The Flyers are led in scoring by junior Kevin Dillard, who was a second team All-Atlantic 10 selection. Dillard is averaging 13 points and leads the team with 192 assists (six per game). He ranks second in the A-10 and 18th in the NCAA in assists per game. Senior Chris Johnson was an All-Atlantic 10 honorable mention pick and is second on the team with 12.6 points per contest. He also leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per game and is shooting 46.7 percent (128-of-274) from the field. Johnson is the only college basketball player in the last 20 years to have 1,400 points, 800 rebounds, 300 offensive rebounds and 200 3-pointers, while shooting at least 80 percent from the free throw line.

Iowa and Dayton have played one common opponent this season: Minnesota. Iowa beat the Gophers twice, 64-62 on Jan. 4 in Minneapolis and 63-59 on Feb. 1 in Iowa City. Dayton beat Minnesota, 86-70, on Nov. 27 in the Old Spice Classic championship game in Orlando.

Iowa is one of three Big Ten teams selected to compete in the NIT. Northwestern is a No. 4 seed and will entertain Akron Tuesday at 8 p.m. (CT). Minnesota garnered a sixth seed and will play at La Salle Wednesday at 6 p.m. (CT).


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