Tag:MVC tournament
Posted on: March 6, 2011 11:54 pm

Welcome to the Dance: Indiana State Sycamores

Indiana State was not supposed to be in this position. The Sycamores came into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament playing well, locking in a surprising No. 3 seed with wins in five of their last six games. But with most assuming Missouri State and Wichita State were headed for a conference final showdown, few expected Greg Lansing’s team to be headed to the NCAA Tournament. However thanks to three gutsy wins, Indiana State is dancing once again and believes it can make more noise on the bigger stage.

The Sycamores pride themselves on balance, with all five starters averaging between 8 and 11 points a game. The chemistry of the team, and its fortunes for the season, changed prior to conference play when Lansing says he “handed the keys of the car” to freshman point guard Jake Odum. The Terre Haute native immediately introduced a swagger and up-tempo pace to the team that was severely lacking. Since that day, Indiana State turned around a program picked to finish mid pack in the conference into one that challenged for the regular season league title. After beating both Wichita State and Missouri State in the conference tournament, the school best known for being the college home of Larry Bird is dancing one again. The Sycamores won’t be intimidated by whoever happens to be their first round opponent, as they played two strong games on the road in defeats at Notre Dame and Purdue

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Jake Odum  It is rare to see a team embrace being led by a freshman, but in the case of Indiana State, Odum is the emotional centerpiece. Having grown up in Terre Haute, Odum was a lifelong Indiana State fan who hoped to play for the Sycamores. After receiving the opportunity, he came in and put his personality on the team, playing with a confidence that his teammates feed off on during the game. Odum has deceptive speed, quick hands and a knack for hitting the crucial shot at the end of games (as seen in his game winner in the MVC quarterfinals versus Evansville). He and his “Cousin Mose from ‘The Office’” beard won’t win the eye test coming off the bus, but his game will have you a believer before the final horn.

Team Vitals

Record: (20-13, 12-6)

Team Colors: Sycamore Blue and White

We’re Thinking:  14 seed

Kenpom Ranking:  118

RPI:  95

Best Win: Missouri State (twice)

Worst Loss:  Eastern Kentucky

Most recent tournament history: 2001 (lost to Gonzaga in 2nd round)

Posted by MATT JONES

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 6:18 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 7:14 pm

Indiana State with a gutsy MVC title win

ST. LOUIS --- For the first time in a decade and only the third time since Larry Bird departed campus, Indiana State will be dancing in March. The Sycamores defeated Missouri State 60-56 on Sunday to complete its surprising run through the MVC tournament and earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Led by its guard combo of Aaron Carter and Jake Odum, Indiana State was down three at halftime, after a sloppy first half that saw both teams struggle to execute their game plans. But Indiana State came out with defense on its mind in the second half,beginning the second half on an 8-0 run. Missouri State went until the 9:19 mark in the second half before it made its first field goal and the Sycamores were able to withstand a late Missouri State’s rally to get the win.

Having played three games in less than 48 hours, Indiana State came into the game hoping to shoot a high percentage and win with defense. The Sycamores accomplished the first by shooting an impressive 50% from the field, allowing them to overcome a significant size disadvantage and rebound differential on the glass. And defensively, Indiana State was able to limit the scoring opportunities of Missouri State’s big three, Kyle Weems, Adam Leonard and Jermaine Mallett, holding them to only 39 points on 8-25 shooting.

Still yet, Missouri State was able to remain in the game thanks to the striking disparity on the boards. The Bears’ 20 offensive rebounds, in contrast to Indiana State’s four, kept them within striking distance throughout their poor play in the second half. When Missouri State’s Adam Leonard drained a contested three to cut the margin to one with 27 seconds left, it looked as if the Bears might yet be able to once again overcome their poor play with timely late shooting heroics.

After Indiana State’s Jake Odum made one of two free throws, the Bears took over for a final possession to tie or win the game. With six seconds remaining, the ball was inbounded to Missouri Valley Player of the Year, Kyle Weems, whose game winner earlier in the tournament against Southern Illinois sent the Bears to the semifinals. Indiana State quickly double teamed, forcing him to pass to conference tournament MVP Jermaine Mallett. After a quick first step to the basket, the ball slipped from Mallett’s hands rolling out of bounds and handing Indiana State the victory.

Missouri State never looked completely in sync at any point in St. Louis. From the outset, the Bears were unable to execute with their normal offensive efficiency, and won primarily via a desperation to end the school’s NCAA drought. The Bears were fortunate to win their first game against Southern Illinois, overcoming a nine point deficit in the game’s last three minutes, and never were able to regain their regular season form. Each game featured impressive late comebacks designed to overcome large second half deficits, but on Sunday, their fortune finally ran out. The regular season MVC champion, which has been perpetually on the bubble in recent years, likely does not have a strong enough resume to get into the big dance and will probably once again have to settle for a disappointing NIT bid on Selection Sunday. 

As for Indiana State, the NCAA Tournament now awaits for a program that hasn’t been invited in nearly a decade. Just three years removed from a 20 loss season and one summer from having its head coach leave the program to become an assistant at Oregon, the Sycamores are now dancing. First year coach Greg Lansing says his team is “made of the right stuff” and their path, which featured a buzzer beating win and victories over the top two teams in the conference proves their mettle. They now head to the NCAA Tournament, hoping to recreate the glory of the past with a tough, young team ready to make history of its own.

MVC Conference Page and bracket

Posted by MATT JONES

Coach Greg Lansing on the victory:

More College Basketball coverage

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com