TERRE HAUTE —
Oranges don’t grow on Sycamores, but a gym full of ISU fans were ready to send Syracuse to the juicer Sunday afternoon.
“I’m excited. Can’t wait to go,” Amanda Black said as she and her husband, Keith, left the Indiana State University Student Recreation Center that evening.
Hundreds of fans filled the center to party while awaiting the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket information. The Sycamores’ first trip to the tournament since 2001 had the community out in force waiting to hear who and when they’ll play. A 20-foot-wide-by-12-foot-tall projection screen in the gym’s north end displayed the CBS March Madness program, and seats emptied of cheering fans at the announcement that ISU will play Syracuse University on Friday in Cleveland.
Black was among those stating they intend to travel to watch the Missouri Valley Conference Champions in action. About 1,000 people attended the announcement party.
Kelby Scrogham, a sophomore member of the ISU spirit squad, was passing out blue-and-white beaded necklaces before the announcement, a white bow in her hair.
“I think we’re all excited to find out where we’re going,” she said. “I know I’m excited to go and cheer on the boys I’ve been cheering for all season.”
Blue and white balloons lined the walls and a banner with “Let’s Dance” printed across it hung in the air.
Before the announcement, coach Greg Lansing said the community support for the team has been terrific.
“Let’s just do this every year,” he said to applause.
Crediting athletic director Ron Prettyman, his staff and ISU President Dan Bradley, Lansing described the environment as being ripe for champions.
“It’s not just what’s going on with Indiana State athletics. It’s the whole campus,” he said. Referencing his team and its three wins in three days at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, he added, “These guys aren’t done. They are not. We’re going to be finding out in a little bit whether it’s Thursday or Friday, but somebody’s going to have a really bad day.”
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said the basketball team’s championship season has had a great impact on the community at large. Coming out of a rough winter full of ice storms and dismal skies, a return trip to the NCAA Tournament is pure, positive sunshine.
“They must have said ‘Terre Haute’ 30 times,” he said of recent televised broadcasts featuring the team. Growth in the ISU enrollment means growth for the city, he said. “You can’t buy that kind of advertising.”
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.