TERRE HAUTE —
Soooo … who wants to talk about the 2012 Indiana State men’s basketball season?
It’s funny. Ever since Tuesday’s hard-to-fathom, fall-from-ahead 67-60 loss to Robert Morris in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament at Hulman Center, anyone who had a stake in the 2012 season — fans, etc. — couldn’t run far enough away from it.
There’s really no point in doing a lengthy autopsy here. ISU’s season was defined by lack of toughness. ISU coach Greg Lansing put it another way, repeatedly saying during the season that the team, “couldn’t handle success.” Very true.
Yet another way to put that is that the Sycamores’ 2011 NCAA Tournament run, and expectations that came from it going into the season, conspired to create overconfidence. Too often forgotten by the Sycamores in the multitude of disappointing 2012 performances was the work ethic displayed by the 2011 team that got them to a point of earning expectations to begin with.
The 2011 team was hungry and had something to prove. The 2012 team? Too often they walked into a gym wondering why the food wasn’t already on the plate.
Even the unquestioned highlight of the season — the 61-55 win at No. 25 Vanderbilt on Dec. 17 — probably worked against the Sycamores in hindsight. The last thing this particular ISU team needed was a belief that they had arrived prior to the Missouri Valley Conference season. One 2-7 MVC start later, they had arrived all right — in ninth place.
(From a basketball standpoint, the Sycamores also missed Aaron Carter. Carter was a decent defender during his senior season and ISU did not have an effective combination shooter-driver in 2012 in his mold.)
The bittersweet taste of an 18-15 season that left hungry ISU fans feeling empty in its wake has been understandably disconcerting. I’ve heard more than one ISU fan say the 2011 season was a mirage — that the NCAA Tournament bid was the by-product of three days of good fortune in St. Louis and wasn’t representative of where the program really is.
As gloomy as some of my assessments of 2012 are, this is where I light a candle in the darkness. I’m not buying it that the program is stuck in neutral.
The truth of where ISU’s program is lies somewhere in-between. Were expectations of MVC contention too much for the 2012 Sycamores to handle? Clearly. But is this team capable of better than eighth place? They are. And for all of the angst that that the 2012 season produced, there is hope for 2013.
It starts with junior-to-be Jake Odum, but it only partly has to do with his on-floor production. Odum is the unquestioned leader of this team — on and off the floor — for the next two years.
There’s no one on the roster who has the gravitas, experience (would-be senior Koang Doluony won’t be back), productivity, or the grit of playing through injury-related adversity as Odum has displayed in his first two seasons to challenge him as the team leader.
Odum has been the on-floor leader as the starting point guard since early in his freshman season, so one might ask how is this any different from the last two seasons? While he’s led on-the-court, Odum’s ability to lead off of it — a role he wants to have — has proven more difficult.
Odum didn’t always have a bully pulpit with the older players on the roster, a contributing factor in the disappointing season. With those players gone, Odum can and should be trusted to demand accountability from his teammates.
Accountability … it is so vital when it is demanded from a teammate or teammates in addition to the coaches. Odum has to demand it. He can’t worry about irking his teammates if the occasion calls for it.
One of ISU characteristics in the eight years I’ve covered the men’s basketball team is the dearth of players who could do that. While the Sycamores have almost universally had good guys in that time period, very few of them had the gumption to challenge a teammate to get better or get in their face if he was slacking or holding the team back.
Odum has a unique opportunity to have a two-year window to amend that. He doesn’t need to go around raving like a lunatic, but his teammates should know they have to answer to him as well as the coaches if they aren’t doing their jobs.
Juniors Steve McWhorter, R.J. Mahurin and Lucas Eitel also need to be more vocal and join Odum to change the culture of teammate-to-teammate accountability. To wit, that trio all has segments of their games that they need to improve. Via their work ethic, they can not only improve their own games, but set the example for their teammates as to how things are done.
Past that, the various basketball-related pieces the other 2013 Sycamores have in tow — Manny Arop and Khristian Smith’s potential scoring prowess, Rhett Smith’s versatility, Devonte Brown’s quickness, improvement from Justin Gant and Jake Kitchell, etc. — will only be maximized if they demonstrate complete buy-in. A lot of that buy-in has to come from Odum.
