ST. LOUIS —
The Indiana State men were picked where in the MVC Preseason poll?
The Sycamores tied for fifth last year and have seven players back from a postseason team. Terre Haute is so excited about this team. They had to be picked in the top half of the league, right?
Wait ... they were picked seventh?
The women’s team — with a new coach, a new attitude, a lot of returning talent, and a tradition of league success — they should be a lead-pipe cinch to be in the top half of the league. Shouldn’t they?
They were picked eighth? Really? They occupy the worst MVC preseason position for the ISU women since 1997?
It would be a surprise if fans of ISU’s basketball programs agreed with league observers as to where they rate in the MVC pecking order. It wouldn’t be a surprise to assume that many ISU fans are going to be disappointed, perhaps even angry, over the perceived lack of respect.
But don’t let it get to you. Certainly, the players don’t waste too much time worrying about it. During Tuesday’s Missouri Valley Conference media day in St. Louis, the ISU men were represented by Jake Kelly and Dwayne Lathan and the women by Kelsie Cooley. None of them were overly concerned about how and where they’re perceived.
“It’s too easy to get caught up in how other people think. We have to focus on how what we do as a team, how we practice, how we approach games. If we do that, things will take care of themselves,” Cooley said.
“It’s nothing we’re not used to, but we want to prove ourselves even more this year because we lost Harry [Marshall], Rashad [Reed] and Josh [Crawford]. We have a new coach, a new system, we have to prove ourselves,” Lathan said.
Their perspective makes sense. Much less so than fans, or even coaches, players have their own jobs to worry about. They ultimately have to put a program’s money where its mouth is. They have their own expectations that the public often doesn’t know about and that sometimes doesn’t jive with even their own fans’ perceptions.
In other words, it would be a waste of a player’s time to spend any time worrying about what other people think about them.
“As a competitor, you think you’re the best. You’re not going to let someone else’s opinion affect you,” ISU guard Jake Kelly said.
Preseason polls are fun. They generate discussion. Nearly all of the league’s observers — coaches, sports information directors, radio play-by-play men and newspaper beat writers comprise the voting pool — take the polls very seriously when they do their voting. I know I’m in a constant state of assessment throughout the off-season before I turn in my poll every year ... and that still doesn’t make it easy when it comes time to put choices down to pen and paper.
If there are agendas amongst the voters — and I don’t think there are among the vast majority of them — there’s nothing to be gained it. Sometimes traditonal powers get the benefit of the doubt versus an emerging program, and that might be biting ISU a bit at present, but that has far more to do with human nature than it does any kind of organized “conspiracy.”
That doesn’t mean the players don’t create a pecking order of their own in private. Focused on their own jobs though they may be, they’re not completely insular. It’s also their job to have at least a cursory knowledge of the teams in the rest of the league, so privately, they play the same game the public and media do when it comes to sizing up the competition.
“There’s teams we’re worried about and there’s teams we’re not worried about. That’s how I think about it. We talk about where we are too and I definitely don’t think we’re seventh,” Lathan said.
“You have to give your own team first, but we do talk about who’s got who back, we compare the teams, but we ignore the fact that people think we’re seventh,” Kelly said.
In the end, preseason polls ultimately mean nothing. The only time a team’s place in the polls is remembered is when they greatly exceed expectations — as Drake did in 2008 when it won the MVC championship — or vice versa.
The beauty of basketball, as opposed to FCS football, is that polls have zero bearing on who makes the postseason. Preseason polls matter a little bit in major college football because it sets the table for the rest of the season. Basketball doesn’t have to worry about that.
And certainly, within the framework of the MVC, the round-robin schedule determines a true champion. The Sycamores will get their chance to prove they’re better than seventh and eighth, respectively, in the fairest way possible ... by playing everyone twice.
So don’t sweat the preseason polls too much. In a couple of weeks, when the real games begin, you’ll have likely forgotten what you were upset about.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.
