Some refer to it as Larry Bird's alma mater, but Indiana State's basketball roots run much deeper. After all, Terre Haute, Indiana was the place the legendary John Wooden spanned the sidelines for two seasons before he went on to greatness with UCLA.
During his time with the Sycamores, Wooden not only ran the athletic department and taught classes, but he somehow found time to work on his own master's degree in Education. The man simply did not rest until excellence was achieved, even if that mindset saw him doing something as crazy as coaching baseball on the side.
Wooden's imprint on this program is undeniable now. But from the day he was inducted into the Indiana State Hall of Fame in 1984 until his death in June of last year, the Sycamores only made one NCAA Tournament appearance (2001). Excellence, to say the least, has been elusive. Now, after a commendable destruction of the MVC field, they have a chance to honor their esteemed coach in the greatest way possible: With an upset victory.
A breakdown after the jump...
Location: Terre Haute, Indiana
Record: 20-13 (12-6)
Leading scorers:(11.0 ppg); (9.8); (9.4)
What to know:
- Keep things smart - the Sycamores went 7-2 in games played at a 62-possession pace or slower. They don't have the interior depth to run with a powerhouse program for extended periods and risk fouls. Continued execution of high ball screens will be essential to get shooters open or half-open looks each time down the floor. There are a handful of talented scorers here that can all make a big shot if given the opportunity, so it's a bit of a pick-your-poison type of thing.
- Local product and true freshman Jake Odum is the one who makes everything go. At 6'4" with the versatility to play multiple positions, they badly need this kid to see big minutes and to stay out of foul trouble (he can be a handsy defender). For not being a volume shooter, Odom's scoring efficiency is impossible to deny: 1.58 points per shot. To put that into perspective, a player like Providence's Marshon Brooks averages 1.32 and roughly three times as many points per game.
- Threes. Lots of them. Coming from all angles. Nine players on the roster attempted at least one long-ball attempt per game during the regular season. The MVC's best deep shooter is Jordan Printy, a junior specialist who knocks down 48% of his treys. Printy usually sees between 15-20 minutes per game, and he's the most undervalued asset on this team.
Projected seed: #16. The Sycamores come at you with a bunch of oversized guards who can all handle the rock, rebound, and step out to the three-point line. There are certainly a few No. 1 or No. 2 seeds that could have an issue with this over the course of a game, but a legit question remains: Does ISU shoot well enough to pull off a miracle? Big man Myles Walker only fouled out of two games this year, despite being notorious for picking up quick cheapies and getting forced to the bench. Much like he did in the final two games of the MVC tourney, Walker needs to play inspired basketball for Indiana State to keep things close against an elite team.