Past is prologue. The 2012-13 roster will be almost entirely comprised of players whose college basketball experiences have been formed from the delight of 2011 and the disappointment of 2012. They have two years left to turn the bad experience into a positive one.
It won’t be easy — the MVC is going to be good in 2013 and there’s no smoothly-paved road back to league contention.
But Odum is the wellspring if the Sycamores are to get there. Presuming he can return to health, Odum has the fortitude to lead the Sycamores to a happier place than where they are now.
He is the man. We’ll see where he can take this team as an upperclassman.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
Soooo … who wants to talk about the 2012 Indiana State men’s basketball season?
- From the Press Box
TODD GOLDEN: Waltman's integrity helped him rise to the top
When I began to think about former Indiana State coach Royce Waltman — and I’ve thought about him a lot in recent months as the ravages of a stroke and cancer robbed us of his presence — I thought to myself “what can I print?”
Waltman was many things. Blunt, plain-spoken, unfiltered? All of the above and more. Every Indiana State fan saw Waltman in action … and I had a front row seat for three years right next to him on press row.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Missouri Valley is tough — ISU making it tougher
For those who measure the quality of a conference by their place in the Ratings Percentage Index, it was a tough year for the Missouri Valley Conference and its marquee sport: men’s basketball.
The MVC was 11th in conference RPI and took all manner of criticism when Wichita State ran the MVC table for a perfect 18-0 season. The fingers that pointed at the league for fielding a weak challenge to the Shockers’ dominance were many.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU's no-excuses approach for real
If you were to ask me what the drawback of covering Indiana State baseball is? I’d be hard-pressed to name very much.
Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best
It’s hard to run with Secretariat. Secretariat, for the uninitiated, won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973 and famously stormed to victory in the Belmont Stakes by an unfathomable 31 lengths. Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and his Belmont performance is one of sports’ all-time greatest moments. In Missouri Valley Conference terms, Wichita State is Secretariat.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Odum rises to WSU challenge
When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
From The Press Box: The nuts and bolts of compiling a Mock Selection for the NCAA Tournament
Before March Madness comes the March mystery of the run-up to Selection Sunday.
From the Press Box: Loss couldn’t ruin great day for ISU, Terre Haute
When I write, and when I can, I like to give myself a bit of time to soak in what I’m going to write about. After Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, I went home, had a bite to eat and pondered what I thought the night was all about.
I knew ISU’s disappointment cut deep. Really deep. A cruel reality of sports is that losses linger on in the memory with greater resonance than wins often do. Given the shots that rattled out, fell short and missed the mark in the final five minutes, this is a defeat that will, sadly, dog the Sycamores tonight, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Little to lose, a lot to gain for Indiana State
It’s hard not to get excited about today’s Missouri Valley Conference summit meeting between co-leaders Indiana State and Wichita State. Who wouldn’t be?
From the Press Box: I’ve seen the enemy … and it’s the double bonus
I’ve seen the enemy.
I’ve seen it turn the game of basketball from one of exciting flow into a nonstop parade of tedium. I’ve seen it morph hundreds of what would-be thrilling, last-minute, end-to-end conclusions into foul shooting exhibitions that suck the life out of a gym or arena near you.
It’s the double bonus. It’s a scourge, one that is often overlooked when ideas on how to make the game more entertaining or to speed the game up are put forth.
From The Press Box: If ISU figures out defense, look out
The Great Alaska Shootout is not going to provide the Great RPI Bump that Indiana State’s participation in last year’s Diamond Head Classic provided.
From the Press Box: Damage is done for ISU football
As a parent and a professional, there’s a bit of advice I’ve tried to pass along that I’ve found to be true.
No matter what you happen to be doing — whether it be job performance or just your own personal behavior — you can do the right thing for a period of time, even the vast majority of the time, but all it takes is one slip and the goodwill you’ve built up can be gone in one fell swoop.
TODD GOLDEN: Munn, Odum want to make paper accomplishment a real one
When it comes to Missouri Valley Conference Media Day, it has historically been a kick in the gut for Indiana State's basketball teams.
But not this year. For the first time since formal MVC preseason polls began in the mid-1980s, the Sycamores rule the MVC roost.