ST. LOUIS —
The Indiana State men were picked where in the MVC Preseason poll?
EIU might come at right time for ISU
Sometimes an opponent lines up just right on the schedule that suits a team’s needs.
That’s true for Indiana State as it travels to play Eastern Illinois at 8 p.m. today at Lantz Arena. And it’s not because the Panthers have struggled, even though they have.
Young gun: Freshman Belyea leads Engineers to second straight victory over Saint Mary-of-the Woods
Freshman women’s college basketball players sparked Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Rose-Hulman on Wednesday in Hulbert Arena. Playing her first major minutes of the season, Rose-Hulman guard Kristen Belyea was the clutch shooter for the Engineers. In the second half, Belyea knocked down 4 of 6 from the field and 2 of 3 from the 3-point arc to help the Engineers earn a second straight victory in the rivalry with a 74-54 decision.
Strickland leads RHIT men to win
Rose-Hulman opened its Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference men's basketball season with a 66-50 victory at Anderson University on Wednesday.
Metro: Boys county title games set for tonight
A pair of championship games in the Vigo County middle school boys basketball tournament will be played today in West Vigo High School’s main gym. At 6 p.m., Woodrow Wilson will take on Sarah Scott for the sixth-grade title. Then at about 7:30, Wilson and Honey Creek will tangle for the seventh-grade crown.
METRO ROUNDUP: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Rose-Hulman set to battle for Clabber Girl trophy
With the Clabber Girl Trophy hanging in the balance for the 21st time, the Rose-Hulman women’s basketball team will welcome crosstown rival Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to Hulbert Arena today for a 7:30 p.m. matchup.
The Engineers (0-4) will look to defend their title after capturing the Clabber Girl Trophy for the first time since 2008 with last season’s 80-74 victory.
ISU’s Underwood named first team All-MVC
Sophomore linebacker/defensive end Connor Underwood was named to the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference first team on Monday, heading a list of five Indiana State players honored.
Red-hot Strickland leads Engineers past Wabash 77-68
Julian Strickland tied his career-high point total with 31 Monday night — his third consecutive 30-point game this season — as host Rose-Hulman downed Wabash 77-68 in Hulbert Arena.
Metro sports: ISU women play today at No. 15 LSU
Indiana State’s women finish a three-game road swing by playing nationally ranked LSU at 12:30 p.m. today at Baton Rouge.
Rose-Hulman women fall short to Marian
A clutch 3-pointer and free throws down the stretch sealed the home victory for Marian University in Saturday’s competitive 50-45 nonconference victory over the Rose-Hulman women’s basketball team.
Strickland pours in 30, but the Engineers fall in home opener
Carroll University withstood a last-minute challenge by Rose-Hulman to earn a 67-64 men’s basketball victory in the Engineers’ home opener Saturday afternoon in Hulbert Arena.
Indiana State holds off hot-shooting Pepperdine
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is very much a work in progress defensively. Evidence of that came Saturday when Pepperdine shot 57.8 percent against the Sycamores in the fourth-place game of the Great Alaska Shootout.
But when it came down to winning time? Pepperdine’s Waves crashed on the rocks of ISU’s defense.
Hoosiers gain 692 total yards, re-claim Oaken Bucket
Although his team fell well short of defending its possession of the Old Oaken Bucket Saturday against Indiana, Purdue’s freshman quarterback Danny Etling — a Terre Haute South grad — showed poise and talent in bringing the Boilermakers back in the second half in a 56-36 loss.
Sycamores outpace Seawolves
Indiana State wanted a better defensive effort in its Great Alaska Shootout consolation semifinal game against host Alaska-Anchorage on Friday, but the Seawolves weren’t going to give the Sycamores an orthodox offense to assess themselves with.
