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Mar 18, 2024 9:30 pm

Denied trip to big dance, Kansas State faces Iowa in NIT opener

Sandfort Iowa

With thoughts of making the NCAA Tournament gone, Kansas State and Iowa return to the hardcourt Tuesday night for a first-round game in the NIT in Iowa City, Iowa.

K-State (19-14) had plenty of Quad-1 victories to hold out hope for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. But too many close wins in the lower quadrants, combined with an unusual number of bid thieves, eliminated any chance of the Wildcats making the field of 68.

The Hawkeyes (18-14) also had a chance to make the big dance. They played six games against teams that ended up with top-3 seeds in the NCAA Tournament: Creighton, Purdue (twice), Iowa State and Illinois (twice). Iowa went a combined 0-6 in those games.

“We took some tough losses, but we just kept fighting and kept finding ways to stay in the fight,” forward Payton Sandfort said after Iowa’s loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. “That’s why I’m so proud of so many guys. There are guys that have been here that have had great careers, and there’s guys that are going to have great careers. But the way that we jelled down the stretch, I think, was special.”

The Hawkeyes finished in a three-way tie for sixth place in the Big Ten and are making their ninth NIT appearance in program history and the first since the 2016-17 season. Iowa is 10-8 all-time in the NIT, including finishing as the runner-up in 2013.

K-State, which tied for ninth place in the Big 12 conference, is making its 40th postseason appearance, including 32 in the NCAA Tournament and eight in the NIT. The Wildcats, who are 6-8 in the NIT, have advanced to the postseason 13 times in the last 18 seasons (10 trips to the NCAA Tournament and three to the NIT).

It is the second straight postseason bid under head coach Jerome Tang.

“We’re going to (stay) together,” Tang said, when asked following his team’s loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament about plans if they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. “We’re going to live life and love each other. We’re going to be fired up for the next thing that’s in store for us.”

Tylor Perry (15.5 points per game), Arthur Kaluma (14.7) and Cam Carter (14.6) are K-State’s three-headed attack on offense. Sandfort (16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds per game) is one of four double-digit scorers for Iowa.

–Field Level Media

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