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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 2:30 pm

Indiana to face Arkansas in NIT, Langford's status uncertain

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana will continue its NIT run with a second-round matchup on Saturday at Assembly Hall. The top-seeded Hoosiers will face No. 5 seed Arkansas at noon on ESPN. The Razorbacks (18-15) advanced to the second round after beating Providence 84-72 on Tuesday night, setting up a rematch between teams that met in November.

The Hoosiers and Razorbacks were evenly matched in their game at Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena on Nov. 18, with Arkansas emerging victorious 73-72. The game could have gone the other way, but a De'Ron Davis tip-in attempt in the final seconds hung perilously on the rim before falling short. It was Indiana's first loss of the season.

In that first matchup, Romeo Langford scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, an early indication of how much he would impact the Hoosiers' season. Indiana won its first-round matchup against St. Francis without him as he deals with back spasms and might have to face Arkansas sans Langford again. Coach Archie Miller said that the New Albany native continues to be day-to-day.

"Romeo would like to come back," Miller said. "There are short turnarounds right here with these games, so I don't necessarily know if one day is going to make a lot of difference for him. Maybe it takes us into that second week."

There has been a lot of speculation that Langford is sitting out to avoid injury before declaring for the NBA Draft rather than because he's already injured. For my part, I don't think that's right. He did tweak his back against Ohio State (he went to the locker room for treatment during the game) and Miller has insisted that Langford would play if he was healthy. With everything we know about Langford's competitive nature, I tend to believe him. There's really just not a lot of reason for the team to lie about this. Other players who are projected to be top draft picks have publicly announced they're skipping the NIT, including Arkansas center Daniel Gafford.

"If we played in the NCAA Tournament tonight, (Langford) wouldn't have played," Miller said after the St. Francis game.

It's good news for the Hoosiers that they have three days off between games for Langford to get extra treatment. If Indiana continues to advance, expect to see Romeo on the court once he's healthy.

dsinn@jg.net