TERRE HAUTE —
Mastery of a basketball season comes in many forms. Mostly, it comes in forms that involve avoidance of turnovers, anemic scoring and poor defense.
The mechanics of X-and-O success in basketball are obvious, but what’s often overlooked in building a successful campaign is managing the rhythm of the season, which is the hardest thing of all.
Timing is everything, and no matter how good a team may be, if it’s off at the wrong time, the entire year can be morphed into something uglier than it really was. Conversely, if a team that has struggled to find itself hits its sweet spot at just the right time? It can turn an average season into something special.
There’s no better example of that than where Indiana State’s men’s basketball team finds itself as it heads to St. Louis for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Friday.
For the first two-thirds of the season, the Sycamores were the surprise team in the Missouri Valley Conference. Picked seventh in the preseason, ISU rose to first place and held on to it as late as Feb. 12. Conference wins over Wichita State and Creighton — both ranked at the time of the victories — harkened great things for the Sycamores come March.
Only it rarely works that way. Since Feb. 12, ISU has won just once and hasn’t won at all against MVC competition. Mixed in have been lackadaisical efforts — in particular, in losses at Bradley and at home to Drake.
Adding salt to the wounds was a suspension for second-leading scorer Manny Arop, a blow the Sycamores could ill afford to absorb when they were trying to get their sea legs to finish the regular season on a strong note.
The Sycamores’ 76-57 beatdown of Creighton at Hulman Center on Feb. 6 — when there wasn’t a cloud in the Sycamore sky — seems so long ago.
Mired in a five-game MVC losing streak, and buoyed by the expectations built up by ISU’s success in the first part of the MVC season, some Sycamores fans are despondent. On a MVC-centric message board, one ISU fan called it a “miserable nightmare of a season” — one in which ISU clinched its fourth-straight winning season.
But when a team doesn’t get the timing right, as ISU has failed to do in the last third of the MVC season, perception becomes reality … no matter what facts fly in the face of emotion.
Right now, all hope seems lost. But the wavering faith ignores the one and only tried-and-true trait of the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference season.
That nothing has been tried-and-true in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The MVC has always been described as a conference where teams beat each other up and that anyone can win from the first team down to the tenth. There’s always been a kernel of truth, but honestly, in most seasons, the teams that play on Thursday night in St. Louis have thoroughly deserved to be there. There’s a reason no play-in team has won at Arch Madness since 1998.
But this season might finally be the one where all of the old Valley parity chestnut rings true. The 2013 MVC season has been absurdly unpredictable. Who knows what to expect when the games begin on Thursday?
That’s the lifeline for ISU as it limps into Scottrade Center on Friday. Things are going badly now, but there’s been few seasons where so many teams’ fortunes have turned on a dime so quickly.
Take Wichita State. A week ago, as of this writing, they were all but anointed as presumed MVC champions. The Shockers only had to win one of their two remaining games to clinch the title. WSU then lost at home to Evansville and were beaten at Creighton. So much for the anointing.
Take Illinois State. The Redbirds started 0-6 in the MVC … guaranteed Thursday play-in material in any other season. But the Redbirds rallied to finish 8-10 in the MVC. They will kick back in their hotel room and relax on Thursday — the first time a team that started 0-6 avoided the MVC Tournament play-in round.
“The Valley’s all about making runs. Illinois State started off poorly and [finger click] like that … they turned it around. We made our run in the beginning. We’ve had our lull lately, but we know what kind of team we can be. In the middle of the season, everyone saw it. We’ve been working to get better every game. I think we’ll be prepared to make a run,” ISU guard Lucas Eitel said.
Things are bad for ISU right now. The Sycamores have had their turn in the doldrums. But the Sycamores are capable of recovering too. And if this MVC season has taught us anything, it’s that no team’s fate is written in stone.
No one stated it better than ISU point guard Jake Odum did on Tuesday.
“People can look at it as going into the tournament on a losing streak, or, you can look at it as that we’re due to come around and be successful. We’re a better team than we’ve been playing like lately. It’s going to even out,” Odum said. “I really believe we’re going to go into St. Louis and win this first game [against Evansville on Friday] and continue winning throughout the tournament.”
This MVC season is defined by teams turning on a dime at the right time. The Sycamores are overdue for a good spin of their own.
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 —
Mastery of a basketball season comes in many forms. Mostly, it comes in forms that involve avoidance of turnovers, anemic scoring and poor defense.
- Sports Columns
RAMBLIN' RECK: Sunday promises to be big day in Indy
Sunday promises to be a super day in Indianapolis.
It’s the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 followed by Indiana vs. Miami in the third game of the National Basketball Association playoffs.
TRACKSIDE: Local drivers, owners looking to have strong night at Tony Hulman Classic
In its rich 43-year history, the Tony Hulman Sprint Car Classic has long carried on a strong local racing tradition.
