ANCHORAGE, ALASKA —
Since Greg Lansing took over as Indiana State’s men’s basketball coach, the Sycamores have seen their frequent flier and hotel points skyrocket.
After a decade or so prior in which the Sycamores mostly stayed in the Midwest to play tournaments, if they played them at all, holiday trips to Florida and Hawaii were on the docket during the last two seasons.
This year the weather changed, as ISU will take part in the Great Alaska Shootout starting at 11:30 p.m. tonight against Tulsa, but the Sycamores are hoping nothing else from their tournament experiences of recent years does.
ISU went 2-1 in both the Old Spice Classic and Diamond Head Classic in the last two years, but it was the Diamond Head Classic trip last season in Honolulu that really stuck out.
ISU defeated Mississippi and Miami — eventual NCAA Tournament teams both — and narrowly lost to San Diego State in a performance that put them in the conversation for NCAA Tournament status themselves.
A large portion of ISU’s current roster took part in both tournaments. They know the drill when it comes to bringing their best game to an exotic locale.
“I think the big thing with us last year is that we were locked in and ready to go. We didn’t make any excuses after having to play early after a long day of travel,” ISU guard Lucas Eitel said. “Looking at that, there’s no excuses for this game. Let’s lock in, let’s play. Everyone had the same travel as us. It’s us and them. Let’s lock in and do it.”
ISU arrived in Anchorage at around 9:30 p.m. local time Monday — Anchorage is four hours behind Terre Haute, so 1:30 a.m. Eastern. Included was a six-hour flight to Anchorage from Minneapolis.
The Sycamores had little time to get comfy. Practice was at Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena at 9 a.m. local time. After an hour on the floor, practice switched to Bartlett High School, alma mater of the Miami Heat’s Mario Chalmers.
“We had a tough turnaround with a 9 a.m. practice, but the guys were really good this morning. I think they’re ready to go,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
It’s a business trip for ISU, but it’s also a life experience. Many of the current Sycamores will not get another chance to experience Alaska and its natural beauty again. What the Sycamores derived from their Florida and Hawaii trips was the ability to smell the roses, but not let the fragance distract from the mission at hand.
“The sign of a team being mature is being able to enjoy the trip, but when it comes time for business, you’re all business,” Eitel said “The biggest part of this team is a bunch of fun guys enjoying each other. I think we can enjoy a lot and win. I don’t think you have to be serious all of the time to win.”
To beat winless Tulsa, the Sycamores will need to be disciplined and careful with the ball.
“They’re extremely fast and tremendous in transition. In the half-court, they just want to put their head down and attack off penetration,” Lansing said.
“We’ll have to do a great job of getting back [on defense] and make them score against a set defense. They apply a lot of pressure, so we have to take care of the ball and not fuel their transition.”
Tulsa — a Missouri Valley Conference member until the mid 1990s — has been on a sort of MVC reunion tour to start the season. Tulsa played at Missouri State (96-93 loss), hosted Wichita State (77-54 loss) and played at recent MVC member Creighton (82-72 loss). Tulsa’s other loss was to crosstown rival Oral Roberts.
The Golden Hurricane were in each of those games. ISU can’t be deceived by their 0-4 record.
“We have to be prepared for how fast they are. They’ve had a rough start, but they’ve been in every game. We have to respect how good a team they are,” ISU guard Dawon Cummings said.
There are familiar faces and names associated with Tulsa’s current team. Head coach Danny Manning is a College Basketball Hall of Famer, having led Kansas to the 1988 NCAA championship.
One of Manning’s assistants, Steve Woodberry, is a former KU star in his own right and helped recruit MVC Player of the Year Kyle Weems to Missouri State when Woodberry was on Barry Hinson and Cuonzo Martin’s staffs with the Bears.
Finally, Tulsa guard Pat Swilling Jr. is the son of former New Orleans Saints standout linebacker Pat Swilling.
If the Sycamores get past Tulsa, there’s plenty of road blocks to come.
