They simply wanted to keep playing.
The Hoosiers will have the opportunity to do so Tuesday in the National Invitation Tournament.
Indiana learned Sunday night that it received a No. 3 seed in the NIT and will open the consolation tournament with a 9 p.m. matchup against No. 6 Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.
Typically, the higher-seeded team hosts games on campus in the NIT, but Indiana declined to bring a game to Assembly Hall this week with students — a large portion of the ticket holders — on spring break. An Indiana spokesman said the school would be able to host a game, if still alive in the tournament, as early as March 20.
It’s not the postseason direction this team wanted to take after beating No. 3 ranked teams Kansas and North Carolina, and peaking themselves at No. 3 during the season’s first month.
Both the Jayhawks and Tar Heels earned No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, making the Hoosiers the first team to beat a pair of top-seeded teams and fail to qualify for the field of 68, according to CBS Sports.
But the Hoosiers have accepted the reality of their season and feel they’ve authored their best basketball of the year during the past couple weeks.
Now, they’re ready to seek a lasting stay in the NIT’s field of 32.
“We just want to play,” point guard Josh Newkirk said. “We just want to keep playing. We’ve been playing a good brand of basketball right now. We’re playing together and more connected. Any opportunity to play, we’re ready.”
The first four teams left out of the NCAA Tournament, California, Illinois State, Iowa and Syracuse, each received No. 1 seeds.
Indiana was placed in the Syracuse quadrant, where a win over the Yellow Jackets would produce a matchup with either No. 2 Georgia or No. 7 Belmont.
The Yellow Jackets, who dropped their Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament opener to Pitt and lost seven of 11 games since Feb. 1, went 17-15 in their first season under coach Josh Pastner.
Ranked No. 82 by the KenPom.com metrics — Indiana is No. 42 — Georgia Tech had the ACC’s least efficient offense this season. Defensively, the Jackets held conference opponents to a league-best 47.3 effective field goal percentage, while also pacing their conference in two-point field goal defense (44.2 percent) and block percentage (14.5 percent).
Freshman guard Josh Okogie leads Georgia Tech with 15.5 points per game.
Indiana can blame its poor play in late January and early February for putting the team in this position. After delivering one of their best performances of the year in an 82-75 win over Michigan State on Jan. 21 at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers lost eight of their final 11 games of the regular season.
The Big Ten placed seven schools — Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin — into the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana wasn’t good enough to make the cut, but the Hoosiers believe they have a chance to salvage something from the season, making up for lost time in the process.
“I think we really are in our stride still,” IU forward Juwan Morgan said after Friday’s Big Ten Tournament loss to Wisconsin. “There’s a great basketball team in this team here. I feel like whatever tournament we get into, we’re definitely going to make something happen.”