Vols relieved to avoid 3rd straight NIT appearance

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee isn't griping about the fact it will have to begin NCAA tournament play a little earlier than it expected.

The Volunteers are simply relieved to be in the field at all.

As one of the last teams to receive an at-large bid, Tennessee (21-12) faces Iowa (20-12) on Wednesday in the First Four at Dayton, Ohio. The winner meets No. 6 seed Massachusetts (24-8) on Friday in Midwest Regional action at Raleigh, N.C.

The Vols hoped their late-season surge would keep them out of the First Four, but they like this scenario better than a third straight trip to the NIT. Each of the last two years, Tennessee was optimistic about getting an NCAA bid on the day selections were announced, only to end up disappointed.

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