TERRE HAUTE —
Last Thursday, when Indiana State’s baseball jumped around in a celebratory dogpile after clinching the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship at Bob Warn Field, no one thought that a little over a week later, the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble would fly over Terre Haute.
But here the Sycamores are. ISU’s bubble will fly precariously until noon Monday when the NCAA field is unveiled.
Cinderella will have no place at ISU’s table this weekend. The more favorites who win in the conference tournaments, the better for the Sycamores. Any team in the RPI top 50 that advances in the conference tournaments is ISU’s friend.
ISU got no help from its conference brethren. A MVC bid will be stolen by either Southern Illinois or Creighton tonight in the MVC championship game.
With a better Ratings Percentage Index number and longer MVC Tournament run, Missouri State is considered to have a stronger case than ISU does to get a NCAA at-large bid.
Wichita State has a better RPI than ISU too, but the Shockers’ overall record is far weaker and ISU won the season series. Most believe if the MVC gets three bids, ISU would be the third team.
This is in spite of the fact that the Sycamores have lost four in a row and went 0-2 in the MVC Tournament. It’s hard to deny that the Sycamores have thrust themselves into the precarious position they’re in. There’s not much to do but sweat it out.
“We really haven’t done a whole lot. We’re going to practice on [Saturday] morning and scrimmage. Same thing on Sunday. All of us are anxious to find out though. It’s never fun to wait,” said ISU coach Rick Heller, who noted that he’s done “a lot” of scoreboard watching.
Heller, of course, believes the 41-17 Sycamores did enough during the regular season to merit selection to the 64-team NCAA Tournament field.
“I think the strongest case is the fact that we played great all year long. We were really consistent,” Heller said. “The fact that we won the Valley when it was as tough as it was in the last 25 years helps. And we played four out of seven series on the road in the conference. If you win this league with the year it’s had, it has got to get three teams in. I just can’t imagine that with the year the league has had, they’d keep us out.”
Here’s a look at what works in ISU’s favor and what doesn’t.
The case for ISU:
• ISU picked right year to win MVC — The Missouri Valley Conference is on course to have its best RPI season since 1999.
The league is currently sixth and is just percentage points behind Conference USA for fifth place. The upsets in the MVC Tournament have only helped the league’s RPI as all ships have risen with the upset tide.
• History is on ISU’s side — Creighton sports information director Rob Anderson sent me a nugget Friday. The sixth-rated RPI conference has put three teams in the field in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2008, the Big West Conference got four teams in.
ISU is also over the 40-win mark, which is considered to be an important threshold as far as overall record is concerned.
• Dallas Baptist — Dallas Baptist played a partial MVC schedule in 2011 and 2012 as part of a probationary period installed before it could join the MVC as a baseball-only member. DBU decided instead to join the Western Athletic Conference, but in its tour of the MVC, DBU gave everyone’s schedule a big RPI lift. DBU’s RPI is 24 and it will make the NCAA field.
ISU might have benefited the most. ISU won the series against them and DBU is the major reason ISU has a 5-5 record against RPI top 50 teams.
• Purdue — Yes, ISU was one out away from knocking off Purdue in West Lafayette. It would have been huge and the extra-inning loss was disappointing.
But merely playing the Boilermakers gave ISU a RPI lift. ISU’s RPI is at 45 as of this writing. If ISU hadn’t played Purdue, it’s RPI might on the wrong side of 50.
“I think us playing Purdue, even we lost, was a good thing on our part. I think the committee will like that we scheduled that game when we did,” Heller noted.
The case against ISU:
• Poor finish — ISU lost five of its last six games. Three of the games were to quality opponents (Purdue and Missouri State twice), two were to weaker MVC teams (Evansville and Creighton).
I’ve been told that the season finish doesn’t carry as much as weight in baseball as it does in basketball. Perhaps. But ISU did itself no favors and gave the committee something negative to consider regardless.
• MVC regular season champions have been left out before — Missouri State was left out as an outright conference champion in 2009 and 2010 co-champion Wichita State was also on the outside looking in. It should be noted, however, that the MVC’s conference RPI was far weaker in both of those seasons. The MVC was 17th in 2009 and 15th in 2010.
• Strength of schedule — ISU probably had its best nonconference schedule in several years this season with Notre Dame, Kansas and Missouri on the slate. But it’s a testament to how hard it is for northern teams to schedule when ISU’s strength of schedule still ended up 140th nationally.
Northern teams usually get a break when it comes to strength of schedule as weight is given to the regional nature of the sport and that inter-sectional games aren’t feasible. But it’s not a certainty.
