News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 30, 2013

ISU men get highest-ever preseason spot

Sycamores picked second in Missouri Valley

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

Chicago — The Missouri Valley Conference began preseason polling during the 1985-86 season. The highest Indiana State's men's basketball team had ever placed in the minds of media and coaches in past seasons was third.

Now there's a new preseason standard for the Sycamores.

ISU's men were picked second in the preseason MVC poll released on Wednesday as part of Media Day activities at Loyola University, the MVC's newly-minted member.

"I'd take it right now. I think Jake [Odum} would take it right now as well," ISU coach Greg Lansing said. "I also think Jake would rather Manny or Justin Gant or Dawon Cummings be picked all-conference as long as our team won."

ISU had been picked third in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2012, but had never broken into the top two. Wichita State was a unanimous choice to win the league, but the Sycamores had a sizable advantage over Northern Iowa, picked to finish third.

Odum was named to the Preseason All-MVC team for the third time. Arop was a honorable mention selection.

The Sycamores have long known they'd have preseason expectations. They embrace those expectations, but no one wants to be blase' about it. ISU is buying into the idea that to meet expectations they have to work everyday to do it.

"It's been something coach has been stressing through the early part of practice. We can't waste a day of practice. And when the season comes, we can't waste a game. We can't come out flat for 10 minutes. Its key for us to take advantage of every day and every drill," Odum said.

Expectations are nothing new for this particular group of Sycamores. After ISU's third-place finish and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011, the team had high hopes in 2012, but fell short of the mark with an 8-10 MVC record.

In 2013, ISU's unpredicted early-season success created hope and ISU were the MVC's leaders in early February, but ultimately finished fifth in the league. That made the late-season fade that much more painful for both players, coaches and fans.

Lansing said Wednesday that the inexperience of last year's team began to show in the last month of the season as new players who weren't used to the grind of the season wore down.

  The key to avoiding a repeat of that, or the 2012 scenario, is to have the players police and manage their own expectations.

"Any player or any coach learns from their experiences. These guys have always been a hard-working group. I told them that my voice can't be the only one heard. The players have take ownership of the leadership and they've been tremendous with it," Lansing said.

Probably better than any coach, Lansing also knows that preseason polls mean absolutely nothing. Since he became coach prior to the 2010-11 season, ISU has not finished within two spots of where they've been predicted by the media and coaches. The Sycamores have finished higher-than-expected twice and lower once.

"It's early. Being picked second doesn't mean a thing. You lose a couple of games and people stop talking about you quick. We're a veteran team with a lot of guys back, but you can't fast-forward and get to the end right away. You have to keep getting better everyday or all of the talk is for naught," he said.

Along with being the unanimous choice to win the MVC, Wichita State claimed the Preseason Player of the Year (forward Cleanthony Early) and was the only team to have two players on the seven-man Preseason All-Conference team. Guard Ron Baker was the other player.