Illinois open to playing in NIT

INDIANAPOLIS – Illinois coach Bruce Weber and his players reaffirmed Thursday they would like to play in the NIT if invited.

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas has previously stated the school would accept an NIT invitation.

The Illini’s NCAA tournament hopes were dashed Thursday when they lost to Iowa 64-61 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

“You’d always like to play in the NCAA, but if the NCAA isn’t an option,” Illinois junior D.J. Richardson said. “We just want to keep playing games. … The NIT, that will have to do. We’ll go there and try to win some games there, try to win a championship.”

The NIT isn’t a lock for Illinois. The Illini dropped their 12th game in 14 contests with Thursday’s loss and fell to 17-15 overall.

“I think we’re a bubble team for the NIT,” Weber said. We just have to see how things unfold. For the kids’ sake, I would like something positive.”

Illinois has been to the NIT once before under Weber, reaching the quarterfinals in 2010.