TODD GOLDEN: Colts fans paid Manning ultimate tribute
Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis was many things — the return of a beloved prodigal son, a battle of Colts’ No. 1-draft-pick quarterbacks and last, but not least, the visit from one of the AFC’s last reminaing undefeated teams — but most of all, it could have been a battle for the Colts’ fans soul.
From The Press Box: ISU in top 2 of top-heavy MVC
Change doesn’t often come to Missouri Valley Conference basketball. Until this season, it had endured with the same 10 members since the mid-1990s. But the reality of conference realignment finally hit the MVC where it lived last spring as Creighton departed for the new Big East Conference. The MVC responded by adding Loyola University.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Sycamores shocked by 1-5 start to season
It was a play that not only symbolized Indiana State’s 17-14 loss at South Dakota on Saturday, but perhaps the Sycamores’ entire season.
Down three with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter, ISU faced third-and-9 from its own 39. ISU ran Shakir Bell to the left and the senior standout had daylight.
From The Press Box: An avoidable loss
It couldn’t last forever.
From The Press Box: Colts dodge bullets ... it's what they do
Just a few minutes into the second quarter, it seemed Colts fans could kick back and enjoy a Sunday on Easy Street.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Indiana State proves plenty in 20-14 loss at Purdue
No moral victories?
Bull. Its always been bull and it will always be bull. The Sycamores proved again that moral victories are very real, and can be very rewarding.
All they needed to do to prove it was to look at the stunned faces of the Purdue faithful at Ross-Ade Stadium in the Sycamores’ near-miss 20-14 loss to Purdue.
From the Press Box: Stipends? No. Off-field income? Oh yeah, bring it on
The war flags have been raised. The trumpets have sounded.
With the Johnny Manziel autograph hullabaloo and the ongoing Ed O’Bannon suit against the NCAA for using his likeness as background, many have rallied to the battle standard of stipends as a means of compensating NCAA athletes who are allegedly being exploited for income by their universities.
This rally cry has a particular resonance among those in my profession, many of whom dislike the current system, and who detest the NCAA with a virulent passion.
TODD GOLDEN: Golf ... the beast within?
Like many sports fans, my interest in professional golf is confined to the four major tournaments. Many prefer the Masters, some like the back-to-roots British Open, but I’ve always liked the U.S. Open the best.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Content McKenna has enjoyed seeing ISU's progress
It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
MVC can't wait on Crieghton to move forward
Will they go or not? That’s been the question that the Missouri Valley Conference and Creighton have been faced with since rumors of the Bluejays’ potential exit went public in December.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Can Sycamores reverse fortunes heading into MVC Tournament?
Mastery of a basketball season comes in many forms. Mostly, it comes in forms that involve avoidance of turnovers, anemic scoring and poor defense.
The mechanics of X-and-O success in basketball are obvious, but what’s often overlooked in building a successful campaign is managing the rhythm of the season, which is the hardest thing of all.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Accountability isn't Lansing's alone in ISU's recent struggles
Taking ownership has always been one of Indiana State men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing’s strengths.
When ISU has lost games in his three seasons at the helm that it was expected to win, Lansing has always been willing to fall on the sword and take blame for it.
TODD GOLDEN: Indiana State has far more occasions to rise to
Rejoice, Indiana State basketball fans. The Sycamores’ 68-55 victory at No. 15 Wichita State on Tuesday is worthy of celebration.
TODD GOLDEN: Big plays in last 10 minutes story of the season for Indiana State
You’d think I’d have learned by now.
It’s 20 games into Indiana State’s men’s basketball season and I still expect the Sycamores’ offense operate like a well-oiled machine from the opening tip.
Sycamores blossom on Hawaii trip
Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
Hawaii’s flower, and they’re ubiquitous in Waikiki tourist shops and in actual flora on Oahu, is the yellow hibiscus.
The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
What I have seen blossom — and it’s the only reason flowers would be brought up in my column — is the Indiana State basketball team at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU needs to have its realignment head on a swivel
Have you ever driven past a cow pasture during a severe thunderstorm? If it’s really bad, the cows will congregate in a herd to protect themselves from the tumult.
- More From the Press Box Headlines
- TODD GOLDEN: Waltman's integrity helped him rise to the top