• MVC’s history with bubble isn’t kind — It has nothing to do with resumes or anything logical, really, but MVC teams in several sports (including MVFC football) over the years have made rational arguments based on RPI, strength of schedule, etc., for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament only to be left at the altar.
Too often in recent years, when a MVC team has been on the bubble, it has popped. Ask Missouri State. Ask Illinois State. Ask seemingly half of the MVFC membership last season.
Woe to those who get too overconfident when all seems assured — including a certain columnist who said ISU was in for sure a week ago.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
- Sports Columns
Redneck Quaker: Here’s a lot of stuff to think about
I would like to express how dedicated the folks of the Emmanuel United Methodist are to their religion and all the folks in the community.
Michael Bolin is an inspiration to all, for his love of the outdoors and great fellowship, being a positive up-beat person.
Redneck Quaker: This fisherman has spent 43 years catching ultimate cold ones
I know, it’s getting late in the year for an ice fishing story, but I’ve had several request from you ice walkers! And there’s plenty to learn from Bryan Holland that can be applied next winter.
Ramblin' Reck: Four prep basketball teams still in contention
The season now is over for all but four high school basketball teams in the area.
Ramblin’ Reck: It’s officially Tourney Time in the Valley
The regular season now has ended for most high school and college basketball teams in the area. It’s Tourney Time.
College report: Valley softball pair help Ball State start off with 12-2 record
Two Wabash Valley products have helped the Ball State softball team get off to a 12-2 start, including five straight wins last weekend to capture the Louisville Slugger Invitational at Arizona State.
Redneck Quaker: Edington, Mafioli set up marriage in unique way
Kaylee Edington says being outdoors gets you away from the turmoil in life and that is why they want to include it into the most important things in their lives.
Little did she know a marriage proposal was being planned for her while she was shooting sporting clays in the great outdoors.
Ramblin Reck: Cloverdale riding 10-game winning streak
Illinois high school boys basketball teams commenced postseason play Monday night and teams in Indiana are set to close out the regular season. Two of the teams with top marks in the area are Cloverdale and Clay City and they met last Saturday to cap a good week of basketball.
TODD GOLDEN: Relax, guys: Play loose, have fun
What seems like an end can really be a beginning for Indiana State’s men’s basketball team.
Redneck Quaker: Wabash Valley Limbhangers conducting banquet March 7
Stand by for news!
No, I’m not Paul Harvey, but please read on about a lot of fun that is about to happen in the turkey-hunting and bass-fishing worlds.
Ramblin’ Reck: Regular season winding down in high school basketball
Time flies when you’re having fun … and playing basketball.
It’s hard to believe that the regular season ends this week for high school basketball teams that we cover in Illinois. The postseason begins next Monday.
Paris, Casey and Marshall have the top marks and Robinson has had some good wins playing a tough schedule.
From The Press Box: The nuts and bolts of compiling a Mock Selection for the NCAA Tournament
Before March Madness comes the March mystery of the run-up to Selection Sunday.
College Report: Valley pair square off in softball pitching duel
Administrators and coaches long ago scheduled the East Tennessee State and Indiana University softball teams to both compete in the Georgia State Panther Invitational in Atlanta last weekend. Little could they have realized, however, that a Sunday afternoon pitching matchup between the two teams would pair two successful, blonde, and versatile performers from western Indiana in a head-to-head clash.
Redneck Quaker: National Wild Turkey Federation banquet coming Saturday
The Sycamore Ridge chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will have its banquet this coming Saturday at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Hall, 8801 E. Milner Ave.
Doors open at 5 p.m. with dinner at 7. Food is catered by Rick’s Smokehouse; you will lick your fingers to the bone after enjoying one of their fine meals.
Ramblin’ Reck: Grizzlies shoot, make just one free throw in win
Memphis defeated Atlanta 79-76. The big point about this game is that the Grizzlies shot just one free throw in the game — and made it. That is an unofficial record for the shot-clock era.
Redneck Quaker: Everyone should meet John Steinbrenner at least once
I’m struggling to find the correct words to describe this incredible 44-year-old outdoorsman!
At times, I will get down on life and feel sorry for myself. Everyone should meet John Steinbrenner at one time n their life. This man sees no challenges, just solutions for anything he comes up against.
From the Press Box: Loss couldn’t ruin great day for ISU, Terre Haute
When I write, and when I can, I like to give myself a bit of time to soak in what I’m going to write about. After Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, I went home, had a bite to eat and pondered what I thought the night was all about.
