If the NCAA tournament selection committee had to do its job right now, whether the Indiana State Sycamores would be in the Big Dance is a matter reasonable people can debate. At 21-6 and 12-3 in the MVC, it’s hard to say that the Sycamores are definitely out. But with Missouri Valley being far removed from its days of being a two — or even a three — bid league, being three games in the loss column behind undefeated Wichita State (and having lost twice to the Shockers already) might not be the best part of Indiana State’s resumé at which to point.
Any discussions about Indiana State making the NCAA tournament almost disappeared completely on Wednesday night, as the Sycamores barely hung on to defeat the Evansville Purple Aces, 64-59, in Terre Haute, IN. While Indiana State and Evansville have been rivals down through the years, the Purple Aces have a young team that has struggled most of the season and with this loss, sit at 11-17 and 4-11 in the MVC, a record that has them at the bottom of the conference with Loyola (IL).
Yet, Evansville led Indiana State by a point with 4:28 to go after a basket by high-scoring sophomore D.J. Balentine (19 points). The Sycamores were able to finish the game in decent fashion, outscoring the Purple Aces 8-2 the rest of the way. Jake Odum led Indiana with 20 points, but this isn’t a game where Indiana State really should have struggled. The Sycamores turned the ball over 14 times and shot just 43 percent from the field. That’s enough to beat Evansville many nights, given its struggles, but it won’t get Indiana State anywhere in the NCAA tournament and it certainly won’t be enough to beat Wichita State, should the teams meet in the final of the MVC tournament.
With 21 wins, the Sycamores are a team that’s going to get consideration for an NCAA tournament bid, should the Shockers win the Valley tournament. But Indiana State’s most notable win is over Belmont, and the three remaining conference games for the Sycamores are all against teams around .500 in the league. The only impressive thing Indiana could do to make the tournament is beat Wichita State to get an automatic bid.
From an at-large standpoint, the Sycamores certainly have no margin for error and almost losing to Evansville at home doesn’t given any indication that they are ready to make a huge late-season run.