Indiana State plays Utah for chance at NIT title

Mar. 28—It's the Sycamores vs. the Utes in a men's basketball contest for the right to play for the National Invitation Tournament championship.

Indiana State University will face Utah at 7 p.m. EDT next Tuesday in an NIT semifinal matchup inside Indianapolis' historic Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University.

ISU (31-6 overall, 17-3 Missouri Valley Conference) clinched a semifinal appearance Tuesday with an 85-81 win over Cincinnati at Hulman Center.

The Runnin' Utes (22-14, 9-11 Pac-12) secured their own ticket with a 74-54 victory over Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

The ISU vs. Utah game will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN+.

In the 9:30 p.m. Tuesday game in Indianapolis, Seton Hall (23-12, 13-7 Big Sky) squares off against Georgia (20-16, 6-12 Big 12). That game will be on ESPN2.

The winners of ISU v. Utah and Seton Hall v. Georgia will vie for the NIT championship at 7 p.m. next Thursday in Indianapolis, with ESPN broadcasting that game.

The 2023-24 ISU squad was disappointed by a snub from the NCAA Selection Committee, despite an exceptional record and an MVC regular-season crown, but they've led their fans on a raucous ride since.

Longtime watchers say not since Larry Bird led the Sycamores to the NCAA title game against Earvin "Magic" Johnson and his Michigan State Spartans in 1979 has there been such an athletics thrill emanating from Terre Haute.

And for the community, that's only been sweetened as it's coming on the heels of an impressive stretch for the baseball Sycamores in the 2023 NCAA tournament.

And ISU's players say they have felt that love.

"These wins aren't just for us," junior guard/forward Jayson Kent recently said. "They're for the community. What they do for us is just as important as what we do on the court."

Meanwhile, third-year ISU coach Josh Schertz has become a huge fan favorite among Sycamore fans, was named MVC Coach of the Year and now seems at least a must phone call for NCAA Division I programs in search of a new leader.

But Schertz at the moment is saying nothing in public about a possible departure, declining to discuss his own future while the Sycamores play on.

Five Sycamores average in double figures in scoring — center Robbie Avila at 17.3 points per game, guard Ryan Conwell at 16.6 ppg, guard Isaiah Swope at 15.8, Kent at 13.7 and guard Julian Larry at 10.7.