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 email@example.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
- Indiana State University
Etherington, Moore happy to be with ISU basketball
Not even two weeks into their college experience, Indiana State freshmen men’s basketball players Alex Etherington and Demetrius Moore stood sentinel as 115 kids ran around them collecting basketballs and getting autographs at the Greg Lansing Basketball Camp on Thursday.
ISU's Johnson invited to World University Games
Indiana State senior Felisha Johnson will be traveling the world this summer after being named to represent the United States in the women’s shot put at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
Q&A: ISU football coach Mike Sanford ready for fall
It’s hard to believe, but Mike Sanford has already been Indiana State’s football coach for six months.
Time flies, but Sanford’s task of preparing for his first season in charge of the Sycamores comes with few breaks.
Rex streak ends at 7
The Terre Haute Rex table setters — Kyle Kempf and Tyler Wampler — had three of the team’s eight hits Friday at Bob Warn Field, but the Rex offense found itself in a big early deficit for the first time this season.
Manaea’s selection puts ISU in spotlight
Once the stress and hang-wringing over where Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea might get drafted was over, the angst subsided and was replaced with a happier emotion. Pride.
ISU’s Hope places 13th in NCAA pole vault
Indiana State senior Nicole Hope concluded her final competition of the 2013 outdoor season on Friday as she tied for 13th in the women’s pole vault at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Metro roundup: Former Sycamores take talents to CFL
Former Indiana State players Johnny Towalid and Justin Hilton were signed by teams in the Canadian Football League this week.
Exit Minnesota, enter Oregon State on 2016 football schedule
When the Big Ten Conference implemented a nine-game football schedule starting in 2016 and discouraged members from playing Football Championship Subdivision teams, there was one game on Indiana State’s future schedule that was likely on borrowed time.
ISU’s scheduled game at Minnesota in 2016.
ISU's Manaea selected 34th overall by Royals
Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea selected 34th overall by the Kansas City Royals.
ISU's Manaea is mystery man of MLB Draft
There is no consensus as to where Manaea might be drafted. Some experts still have him being chosen among the top 20 picks. Some don’t have him being picked in the first round at all.
ISU's Johnson, Wise compete at NCAA nationals
Indiana State's Felisha Johnson and Katie Wise competed at the NCAA Track an Field Nationals at the University of Oregon.
Sycamores ready for more NCAA track success
Five of the six Indiana State athletes in Eugene, Ore., already have had some memorable track and field careers for the Sycamores.
But they’ll go ahead and try to add to their list of accomplishments in the NCAA outdoor championships this weekend.
Dustin Betz has been a scorer and key piece of eight Missouri Valley Conference championship teams between track and cross country. He’ll compete today in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as the Sycamores’ second best in the event behind Jordan Fife.
Mike Lucas joins ISU football staff
What traits do head football coaches seek out when they hire position coaches?
Indiana State football coach Mike Sanford provided insight into that question as he hired former Southeast Louisiana head coach Mike Lucas to his staff Tuesday. Lucas will be the Sycamores’ defensive line coach.
“You have to look at your staff and see what you need. I felt like in this particular case, I wanted an experienced defensive line coach. I feel like we have a mixture of experience and youth and I want to keep that going,” Sanford said.
Sycamores bow out of MVC Tournament
Indiana State’s baseball was out of pitching, and after a loss to Wichita State on Thursday, the Sycamores were out of second-chances too at the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament. What the Sycamores weren’t out of was heart, guts and clutch performances from some unlikely sources. But in the end, Friday’s elimination game rematch against the Shockers was a sampling of ISU’s season overall — the Sycamores were out of luck.
Four Indiana State athletes advance to NCAA outdoor track and field championships
Three Indiana State seniors and a freshman have punched their tickets to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in two weeks at Eugene, Ore., with their Friday efforts in the 2013 NCAA East Preliminary at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction
Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU sending largest group yet to postseason
On the heels of their thrilling double victory at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships both the Indiana State men and women moved up in the national rankings which were released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
ISU's athletic treasure trove
Think of every championship that Indiana State has won in each of its sports, past and present. Think of every tournament — postseason or regular season — which the Sycamores have claimed as their own.
Ort sets ISU RBI record in 16-7 win
Robby Ort celebrated his Indiana State baseball Senior Day on Saturday by becoming the Sycamores’ all-time leader in RBIs as ISU ended its regular season with a 16-7 win over Bradley at Bob Warn Field.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
Indiana State to host 2014 MVC baseball tourney
Build it… and they will come. The Missouri Valley Conference and Indiana State University made that famous line from the movie “Fields Of Dreams” reality Thursday.
Behind 16 hits and Manaea's pitching, ISU beats Bradley
Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
ISU baseball team builds on success with 14-2 rout
Indiana State’s baseball victory over Alcorn State on Friday would take on more meaning Saturday if the Sycamores could build momentum and pick up on the good work they did in Friday’s ninth-inning rally.
The Sycamores were aggressive from the opening inning at the plate and starting pitcher Devin Moore gave them eight valuable and effective innings on the mound as ISU defeated Alcorn State 14-2 at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a really good experience for everybody. It felt great to finally come out here and put some things together. It’s also really nice when your offense puts a lot of runs on the board,” Moore said.
Moore’s eight innings of work were as valuable as gold to an ISU team that is short on quality arms due to injury and ineffectiveness. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and one of the two runs he conceded was unearned.
ISU earns badly-needed win
Alcorn State’s baseball team might be ranked in the bottom 10 in RPI and Indiana State might have never lost to a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. So it wouldn’t appear that a quality win was in the offing when Alcorn State visited Bob Warn Field on Friday.
ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
Indiana State produced two champions during the opening day of action in the Missouri Valley Conference track and field championships Friday at Drake. Freshman John Mascari, a Terre Haute native, won the men’s 10,000-meter race and Nicole Hope won the women’s pole vault for the second time in three seasons.
ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
Pole vault is track and field for the adrenaline junkie, Indiana State senior Nicole Hope proclaimed during a recent practice at Marks Field.
To catapult oneself about 14 feet into the air with a large $500 fiberglass pole on a daily basis is a risky endeavor.
“We have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid at all,” said Hope, who has also catapulted herself into the NCAA’s elite in the event, ranking 15th in the NCAA with her leap of 13-feet, 9 1/4.
Lansing looking for more home games for next fall
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is looking for a few good games.
Home games that is.
The Sycamores have filled in most of the blanks in their nonconference schedule, but as ever, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to visit the friendly confines of Hulman Center a bit more often.
ISU baseball gets back into rhythm with victory
Baseball is a rhythm game. With contests every day or five times a week in the case of many college programs, you have the chance to build on success or wallow in a slump.
Mother Nature took that rhythm away from Indiana State’s team last week. After a 7-1 loss to Indiana on April 24, ISU was supposed to play a three-game series at Tennessee-Martin, but it was wiped out by rain.
So the rhythm was disturbed, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing.
ISU was in a five-game losing streak before its unintended vacation and the Sycamores made a move in the right direction Wednesday with a 7-0 win over DePauw at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a disappointing weekend. We went all the way down to Tennessee and didn’t get to play. We sat around in the hotel room. We came here and it was still raining. It was nice to get out and see some live pitching,” ISU center fielder Landon Curry said.
- More Indiana State University Headlines
- Etherington, Moore happy to be with ISU basketball