Monday, March 7, 2011

Dancing with the Stars: Indiana State Sycamores

Conference: Missouri Valley

Record: 20-13, 12-6

Rankings: 110 (Kenpom), 113 (Sagarin), 95 (RPI)

Potential Seed: 14/15

Best Players: Dwayne Lathan (11.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Carl Richard (9.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Jake Odum (9.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.0 apg)

Big Wins, Bad Losses: The Sycamores kept it close with both Purdue and Notre Dame in a non-conference slate that was mostly disappointing. Their best win was at Oral Roberts, while they dropped games to the likes of Eastern Kentucky, Wyoming, and Loyola IL.

Tendencies: Indiana State is actually the best defensive team in the MVC, which is saying a lot considering the reputation of that conference. They don't create too many turnovers, they simply play tough, fundamental, man-to-man defense, force difficult shots, and clean the defensive glass. Offensively, they are balanced but a bit limited. Seven players average at least 6.1 ppg, but no one more than 11.0 ppg. Part of it is the slower pace the Sycamores like to play, and part of it is injuries they have battled this season. One thing worth noting -- ISU has been very good in close games, even winning two on buzzer beaters earlier this year.

How They Got There: After starting the season out 4-6, Indiana State found a groove early in league play, winning seven of their first eight games. But once the Sycamores got to the meat of their schedule, they lost five in a row and seemingly fell out of contention. They rebounded, however, winning their last five in league play (sandwiched around a loss to Morehead State in Bracket Buster's) and then beating Evansville, Wichita State, and Missouri State to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Outlook: The Valley is not as good as we have become accustomed to this season. ISU was the three seed in the tournament, and while they won, there is very little chance for Missouri State or Wichita State to earn an at-large bid. Valley teams always seem to be dangerous in the tournament -- their league is so competitive and physical that they are prepared for tournament battles -- but I don't love this group. I like the two Jakes as players, Lathan is a terrific athlete, but I just don't see enough playmaking on this roster to pull off an upset of a 14 or 15 seed.

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