I knew ISU’s disappointment cut deep. Really deep. A cruel reality of sports is that losses linger on in the memory with greater resonance than wins often do. Given the shots that rattled out, fell short and missed the mark in the final five minutes, this is a defeat that will, sadly, dog the Sycamores tonight, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
Ramblin' Reck: Upsets leave Syracuse in No. 1 spot
A wild week of men’s college basketball action ended Sunday with Indiana’s Hoosiers knocking off Big Ten leader Michigan 63-52.
TILL IT'S OVER: Indiana Track and Field museum in Terre Haute a treasure for city
Greg Gibson and Dave Patterson were named honorary members of the Indiana Track and Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame on Saturday at a reception for the 2014 inductees Saturday.
The Wabash Valley inductees were former high-jump state champion Ted Sweatt of Terre Haute Wiley, former Sullivan and Indiana State standout Erica Moore, former state mile record holder Jack Corridan of Wiley and Tom Henderson of Brazil.
Hughes, News & Views: Odds in favor of Richard Sherman being mentioned here
I’ve explained my post-2011 NFL allegiances before, but allow me to summarize them one more time for any new readers to this column.
I eased into liking the Indianapolis Colts as my favorite team in the late 1980s. Like plenty of other Wabash Valley sports fans, I became Colts-obsessed when Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and others turned them into an elite franchise in 1999 and the early 2000s.
When the Colts beat Da Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007, I yelled as loud as anyone in Terre Haute.
Ramblin’ Reck: Even after 20-point loss, Sycamores move up to 51st in RPI
Checking out some basketball polls and rankings -- colleges first:
In spite of losing to Wichita State, Indiana State moved up to 51st in the weekly RPI totals from 63. Some other rankings: Kansas 1, Wisconsin 4, Villanova 5, Wichita State 9, Creighton 10, Illinois 58, Northern Iowa 70, Indiana 77, Missouri State 78, Purdue 87, Butler 90, Notre Dame 94, Illinois State 108.
College report: Terre Haute pair Berry, Comer to boost Sycamores’ lines
While many people have varying opinions on the most important position on a football team, most old-school gridiron veterans would consider strong line play as a necessity for anything else to work — kind of like pitching in baseball and guard play in basketball.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Time for constructive criticism, not panic for ISU
I said before Indiana State’s Missouri Valley Conference showdown with Wichita State that there would be no need to hit the panic button if the Sycamores lost at Koch Arena on Saturday.
REDNECK QUAKER: Hunting bear will provide challenge you seek
Brett Dalton and some fellow turkey hunters decided to try their hand at bear hunting, but found it to be more of a challenge than they thought.
Don’t forget, Mother Nature calls the shots!
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Little to lose, a lot to gain for Indiana State
It’s hard not to get excited about today’s Missouri Valley Conference summit meeting between co-leaders Indiana State and Wichita State. Who wouldn’t be?
AMEY TAKES AIM: Emmitt 'Tank' Tyler remembered as a great football player, great mentor
Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m. until the 11 o’clock services Saturday at Second Missionary Baptist Church for Emmitt “Tank” Tyler.
The former Garfield and Indiana State fullback and linebacker passed away on Jan. 8 and is survived by his wife Debra and sons Emmitt II and Ethan, along with three goddaughters, two sisters, five brothers and a huge extended family.
Ramblin' Reck: After snow, busy week in prep basketball
Because of lots of snow and ice, high school basketball action was limited in the area last week. This week promises to be a busy one, especially with better weather conditions in the forecast. Some key prep boys games are slated, two of them tonight.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Basketball clock ticking down for Union
If there’s an unfortunate unintended consequence of the several weather-related postponements to the Greene County Invitational — which is operating as well as it possibly could have, Steve Brett was adamant about going on record to say Saturday evening — it’s that losers of Saturday’s four first-round games won’t get to play their usual two additional games in the consolation bracket.
Ramblin' Reck: Both ISU basketball teams off to strong starts in MVC
College basketball teams have commenced league play and it's nice to see Indiana State teams in the top spot in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
From the Press Box: I’ve seen the enemy … and it’s the double bonus
I’ve seen the enemy.
I’ve seen it turn the game of basketball from one of exciting flow into a nonstop parade of tedium. I’ve seen it morph hundreds of what would-be thrilling, last-minute, end-to-end conclusions into foul shooting exhibitions that suck the life out of a gym or arena near you.
It’s the double bonus. It’s a scourge, one that is often overlooked when ideas on how to make the game more entertaining or to speed the game up are put forth.
Amey Takes Aim: Tourney provided a few Classic moments
This column was falling into place nicely until about 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Then youth and inexperience reared up to bite it.
- More Sports Columns Headlines
- Redneck Quaker: Here’s a lot of stuff to think about