From its early beginnings starting in 1971, the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned event has been the annual centerpiece of the racing calendar at the Terre Haute Action Track as well as a key stop on the USAC sprint schedule and one of the most sought after wins in big league sprint-car racing.
Shooters compete to fight cancer
A team of employees at Taghleef, formally A.E.T, would like to give a personal invite for you to join in on a lot of fun while helping save lives.
Cindy and Mark Wilguess are the inspiration behind the Taghleef Team. Cindy herself fought this battle with cancer and won. Last year she led her team to be the No. 1 fundraisers in the Relay for Life.
TILL IT'S OVER: Terre Haute Triathlon's new race director seeks more events for his hometown
Today is the day for the Thunder in the Valley, and the Terre Haute Triathlon is under new leadership in 2013, the 28th year for the event at Hawthorn Park.
A former Terre Haute North track and cross country standout, Ethan Page is the race director as the race falls under the reign of Page’s new company, Crossroads Events.
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.
TRACKSIDE: Terre Haute's Carmichael enjoying strong spring in modifieds, stocks
It might have been cold and blustery at Charleston Speedway on Saturday night, but for Terre Haute driver Kenny Carmichael the evening couldn’t have been more pleasant.
From Terre Haute to the major leagues: Phegley's play could earn him promotion to Chicago
Josh Phegley's debut in the Major Leagues could be coming to a ballpark near you.
There's an expert at Parker's Archery
As I was driving the winding roadways of southern Indiana, a rustic building caught my attention and the sign on the front revealed it to be an archery shop called Parkers Archery.
TRACKSIDE: Rain still a pain for Wabash Valley racing organizers
Soggy weather conditions, which have rightfully drawn the ire of Wabash Valley race fans and crews in recent days, continue to plague promoters where it hurts the most — their pocketbooks.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Pacers having a ‘Garden Party’
The Indiana Pacers are back in form and looking good.
KENNY BAYLESS: Sponsors sought for 'Ladies Only' event at Terre Haute Sporting Clays
Sponsors are being sought at the Ladies Only event at Terre Haute Sporting Clays on Saturday at 10 a.m. Sponsors should be willing to donate $1 or more for every broken bird. Each lady is allowed 25 shots. Flat donations are gladly accepted. Also, organizers are looking for more ladies to participate. Ammo, clay birds, and guns (if needed) will be furnished.
College Report: Lively earned collegiate upgrade with strong play
Hillary Lively signed to play Division II basketball at Maryville (Mo.) during her senior year at North Vermillion, but those plans changed and she would up at nearby Danville Area Community College — where she recently concluded an outstanding two-year career.
Lively was impressive enough to earn a Division I scholarship to Southeast Missouri State of the Ohio Valley Conference, and both her future and past college coaches think she will continue to succeed there.
“She fits what we need,” SEMO coach Ty Margenthaler said. “She has college experience, she is strong and physical and plays well around the basket and moves well.
“Her strength, rebounding and touch around the basket will be a big help. On the defensive end, she’ll be able to guard a true center.”
RAMBLIN' RECK: It’s May … a time for horses and horsepower
It’s the first day of May, a great month for sports.
It begins with the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. My Old Kentucky Home is played before the start of the race on which hundreds of bets will be placed by folks who ordinarily don’t bet on thoroughbred horse racing.
A week later, practice begins for the Indianapolis 500.
Terre Haute runner sets up race to help Boston
Having competed in the Boston Marathon once before in 2003, 35-year-old Majel Wells of Terre Haute thought she should give it another try in 2013.
“My goal was just to finish and enjoy Boston,” she reflected this week. “I had an injury [runner’s knee] beforehand, so I wasn’t too worried about beating my time from 2003 [4 hours, 10.20 seconds].
“But nobody cares about what your time is at Boston anyway.”
From what I’ve heard over the years, she’s right. Unless you’re a super-serious runner, the Boston Marathon has been more about taking in the atmosphere and having fun than placing in the top 50, although Wells was pleased that she beat her previous time by finishing in 3:55.19 on April 15.
Obviously, her race time wasn’t the most vivid memory that Wells took away from her 2013 Boston experience.
Amey Takes Aim: NHL playoffs to put TVs to good use
If Jenny had known, she probably wouldn’t have bought that TV.
But four or five years ago, my Fathers Day present — for those unfamiliar with Amey family traditions, the Fathers Day one is “let’s get something we all really want and pretend it’s a gift for Dad” — was a 42-inch Vizio. It’s been used even more than the cell phone I never would have bought for myself, or the TomTom that disappeared since Jenny’s smartphone arrived.
And it came with high-def.
