By Todd Golden
TERRE HAUTE — The Indiana State men’s basketball team has done some heavy lifting to attain a goal it hadn’t reached in nine years … a winning season.
Now comes the reward … ISU is considering its postseason options. Much has changed since 2001 when college basketball’s postseason was so much simpler.
Back then, there was the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitational Tournament … 96 spots and that was it.
Now, there are 128 postseason spots. For better or worse, there are four collegiate postseason tourneys. In ISU’s case, it’s definitely for the better as it ponders entry into either the NCAA field (a long shot, as it must win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament), the NIT (another long shot as there are MVC teams ahead of ISU in the conference pecking order), the College Basketball Invitational, or the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The CBI is in its third season, the CIT is in its second. The presence of both tourneys creates a much-greater likelihood that the Sycamores will be playing postseason ball. Every single MVC team with a .500 or better record participated in one of the four tournaments last season. ISU’s RPI is currently in the 80s, so it stands a very good chance of being selected for one of them.
“It’s the next step for our program to play in a postseason game. Whatever tournament it is, we want to be a part of it, we want our guys exposed to that,” ISU coach Kevin McKenna said. “I’ve been in touch with people at the NIT, CBI and CIT. They’ve all contacted us kind of gauging our level of interest. We’ve told them we’re interested.”
The catch? It’s going to cost ISU some money if it wants to host a game.
The NIT is a bid process to host games, but it would likely cost ISU no less than $100,000. The CBI financial guarantee was $60,000 last season. The CIT guarantee last season was $28,500.
“We’re collecting information right now and a lot of it is where we finish this season. We’d love to host, but it would be a financial consideration. There’s a guarantee involved and I’d have to put pencil to paper and see if it would pan out and see if we wouldn’t lose money on the deal. If we can’t host, we’d be very interested in going on the road to play in any of the tournaments,” ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman said.
ISU did host games in the women’s NIT in 2003, 2005 and 2006, but the financial hit was far milder in a much better economic climate. Prettyman said the guarantee was $12,000 when ISU was in the women’s NIT in 2006.
Prettyman said ISU would be glad to listen to donors and/or corporations that might be willing to lend a helping hand to help ISU host a game.
“All of these organizations have made it very clear that a corporation could buy tickets and be part of the guarantee. We’d hope that there might be interest in something like that,” Prettyman said.
A postseason game would not be part of ISU’s season-ticket package, so tickets purchased by season-ticket holders would also go towards any guarantee.
n Student support? — I’ve mentioned it in my Down In The Valley live blogs for the last two home games, but it bears repeating ... student support at ISU’s recent men’s games has been downright awful.
The students are seated along the baselines of both baskets and there were plenty of chairs available at last Saturday’s game against Drake and Tuesday’s game against Bradley. At no point was this dearth of support more obvious than when a group of students waved empty chairs behind the basket when Bradley was at the line late in Tuesday’s 75-69 ISU overtime victory. If there were more than 150 students at Tuesday’s game, I’d be shocked.
Unless there’s a lifer at ISU on the nine-year plan, no undergraduate at ISU has ever experienced a winning men’s basketball season. So when the time comes, there’s fewer students at the game than there probably is at the Ballyhoo on any given night? It’s pathetic.
I don’t know what marketing is being done to draw students. I don’t know what kind of apathy exists on campus. I don’t know what level of grousing there is about how cruddy the placement of student seating is (and it is). I don’t know what the team is doing to generate student support, at the end of the day, I really don’t care, because it’s all tired excuses.
In a day-and-age where you can try and get a million people to become fans of a potato quicker than a million fans for a flavor-of-the-day band on Facebook, there’s no reason why the word can’t be put out on campus that ISU not only has a game, but that the Sycamores are playing well too.
Perhaps students need to be shamed to come to games. Maybe start a Facebook page with a picture of an empty blue Hulman Center chair. I Think This Empty Hulman Center Chair Can Get 1 Million Votes For Having More School Spirit Before ISU’s Students Can ... something like that.
I’d vote for the chair before I ever put any faith in ISU’s students making a consistent effort to be at the games. Maybe one day, they’ll prove me wrong.
n ServPro Fan Appreciation Day — On a related topic, Chad and Natalie Overton are once again buying up Hulman Center for one men’s and one women’s game for ServPro Fan Appreciation Day. For the men, their choice of doing the third annual promotion on Senior Night might prove fortuitous.
ISU plays host to Missouri State on Feb. 27, a game which could very well determine whether the Sycamores avoid the play-in round of the MVC Tournament. It is one of the biggest home games ISU has had in years.
The women’s ServPro Night is next Friday when ISU plays host to Northern Iowa.
Tickets are available during business hours in the Hulman Center ticket office.
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.