NATCHITOCHES, La. -- Let's begin today with dispatches from television's hottest mid-season replacement, "How Weird Was My Valley."Kyle, are the Sycamores really this good? This was a team that I thought would be with Illinois State at the bottom of The Valley, but they have a great RPI, and some awesome wins.Also, I think that some of the focus on The Valley should not be (fill in the blank) number of NCAA bids, but rather on total postseason bids including the NIT. It's very likely that seven (or even eight) teams in this conference could be in position to be playing after Arch Madness. That is just unheard of, in my opinion, for a conference that, like you say plays with pennies on the dollar compared to the big boys.Ross, Texas
First of all, this year's Valley would have cleaned up in postseason bids last year -- this is where the NIT's shrinkage from 40 to 32 is going to hurt. After you take care of all the regular-season mid-major champions who couldn't finish the job, and all the .500 power-conference teams that oil the NCAA's engine, there probably won't be enough room to take care of everybody from the Valley. There will be double-screws in March among those seven or eight deserving teams, I just don't want to think about it right now.
And I thought the same thing about Indiana State, especially because of the graduation loss of one of the more explosive (and troubled) MVC scorers in recent memory, David Moss
. Looking at this version (and I had a chance to catch their game against aforementioned Illinois State last weekend) doesn't get you excited at all on first look. I mean, they aren't statistically dominant or even pleasantly mediocre in any key categories -- they're worst in the Valley in field-goal percentage, assists and blocks, and they foul way too much (19.1 fpg, another MVC low), and are seventh in defensive points per possession (.97).
What the Trees do excel in, however, is putting on bursts of intensity at the right times -- they're able to win close games despite their shortcomings. And, following the formula that's worked to bring George Mason and Butler recent glories, they don't turn the ball over.
Indiana State is 35th in the country in turnover rate, only coughing it up at a 18.4% pace. You don't have to shoot all that well if you're getting more chances than most.
And when they do score, they sure do spread it out. Point guard Gabriel Moore
is out there virtually the whole time (38.1 mpg), but the offense is so shaky that he has to put it up himself a lot, and leads the team with 14.5 ppg on blah 37% shooting. What saves the Sycamores is that they have three other double-figure scoring threats at different sizes, all the way up to 2006 MVC All-Freshman selection Jay Tunnell
at 6-8. So if the shooting improves, and the defense gets tighter, Indiana State could get even better. Fancy that!Conference Shootaround!Missouri Valley:
Why are we talking so much about Larry Bird's old school? Because the Sycamores are in first place, of course. At 4-1, Indiana State shares the Valley lead with Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Creighton. Those other three won games against the
hard, rippling Million Dollar Abs of the RPI No. 3 conference's second division on Tuesday night. Indiana State, for its part, beat Wichita State at home in Hulman by five
. The 1-4 Shox, who never lose the same way twice, have five of the next six against currently sub-.500 Valley teams, but that one other one is a huge home matchup against Creighton next Monday.Horizon League:
Not to overshadow the other big news in Hoops Nation™ or anything, Butler lost! To star-crossed Illinois-Chicago in overtime, no less. The Bulldogs now cling to their No. 2 position in the Blue Ribbon Power Poll
even more precariously now, losing two overall points and sinking in the road-performance rankings. Butler only turned the ball over eight times, but couldn't get away with the type of 33% shooting performance that earlier
beat Indiana. UIC is still being run by capable assistants as Jimmy Collins continues to recuperate from an aneurysm. There's now a three-way tie at the top with Butler, UIC and Wright State, which trashed Loyola (Ill.) last night, 81-55
behind 32 from Dashaun Wood
Other nuggets: Belmont is 6-0 in the Atlantic Sun
after tuning up for Friday's Boulevard Battle with 4-2 Lipscomb by nipping Stetson 73-71
Tuesday, a game in which the Bruins led by 13 midway through the second. More about the Battle tomorrow... High Point entered the bizarre world of Virginia Military Institute and came away with a 111-104
win on Tuesday in Big South
action. The Panthers, Winthrop and Coastal Carolina are all 2-0... Virginia Commonwealth is the second-hottest team in the Colonial
behind Drexel; the Rams are 9-1 in their last 10 after dropping William & Mary on the road 88-77
In the Metro Atlantic
, there's a three-way at 4-1, after Loyola (Md.) topped Siena 94-87
in overtime on Tuesday; Gerald Brown
tied the season high he'd achieved in Marist's only MAAC loss with 33... take out an A, and in the MAC
Toledo is 2-0 in the West Division; three schools (#Ohio, Bowling Green, Miami (Oh.)) won their first games in the East last week... The 10-win service academies are having a tough time adjusting to Patriot League
life again; both are 0-2 after a 71-61
Lehigh win over Navy last night. The Mountain Hawks are 2-0, and so are Bucknell and Holy Cross heading into their crucial tone-setter this weekend in Worcester...K-Dub's Krazy Fact of the Day
Indiana State broke a four-game losing streak against the Shockers last night, and had earlier snapped a three-game slide against Creighton in a 55-52
win on Jan. 4. After a few years of just plain bad basketball, the Sycamores have been cleaning out their closets: they took care of a 10-game streak against Southern Illinois last Feb. 1 (one that dated back to 2001), and spent Valentine's Day turning the tables on Northern Iowa's five-game spell (which had lasted since 2003).
So against the nine opposing MVC schools, Indiana State has now won the most recent game in seven of those series -- that's tops in the conference, as every other team have lost the latest contest against at least three others. Evansville has won the last two between themselves and ISU, but the Sycamores' remaining long-running current losing streak to a fellow Valley dweller is now Missouri State; the Trees haven't beaten the Bears in three straight games over nearly two years (since Feb. 15, 2005). If Indiana State keeps winning and winning, beats Evansville on Jan. 24, and also prevails against Mo-State on Feb. 3, it will have win streaks against every other team in the MVC.