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.
Record: (20-13, 12-6)
Team Colors: Sycamore Blue and White
We’re Thinking: 14 seed
Kenpom Ranking: 118
Best Win: Missouri State (twice)
Worst Loss: Eastern Kentucky
Most recent tournament history: 2001 (lost to Gonzaga in 2nd round)
Posted by MATT JONES