Prep/Metro roundup: Marshall girls pick up big wins at Robinson
Marshall’s Lions got a huge girls high school basketball victory Friday afternoon at the Robinson Thanksgiving Tournament, downing Mt. Carmel and 2013 Illinois Miss Basketball Tyra Buss 57-53.
Uneven Sycamores fall 63-62 to Tulsa
Indiana State loses to Tulsa 63-62 in opening game of Great Alaska Shootout
Tulsa's switching defenses confounded Sycamores
Tulsa paid Indiana State the respect they feel the Sycamores earned with a 3-1 start and a win at Notre Dame on Nov. 17.
So the Golden Hurricane threw multiple defenses at the Sycamores.
On target: Sycamores spreading the wealth with their shooting
Indiana State’s men's basketball team did many things right during the 2012-13 season, but one thing it couldn’t get a handle on was its 3-point shooting. The Sycamores shot 32.1 percent from 3-point range, ranked 252nd in the nation. It was going to take a lot of work to improve ISU’s percentage. So far, hard work has had its own reward.
O’Leary eyes return to Hulman Center
Former Terre Haute North standout Matt O’Leary is hoping to help Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser turn the program into a new chapter of success in a new conference.
College report: Gardner jumps at chance to play for ISU
Cody Gardner enjoyed his freshman baseball season at Wright State and earned more time on the field than he honestly expected to get. Coach Rob Cooper departed WSU after last season to take over at Penn State, however, and Gardner jumped at the chance to return to his hometown as an Indiana State Sycamore and perform for the school where two members of his family previously excelled.
Young Evansville team unable to threaten Indiana
Indiana coach Tom Crean surprised everyone by starting senior walk-on Jeff Howard. Evansville didn’t give themselves the chance to surprise the Hoosiers.
Metro roundup: Rose star is conference POW
After a career-high 31-point performance on Saturday night, Rose-Hulman senior Julian Strickland has been named Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week.
NCAA championships: Runners face muddy course, stiff winds as well as each other at Gibson course
More than 500 runners were prepared for a muddy course, but the NCAA’s elite also had to fight a wind chill in the teens Saturday at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
Nothing was going to stop Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, who upset defending champion Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech or women’s champion Abbey D’Agostino, who adds her first NCAA title in cross country to her four national titles on the track.
ISU defeats Truman
What do you expect when a Division II team pays a visit to a Division I arena?
In Truman State’s case, you can expect a pretty good showing. Indiana State had some nervous moments against the Bulldogs, but the Sycamores prevailed 80-69 on Friday at Hulman Center.
ISU football closes out season against SIU
Indiana State’s football team had its last practice of the 2013 season Thursday and it had a jovial climax.
Favorites look to win at NCAA cross country championships
Two consensus thoughts prevailed in the hunt for the NCAA cross country individual championships: Kenyan Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech is the heavy favorite to repeat as men’s 10,000-meter champion and Dartmouth senior Abbey D’Agostino, last year’s runner-up, will be tough to stop from winning the women’s 6,000-meter race.
ISU’s Underwood family affected by Illinois tornado
Indiana State defensive end Connor Underwood can be forgiven if football wasn’t the biggest thing on his mind this week as the team prepared for its season finale against Southern Illinois today.
New officiating edict could help ISU's Odum
For ISU, one player immediately comes to mind as far as who might benefit most from the new rules -- senior point guard Jake Odum.
Gant looms large in ISU's 2013-14 improvement
It’s no overstatement that as Justin Gant went in the 2012-13 season, so did the Indiana State’s men’s basketball team.
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Terre Haute’s Mundy helping young Hoosiers climb toward top
It didn’t take long for Chanli Mundy to find her way home from Bloomington.
The 2011 Terre Haute North all-state cross country runner arrived on the Indiana University campus this summer knowing making the varsity team might be a long shot.
But she put in the quality miles, believed in herself and is ahead of schedule as a freshman for the Hoosiers, who received an at-large berth to Saturday’s NCAA championships at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
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