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NIT: The end of the road for weary foursome

Wire services
Published March 30, 2004

NEW YORK - For Oregon and Iowa State, tonight's NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden against Michigan and Rutgers meant one last, long road trip, far from home.

"Eleven hundred miles," Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan said slowly, letting the number roll off his tongue so slowly that it sounded like 11,000.

Oregon's journey was even longer, so coach Ernie Kent advised his players to enjoy themselves in New York, maybe grab a king-sized corned beef sandwich from the Carnegie Delicatessen.

After that, it's down to business with the Cyclones (20-12) set to play Rutgers (19-12) at 7, then the Ducks (18-12) going against Michigan (21-11). And that's when the miles could take their toll.

"All four of these teams had issues on the road," said Rutgers coach Gary Waters, understandably comfortable playing closer to home than any of the others.

He's right about that. Rutgers lost just two games in New Jersey but 10 of 13 when it traveled, including its only game in the Garden, losing in the first round of the Big East tournament to Virginia Tech. Michigan was 16-3 at home but just 5-8 away from Crisler Arena.

Iowa State lost 10 straight on the road before beating Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament at Dallas. Oregon lost seven of 10 away from home before defeating Notre Dame in the NIT quarterfinals. None of that matters now as far as Michigan coach Tommy Amaker is concerned.

"Any time you get to the postseason, it's significant," he said. "We're one of eight college teams still playing. We're proud of that.

"That's a significant achievement for our team."

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