It is not often that an undefeated, top five men’s basketball team strolls into Terre Haute, Indiana, for a Missouri Valley Conference game. OK, so it has never happened. But tonight, Indiana State (17-5) has a chance to pull off what would surely be one of the biggest wins in the history of its program if the Sycamores can squeak past No. 4 Wichita State (23-0).
“This is the highest-ranked team to ever come into the Holman Center,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said during a Tuesday interview on ESPNU.
Despite losing 48-68 to the Shockers earlier this season, Sycamores fans have every reason to believe things could be different this time around. Indiana State is 8-0 at home this season, and will be facing a mildly jet-lagged Wichita State team that was relegated to traveling on game day thanks to the nightmarish snowstorm that struck the Midwest on Tuesday.
The stars have aligned and all the conditions are perfect for Indiana State to pull off the upset tonight. The Sycamores have plenty of leadership – four of five starters are upperclassmen – and all five starters average at least 11.0 points per game, making Indiana State one of the most balanced teams in the nation, let alone in their conference.
Hungry for vengeance, look for the Sycamores to launch a full-on aerial assault from beyond the arc tonight. Indiana State shot uncharacteristically poorly from there when the two teams met in Wichita earlier this season, making just 5-20 from downtown.
That trend is unlikely to continue, as the Sycamores are a top 50 three-point shooting team on the season, currently hitting at a 38.3% clip. Very similar to a team like Villanova, nearly every player in the Sycamores rotation is comfortable taking the three-point shot.
Should Wichita State lose tonight, that will leave Syracuse (22-0) as the lone remaining unbeaten team in the country.
Prediction: Indiana State firmly states its claim for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid by beating Wichita State tonight in a thriller, 65-63. The Sycamores will be dancing come March, regardless of whether or not they win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @konundrum8