DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Drake stopped short of handing interim coach Jeff Rutter the job permanently on Monday, saying in a statement that it'll conduct a nationwide search and that Rutter is "a strong candidate."

Athletic director Sandy Hatfield-Clubb says the Bulldogs are seeking a coach who will develop the program into one that competes for Missouri Valley Conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances.

Drake has made just one NCAA Tournament since 1971.

Rutter took over in December after coach Ray Giacoletti abruptly resigned. The Bulldogs initially got a lift from Rutter, starting Valley play at 5-4, but they've since lost nine straight.

The Bulldogs (7-23, 5-13) will face Bradley on Thursday in the opening round of the league tournament.