Gophers coming to Terre Haute for second-round NIT basketball

Mar. 22—National eyes will be on the Indiana State men's basketball team when Minnesota comes to Hulman Center at 2 p.m. Sunday for a televised game on ESPN2.

This marks the fifth game on that channel or ESPNU this season. ISU coach Josh Schertz noted the audience and partnership with TV will help get his program more attention.

"Those kind of games are ones that put you in [a] better position, people talk about your nonconference schedule," said Schertz, who helped usher his squad to 29-6. "The thing is a team like Minnesota, wouldn't buy [a game with] us anyway.

"Those teams are going to schedule — they don't owe us anything — schedule a way to make the tournament. Obviously the opportunity to play a high major at a neutral [site] or home-and-home, that would be amazing. You would sign up for that in a heartbeat.

"I think what we have to do is get where we have enough brand equity or TV mandates."

He likened the ideal schedule to that of ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic, which lost its opening game of the NCAA tournament to Northwestern on Friday.

Coming off a Final Four appearance, the Owls participated in an ESPN Invitational on a neutral floor in Florida against Butler and Virginia Tech, played Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden and played Arizona in Las Vegas.

He also referenced the neutral games Dayton, another mid-major at-large, played in.

"Those are the things you are looking for as a team as you try to get a schedule," Schertz said. "When you can get a high-major team on a neutral or your home floor, those are very rare opportunities. You gotta capitalize on them."

"I think you have to win consistently enough that teams look at you as a Quad 1/2 game, so you are not considered a bad loss," Schertz said. "Gonzaga has that. They go play everywhere, but that takes time."

The Bulldogs have posted 27 straight seasons with at least 20 wins and haven't been out of the NCAA tournament field since 1998.

Looking ahead to next season's slate, he said there's been talks of his squad playing Butler at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, which is a hop, skip and a jump from the BU campus.

Schertz said the team could open next year in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"We're supposed to open, right now, I think in the [Sanford] Pentagon, [home to the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA G League]," Schertz said. "Hopefully against [this year's] Quad 1/2 mid-major, is the plan right now, for the Field of 68 tourney."

Last season, Charleston, Liberty and Florida Atlantic participated in the inaugural three-team event held in Florida. This is slated to be an event that runs for three years.

Schertz confirmed that the team's in-season tournament will be in the Bahamas.

On Sunday, it will match up with a Golden Gophers squad (19-14) coached by former Northern Iowa assistant Ben Johnson, who is in his third season in Minneapolis.

The Sycamores have a chance to make another dent in this superlative that's akin to the fabled 1978-79 ISU squad — win multiple games in a postseason.

ISU knocked down 9 of 23 3s against the Mustangs to up their record-shattering season total to 382 triples on 38.5% shooting.

The Sycamores rode the wave of a closing-half zone defense to slow down SMU on Wednesday and embrace the plan B of playing in this national tourney.

The Sycamores erased a double-digit second-half deficit for the first time in home territory this season to earn another 40 minutes of hoops. ISU had four days between games following the 10-day break after missing the Big Dance.

"It's definitely a great opportunity just to be able to play in the NIT," sophomore Ryan Conwell said.

"Although we are not playing in March Madness, I think it's still a great opportunity and the NIT has great teams. We all had the chances of making it to March Madness so being able to play another great team is a great opportunity for us to shine on that big of a platform."