TCU, a possible second-round opponent, won at Washington State on its way to Alaska. On the other side of the bracket, Pepperdine, from the respected West Coast Conference, is 4-1. Green Bay is 2-1 and lost by three to No. 10 Wisconsin. Denver is 0-2, but losses were to California and Stanford.
Harvard (4-1) is considered a potential tournament favorite. Its only loss was an eight-point setback at Colorado. The Crimson knocked New Mexico out of the NCAA Tournament last season.
ISU would like to avoid playing Division II host Alaska-Anchorage as it would prevent any possible RPI gain. The Seawolves are 5-1 and are a possible second-round opponent.
• TV note — ISU and Tulsa will play on CBS Sports Network, not CBS proper. Check with your local cable or satellite provider for details.
ISU will continue to play its Great Alaska Shootout games on CBS Sports Network as long as it continues to win. If ISU loses, its games will not be televised.
ISU’s semifinal game would be broadcast on tape delay at 2 a.m. Saturday morning. If ISU plays in the third-place game, it would be broadcast on tape delay at 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Great Alaska Shootout — ISU vs. Tulsa
Tipoff — 11:30 p.m. at Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska.
Broadcasts — TV: CBS Sports Network. Radio: WIBQ-FM (98.5). Twitter: @TribStarTodd.
Series — Tulsa leads 27-14. ISU and Tulsa have not met since Tulsa left the Missouri Valley Conference in 1996. ISU and Tulsa split their only two meetings on a neutral court.
Last time out — ISU defeated Truman State 80-69 last Friday. Tulsa lost 82-72 to Creighton last Saturday.
Indiana State Sycamores (3-1) — G Jake Odum (6-4, Sr., 14.5, 5 apg, 4.8 rpg), G Dawon Cummings (6-4, Sr., 11.8, 2.8 spg), G-F Manny Arop (6-6, Sr., 11.5); F Justin Gant (6-8, Jr., 13.3) and F Demetrius Moore (6-7, Jr., 6 ppg) are possible starters. G Khristian Smith (6-6, Fr., 12.5), G Devonte Brown (6-3, So., 8.5), C Jake Kitchell (6-10, Sr., 2.6), G Lucas Eitel (6-2, Sr., 2.5), G-F Brandon Burnett (6-6, So., 1.8) and F T.J. Bell (6-8, Fr., 0.8) are key reserves.
Coach — Greg Lansing (59-45 at ISU, 4th year).
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (0-4) — G Shaquille Harrison (6-3, So., 12.8), G James Woodard (6-3, So., 7.8, 7.3 rpg), G Tim Peete (6-4, Sr., 4.8), F Rashad Smith (6-7, So., 16.3) and F Lew Evans (6-8, So., 3.8) are the possible starters. G Patrick Swilling Jr. (6-3, Sr., 11 ppg), G D'Andre Wright (6-9, So., 6.3), G Rashad Ray (5-11, So., 5.8), G-F Marquel Curtis (6-4, Jr., 2.5) and F Brandon Swannegan (6-8, So., 1 ppg) are key reserves.
Coach — Danny Manning (17-20, 2nd season at Tulsa).
Injuries and absences — For ISU, C Mike Samuels (foot) is out.
Next games — ISU and Tulsa will play either TCU or Alaska-Anchorage in the next round on Friday.
— Todd Golden
Today (all times Eastern)
ISU (3-1) vs. Tulsa (0-4), 11:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
TCU (2-2) vs. Alaska-Anchorage (5-1), 2 a.m.
Pepperdine (4-1) vs. Green Bay (2-1), 9:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Denver (0-2) vs. Harvard (4-1), Midnight (CBS Sports Network)
Wednesday losers, 4 p.m.
Thursday losers, 6 p.m.
Wednesday winners, 9:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)*
Thursday winners, Midnight (CBS Sports Network)
7th-8th place game, 4 p.m.
4th-6th place game, 6 p.m.
3rd-5th place game, 10 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)**
Championship, 12:30 a.m. (CBS Sports Network)
* tape-delayed broadcast at 2 a.m. Saturday
** tape-delayed broadcast at 2:30 a.m. Sunday