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5 Things Indiana State Basketball Must Do to Make the 2014 NCAA Tournament

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5 Things Indiana State Must Do For a Berth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament

2014 ncaa tournament
Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

The one disadvantage of playing in a mid-major conference is you have little room for error. As the year progresses the room becomes even smaller.

Such is the case with the Indiana State Sycamores.

The Sycamores (21-8, 12-5) shoulder the unfortunate distinction of being the "other" team in the Missouri Valley Conference. That other team is the conference leader, the No. 2 Wichita State Shockers, who became the first team in NCAA history to go 30-0 in the regular season. The Shockers also swept the Sycamores in the regular season, plowing them 68-48 at home and topping them 65-58 on the road.

If the tourney field was selected today, Indiana State would not get an invitation. They have an RPI of 59 and their strength of schedule is 135. An early season 83-70 win at Notre Dame is something they were looking to hang their hat on. The Fighting Irish appeared as if they might be among the better teams of the ACC, earning a 79-77 win over Duke. An unforeseen 4-10 record since their game against the Blue Devils put not only Notre Dame's postseason aspirations on the back burner but delayed the advancement of the Sycamores.

That would make their biggest win to date an 85-73 win over Ohio Valley co-front-runner Belmont. The only problem with that is they dropped a 96-95 game to them earlier in the season.

The most unfortunate thing for Indiana State was the departure of Creighton to the Big East, damaging much of the league's credibility. In addition, the Sycamores fell 77-66 against Missouri State, all but ensuring no possibility of an at-large berth.

Clearly, their forward progress lies solely in the hands of "Arch Madness," the annual conference showdown in St. Louis. That's the biggest determining factor for their success. A few more things could spearhead their selection and make things official.

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5. Balanced Scoring Attack

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Although guard Jake Odum is the undeniable leader, the Sycamores are blessed to have a versatile lineup featuring players who can score in a variety of ways. Odum leads the team with an average of 13 PPG. Four other players 10-11 PPG. That kind of production will be needed on a consistent basis from his running mates.

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4. Team Rebounding

sycamores reboundiing
Paul Halfacre-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to scoring, the Sycamores get tremendous help on the glass as four of their starters average at least four rebounds apiece. In tournament play, games will be a lot closer and more intense. Energy and effort won't be a problem because many teams of their caliber are playing off the adrenaline and momentum it took to get them there.

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3. Let Odum Lead the Way

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Odum does everything but drive the team bus for the Sycamores, as he leads the team in scoring (13), assists (4.6) and rebounds (4.5). He's very capable of high point production, having scored over 20 points in four contests this season. Though the team plays its best when everyone is involved, Odum will be the man in charge if the game is on the line.

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2. Hope Wichita State Loses

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After losing twice to Wichita State in the regular season, the Sycamores probably don't want to see the Shockers in the conference tournament. This isn't the time of year to be thinking about revenge. With all the attention around the country invested in their conference foe, a loss before the conference final would be huge for Indiana State. The most important thing is the bid, not the opponent.

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1. Grab the Automatic Bid

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Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana State last won the Missouri Valley conference tournament in 2011, defeating Missouri State in the final. They did so as a No. 3 seed, gaining them a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since back-to-back seasons in 2000 and 2001. Obviously, they would be a huge underdog if they squared off against Wichita State. They say it's difficult to beat a team three times in a season, so don't count the Sycamores out just yet.