I’m not going to insult you by telling you how great high-def is, because to do so would be to imply that you are even farther behind the technological curve than I am. I’m guessing, however, that not all of you have yet discovered what it does for hockey.
Foot Notes: ISU track athletes looking to keep improving at Drake Relays
Indiana State’s track schedule has helped its men’s and women’s teams escape the glacial Wabash Valley weather and enjoy warm days in Auburn, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn.
With the Sycamores’ track facility basically laid to rest for competition and construction on a new one planned near the Wabash River to begin in 2014, major kudos go to everyone involved for continuing to produce athletes that are NCAA contenders who race with some of the world’s best.
Some of ISU’s current athletes are hoping for season-best performances this weekend against strong competition in the Drake Relays.
Former Sycamore NCAA pole-vault champion Kylie Hutson, who competes professionally for Nike and trains in her hometown of Terre Haute, also has been in Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the Pole Vault in the Mall on Wednesday night.
REDNECK QUAKER: Variety of birds to search for in turkey hunting
My father-in-law, Donnell Dunn of Jacksonville, Fla., is a retired engineer from J.I. Case and an avid reader and loves information on anything he takes interest in. He has five patents under his belt during his career.
Donnell took great interest in the Turkey World Slam display at Gander Mountain and thought each bird needed some info to help people understand more about them.
TRACKSIDE: USAC racing picking up, including Sunday's stop in Terre Haute
With a break in the weather, U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned racing will kick into high gear on the area motorsports scene this weekend with events scheduled at three Indiana ovals.
Ramblin’ Reck: Sato first Foyt winner since 2002
Takuma Sato made Izod IndyCar Series history Sunday when he won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Former South players to play in Saylor benefit game
I had my first phone conversation with Mike Saylor since mid-February on Thursday and he sounded good.
The former Terre Haute South High School boys basketball coach, who’s been battling cancer this year, has been traveling back and forth to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for chemotherapy treatments.
COLLEGE REPORT: Valley prep athletes getting ready for next level
The NCAA “regular” signing period begins Wednesday for all sports except football, field hockey, soccer, track and field, cross country and men’s water polo.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Pacers closing out a nice season
In case you hadn’t noticed, the final games of the regular season will be played this week in the National Basketball Association.
Amey Takes Aim: Can’t bottle the joy of Amey vacations
The first bad sign was the Gatorade bottle.
In the Bataan-Death-March drive to Orlando that got the Amey family spring break vacation off to a bad start, seeing it between lanes of I-24 — as we zipped along at a 100-miles-in-five-hours clip — filled with an ominous yellow liquid was a little bit scary. And although we didn't stop to check for sure, I'm fairly certain I knew about its contents.
And the person stuck in the same traffic jam with us, the one with the existential license plate YMIHR4, couldn’t have asked a more pertinent question.
But, after seeing a lot more of Oak Grove, Ky., than we’d planned, and after enduring more traffic slowdowns in Nashville, we were on our way. Even some rain in the dark in the Smokies didn’t slow us down much, so you would think our first-day troubles were over.
You would be wrong.
Redneck Quaker: Mascari gets thrills from turkey hunting
Annie Mascari is a beautiful, vibrant, 26-year-old lady that loves the outdoors.
She comes from a large family of four brothers and a sister and lives the teachings of good family values.
Olivia Rightly let me know that I “should talk to my teacher at St. Pats School, Ms. Mascari, because she’s taken a turkey.”
As I shook Annie’s hand, I could feel the energy she has for life. As proof, the first time she went up in an airplane, she jumped out of it!
She’s also quite the hunter. Mascari picked up a used PSE bow for $30, one for a left-hander because her left eye is dominate for shooting. The Page Arrows are her choice for broadheads.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Louisville gets two shots at NCAA title
Louisville met Michigan in the championship game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Monday. Louisville faces Connecticut in the title tilt of the women’s tournament tonight.
REDNECK QUAKER: Learning to shoot clays a great experience
Tom Mitchell from Burnett is an all-around outdoor enthusiast. His passions are motorcycles, cars, and most of all, shooting sports. When he sights in on metal target shooting with a hand gun or rifle you will hear a lot of “clang” noises, he can shoot very quiet also, because he is licensed to own suppressers.
TRACKSIDE: Racing season picking up speed
With several tracks already open and others scheduled to get underway this weekend it’s a sure sign the area motorsports campaign has taken the green flag for the 2013 season.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Out with the hoops, in with the bats
It’s a super week for sports fans — college basketball comes to a close and the first baseball games are played in the major leagues.
COLLEGE REPORT: Conferences honor Valley softball players
Several Wabash Valley area college softball players have been honored by their respective conferences for outstanding play this spring.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Content McKenna has enjoyed seeing ISU's progress
It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
- More Sports Columns Headlines
- RAMBLIN' RECK: Sunday promises to be big day in Indy