5 Reasons the Sycamores could win MVC Tournament

March 8th, 2013 at 12:53 am by under Ross Rowling's Roundup, Sports, WTHI Blog

All of the sudden High School basketball games are spread around the state as we enter regional play on Saturday. Sure, there is plenty of basketball to be played on the High School level. Teams like Rockville, Barr-Reeve, Clay City, Linton, and Vincennes Lincoln survived sectionals and look to make deep runs.

This article’s purpose is to take a good hard look at the Sycamores. Who are they? Rarely do you see a team that’s looked truly dominant, like mid-major world beaters one week, then drop multiple games to opponents that appear less talented. I’m a positive guy by nature, so the title of this one.

5 Reasons the Sycamores can win the MVC Tournament Title

1. #13

The biggest, and most obvious reason to believe Indiana State can make a run at the championship is the presence of Jake Odum. As Coach Lansing has fondly referred to him this year, #13, always gives you a chance to win. The Terre Haute South grad was named First Team All-MVC this week, and rightfully so. He’s the heart and soul of the Sycamores. ESPN analyst Dan Dakich told Sports 10 he thinks Odum is the best passer in the country. He makes his teammates better, and has a knack for making the game winner. With everyone’s backs against the wall in a conference tournament setting, games tend to be close. In a close game this weekend, I want #13 on my team.

2. Anybody’s Ballgame

The last couple weeks have been tough in Sycamore country, but remember not long ago this was a first place team in the conference considered an at-large lock because of the fantastic non-conference body of work. Creighton won the Valley with a 13-5 record this season. In 105 years, this is only the 4th time the champion has finished the conference season with 5 losses, and the first time since Evansville won with a 13-5 record in 1999. The parity of the conference has never been better. Even cellar dweller, (and my alma mater) Southern Illinois has 6 conference wins and 14 wins overall. Never before has every team in the Valley had at least 6 conference wins and at least 10 overall wins in the same season. Clearly that makes the bottom of the league losses for Indiana State much more bearable, because this tournament is truly anybody’s ballgame.

3. Avoiding the Bottom

Even though Indiana State lost their last 5 league games to finish at 9-9 on the season, they still avoided the bottom half of the conference when it came time to seed the tournament. When you think the difference between 5th and 6th isn’t important, consider that the 6th seed is just 2-22 in the tournament since it’s been played in St. Louis. Obviously you want to avoid the 7-10 seeds and the Thursday night game that comes with them. Only the Bradley team from 1998 has made the semi-finals of the tournament after playing on opening night. While you would obviously rather be seeded at the top, according to history 5th sure beats 6-10.

4. Dawon and Only

Odum has been a constant force in the ISU backcourt this season, but at times the shooting guard spot has been a revolving door. We’ve seen Dawon Cummings, Lucas Eitel, and Devonte Brown rotate in and out of the lineup all season long. They’ve all brought really good things to the table at times, but recently Cummings seems to have stepped up his game.  Cummings averages 6.6 ppg on the season, but in the last five he’s cranked up his point production to 12.6 points per game. If he can be a consistent double digit scorer alongside Odum and Manny Arop that could do wonders for an offensive attack that has seemed stagnant at times this season.

5. Nothing to lose

It’s easy to look at this Sycamore team and point fingers and say they struggled down the stretch to a disappointing finish to the season. We forget that this team was actually picked 7th in the MVC Preseason Poll. None of these guys would tell you they are happy with the way the regular season, but realistically this team is ahead of schedule. Indiana State graduates no one from the present team. Without a senior on the roster they’ve been able to put together a fantastic non-conference resume, and play .500 basketball in a league that’s as deep as it’s ever been. The pressure is completely off the Sycamores as they hit the court in St. Louis. No one expected them to win at the beginning of the year, and no one expects them to win now. Sure, Creighton and Wichita State are really good at the top of the league. Northern Iowa is playing well as the three seed, and Evansville just put it on the Sycamores to conclude the regular season. Even Illinois State looks dangerous as a six seed in this years tournament, but in 2001 Sycamore Hall of Famers Matt Renn and Michael Menser led the Sycamores to an MVC Tournament victory, as a 5th seed. Who says lightning can’t strike twice? This team could realize next years potential eight months early, and two step their way into the NCAA tournament.

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