TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State doesn’t host indoor track meets at Hulman Center, but for its final ESPN BracketBusters game it’s going to make an exception.
The Sycamores will finish their BracketBusters commitment at 11 a.m. Feb. 23 as Iona visits. Why might it be a track meet? Because at 81.8 points per game, the high-flying Gaels are the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation.
“I don’t know that many teams in the country do that,” said Lansing of the Gaels’ high-powered offense. “It’s a very good basketball school and team that we drew.”
In their last BracketBusters go-around, the Sycamores (14-8) will be featured in their first ESPN-televised game. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and opens the BracketBusters’ schedule on Feb. 23. The unusual start time is to accommodate ESPN’s broadcast.
With ISU’s RPI just under 50 by most measures, the Sycamores definitely fall into the category of a team that could have its fragile NCAA Tournament at-large hopes busted.
A win over Iona, whose RPI is near 100, would help ISU tread water in the NCAA at-large pool. But a loss would likely see the Sycamores sink.
“This game is a ways off so I haven’t thought about it much. Some of the things we’ve done with our schedule and some of our wins have people taking about us. That’s a great thing,” Lansing said.
“But also, you’re only as good as your next opponent. We can’t be looking at, ‘Hey, if we win or lose this game it can or can’t help our at-large bid.’ We have to worry about ourselves. The NCAA Tournament is a long ways away and we have a lot of work to do,” Lansing added.
Iona (14-9) is currently in fourth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Iona has three double-figure scorers. Guard Lamont Jones leads the way at 21.2 points per game. Swingman Sean Armand chips in 17.7 points and 5.2 rebounds. Guard David Laury is at 14.1 points. The lowest point total the Gaels have been held to is 62 points against St. Peter’s and Rider.
Given the tempo the Gaels play at, it stands to reason that they’re also among the nation’s worst statistical defensive team. Iona gives up 76.4 points per game, which is 337th in the nation.
Located in New Rochelle, N.Y., just outside of New York City, the Gaels’ most famous basketball alum is big man Jeff Ruland, who played primarily for the Washington Bullets in the 1980s. ISU will have to return the game in either 2013-14 or 2014-15.
Iona was not on ISU’s “request list.” Teams can request three teams prior to selection. ISU had requested Detroit, South Dakota State and North Dakota State.
BracketBusters has existed in some form since 2003. ISU is participating in its ninth BracketBusters field. ISU did not participate in the 2004-05 season when then-coach Royce Waltman declined to take part.
The field grew over time to include well over 100 programs from the non-power conferences. Some felt it got too big and watered down and got away from its original intent. Several conferences — including the Colonial Athletic Association — and schools have pulled out of this year’s event.
“I think when it started it was great. The idea of it and the format of it was all good. Now I think the Missouri Valley Conference is the premier conference in it. I don’t know that teams in our league help themselves much,” Lansing said.
What BracketBusters did do was guarantee two games a season for MVC teams that are caught between not having the gravitas or guarantee money to schedule anyone they want at home and being too good to get attractive matchups against larger schools.
ISU has had trouble scheduling home games even with BracketBusters and the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge, which is also off next year’s slate.
“I’ll take any help I can get with scheduling. It’s not a fun part of the job. It’s hard to do at the mid-major level,” Lansing said. “I want what’s best for Indiana State first and then the league. It going away might make scheduling harder, but maybe it’ll make it better for us.”
ISU next plays at home against No. 16 Creighton on Wednesday. School officials are promoting a Black Out and are selling upper level seats for $5.
MVC BracketBusters matchups Feb. 23
• Iona at Indiana State, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
• Detroit at Wichita State, 4 pm. (ESPN/ESPN2)
• Creighton at St. Mary’s, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
• Denver at Northern Iowa, 8 p.m. (ESPN3)
• Illinois State at Utah State (no TV)
• Green Bay at Drake (no TV)
• Miami of Ohio at Southern Illinois (no TV)
• Missouri State at Eastern Michigan (no TV)
• Evansville at Wright State (no TV)
• Bradley at Illinois-Chicago (no TV)