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‘You better be ready to play’: Indiana basketball readying for NIT opener vs. St. Francis (PA)

Archie Miller looks on during a 2019 home game. (Mark Timko/HN)

This wasn’t how it was supposed go for Indiana basketball.

In a season that started out with such promise, the Hoosiers didn’t see their name called on Selection Sunday. Instead they were one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament, receiving a No. 1 seed in this year’s National Invitation Tournament.

After Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament loss to Ohio State, Indiana had some time to sit on its hands and wait. But now that waiting game is complete and there is no time to dwell as the Hoosiers will welcome in the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash Tuesday night to Assembly Hall.

“Our message is at the end of the day if you have an opportunity to put an Indiana jersey on, you better be ready to play,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “For us, obviously there’s disappointment, but at the same time there’s also opportunity. We need to focus in on the opportunity, then we need to be ready to go.”

St. Francis comes into the NIT as the NEC regular season conference champion. They did not win their conference tournament, however, and thus received an automatic bid to the NIT. Tuesday will be Indiana’s first NIT appearance since 2017, where the Hoosiers played just one game.

That one game came on the road at Georgia Tech even though the Hoosiers were the higher seed. And it just so happens IU forward Juwan Morgan was recently watching that game.

“Me and OG were talking about it,” Morgan said. “We always talk about throwing no-look passes even though we’re looking right at the guy. I threw a no-look pass to Thomas (Bryant) that game.”

But the memories in that game, they weren’t so fond.

“It sucked,” Morgan said. “It was terrible to go out that way, especially how we started out that season. It just hurt.”

That was a season that followed a similar trajectory to this one, with the exception being a coach getting fired. They had early wins against Kansas and North Carolina before limping into the Big Ten Tournament and finishing the conference season with a 7-11 record.

With the disappointment of not getting into the NCAA Tournament, there could be a question of the mindset of Indiana heading into Tuesday’s game. Yet, Morgan says the mindset of being ready to play and it being a win or go home situation is important to grasp.

“Just going into it thinking, like, you’re better than where you’re at, you can’t really go into it with that kind of mentality. You have to be ready to go. Every team is good in this as well. You can’t really lay down and think it’s going to be easy. You have to be ready to fight.”

At the end of the day, the NIT does provide good experience for a young Indiana team. Romeo Langford is day-to-day according to Miller with a back issue he picked up against Ohio State. But younger players, this is an opportunity to get game reps while still trying to fight for a title, even if it isn’t the one the Hoosiers initially thought they’d have a shot at.

“Experience is everything,” Miller said. “Winning games in March is everything. Finding a way to win a post-season tournament game, whether that’s the Big Ten, NCAA, here in the NIT. There’s great teams in the NIT. There’s teams that could win games in the NCAA tournament. The more you advance in it, the more your confidence level and the more big-game experience you get.”

I am a senior from Seattle, Washington majoring in Media. I am formerly of the Indiana Daily Student where I covered Indiana men’s soccer team and women’s basketball. You still can find me broadcasting for WIUX Student Radio and on BTN Student U outside of The Hoosier Network. Former intern at 710 ESPN Seattle and broadcaster for the Falmouth Commodores. Email: Follow me on Twitter: @JoshEastern.

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