TERRE HAUTE —
When you get older, you’re supposed to get wiser. I don’t know if I qualify, but I’m trying.
One older and wiser trait I’ve picked up is to be cautious, especially when it comes to the fate of your sports teams.
Never assume anything is a great mantra for life in general, but it goes quadruple for following sports.
Better to be cautious and not be hurt by one of your teams when you assume the best. Better to be cautious to enhance the level of ecstasy when your team makes a surprise run after you had assumed the worst.
Sometimes, I take it to silly levels. When my beloved Milwaukee Brewers led the NL Central by 101⁄2 games in early September last year, I was telling people, “Meh, I don’t know if they’ve got it yet. Crazier things have happened.”
People looked at me like I was an idiot and the Brewers went on to win the division by six games. Turns out, I wasn’t wrong, I just had the wrong team in mind. The Brewers beat out a St. Louis Cardinals team that — sadly, oh so sadly — did surprise everyone with a miracle Wild Card comeback thanks to an epic Atlanta Braves swoon.
The Cardinals then beat the Brewers in the National League Championship Series and won the World Series. Not that I’m bitter about it or anything. Never.
So take my cautious mindset into account as I state the following: the Indiana State baseball team has done enough to get an at-large bid for the NCAA baseball tournament in two weeks.
The Sycamores have had a remarkable season. The cherry on the sundae was the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship clinched on Thursday with a 6-3 victory over Missouri State. It is ISU’s first outright championship and its first since 1985. At this writing they are 41-13, good enough for school-record winning percentage of .759 at this point of the season.
The MVC was no easy mark this season either. As of this writing, the MVC’s conference RPI is sixth and the league is within range of fifth-place Conference USA. If its sixth-place RPI standing holds up, it’ll be the MVC’s best position since 1999 and a far cry from 2009 when the MVC was 17th.
It’s a better conference this year and ISU (14-5 MVC) has controlled it. To date, ISU hasn’t lost a single conference series.
It also won its series against Dallas Baptist, a team that was making a provisional trip around the MVC this year to test the waters for possible league membership that ultimately didn’t occur. DBU is 25th in the RPI and will almost certainly be in the NCAA field. Wichita State was the only other MVC team to win a series against the Patriots.
ISU’s RPI is currently 41st (Warren Nolan) or 46th (Boyd’s World) depending on which calculation you want to use. ISU’s only drawback to a possible NCAA at-large is a pedestrian strength of schedule. ISU’s SOS is 158th.
But because college baseball is a sport that is affected by its regional nature, northern teams often get a softer look from the NCAA committee, because they don’t have the selection of nonconference teams to play series and midweek games against that programs in the South and West do.
Travel budgets for baseball are nothing like basketball, so the committee does not usually punish teams as harshly that don’t schedule up, because often times, they can’t.
Generally, an RPI in the top 50 merits consideration for an at-large bid for a northern team. ISU is well inside that threshold. Moreover, it has a 5-3 record against top 50 teams.
Of course, ISU can make the at-large matter a moot point by winning its first MVC Tournament title since 1995, but if it can’t, it should rest easy knowing it’s in the field.
So what’s in store for ISU in the NCAA Tournament? Since 1995, much has changed.
Similar to the NCAA basketball tournaments, it is a 64-team field, a format adopted in 1999. Unlike hoops, the 64 teams are split into 16 regionals played at campus sites. The four-team regional is a double-elimination tournament to decide which team advances to a Super Regional. The Super Regional is a best-of-3 format against a single team and the winner advances to the eight-team College World Series.
There are eight national seeds and they get priority to host the Super Regionals. Eight other teams host the regionals.
Every NCAA baseball tournament projection has had ISU destined for a proposed Purdue Regional. Purdue is having its best season in over a century, and not only have the Boilermakers won the Big Ten for the first time since 1909, they are having one of the best teams by any Big Ten team in the modern era.
It’s too bad more of the state hasn’t taken notice of Purdue or ISU’s success. College baseball is a hard sell in Indiana, but the Sycamores and Boilers are collectively making it one of its best seasons for Indiana college baseball in recent memory.
The bugaboo is that Purdue’s Lambert Field does not meet minimum standards to host an NCAA regional, it’s main problem being the lack of lights.
The odds-on site for Purdue to host its regional is Gary’s U.S. Steel Yard Field. There had been a Baseball America report citing Purdue’s desire to host at Wrigley Field, but Purdue coach Doug Schreiber told me Tuesday that won’t happen.
Nothing screams college baseball like Da Region, but playing on what will likely be a neutral field could have benefits for the Sycamores, should they go there. With ISU’s strong four-man-deep pitching rotation, it is set-up nicely for the NCAA format regardless.
So get ready. If I’ve thrown my usual caution to the wind and have put the Sycamores in the NCAA Tournament, you can too.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
When you get older, you’re supposed to get wiser. I don’t know if I qualify, but I’m trying.
- From the Press Box
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.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU AD Prettyman keeps it close to the vest
Do you want to know who’s on the short list to become Indiana State's next football coach?
TODD GOLDEN: Trent Miles leaves Sycamores with giant legacy
To glean perspective on Trent Miles’ time as Indiana State’s football coach, I went back into the Tribune-Star’s archives to remind myself of what the football program was like when Miles arrived to rebuild it.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Scoreboard watching and the threat matrix for ISU
Indiana State football coach Trent Miles reaffirmed his belief Tuesday that a victory over Youngstown State on Saturday will propel the Sycamores into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 1984.
- More From the Press Box Headlines
- Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best