Three Thoughts as Indiana State Outlasted IonaPosted by WCarey on February 23rd, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Bracketbuster game between Iona and Indiana State. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.
Iona and Indiana State met in Terre Haute on Saturday to kick off the final day of the final Bracketbusters event. Both teams entered the contest struggling quite a bit. The Gaels had posted just a 1-4 record in February and in the process, had dropped into a fifth-place tie in the MAAC standings. Sitting at 15-12 overall and 9-7 in conference play, Iona does have star power in senior guard Momo Jones and junior guard Sean Armand. Despite its star power, the team has really struggled in close games – all of its last five losses have been by three or fewer points. Just two weeks ago, Indiana State was a legitimate candidate to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Sycamores have been in a tailspin ever since, dropping winnable road games to Missouri State and Bradley and losing at home to a Wichita State team that the Sycamores defeated on the road last month. With one team having to get back on the winning track, Indiana State defeated Iona 65-64 in what was a tight battle until the final buzzer. The following are three thoughts from Saturday’s action.
- Despite This Season’s Struggles, Tim Cluess Certainly Has Iona Going In The Right Direction. In his first three seasons as the leader of the Gaels, Cluess has posted a 65-33 record, which is quite impressive when you consider the program won just 12 games four seasons ago. In his inaugural campaign, Cluess led his team to 25 victories and all the way to the CIT Final. Last season, the Gaels also won 25 games, but this time earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament where the team was eliminated by BYU in a heartbreaker. New Rochelle, N.Y. is not exactly a location many recruits covet, but Cluess has been able to build on the success of his predecessor, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, and transform the program into one that will be consistently battling for the MAAC title and NCAA Tournament bids.
- Indiana State Should Be An Outstanding Team Next Season. The fact that the Sycamores were even considered for a at-large bid at any point this season could be considered a minor miracle, as there are no seniors on the team’s roster. That being said, it is logical to assume the Sycamores will be even better next season. Junior guard Jake Odum is already one of the best players in the Missouri Valley Conference and junior forwards Manny Arop and R.J. Mahurin are very solid complementary players. Role players such as junior guard Dawon Cummings and sophomore center Justin Gant have been very good in fulfilling their functions and contributing to the team’s success. Assuming that those guys take the next step in their progression as players, the sky might literally be the limit for this squad in the 2013-14 season.
- Indiana State Has A Legitimate Chance To Win The Missouri Valley Tournament. If there is one thing the Sycamores have proven this season, it is that they can play with anyone in the country. They have proven this by beating #2 Miami and earning victories over strong NCAA Tournament hopefuls Ole Miss, Creighton, and Wichita State. It should also be noted that they took #16 New Mexico to overtime before ultimately falling to the Lobos. What has held the Sycamores back this season though have been road losses to inferior competition. Dropping games at Morehead State, Southern Illinois, Drake, Missouri State, and Bradley is really no way to hold onto a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Considering the talent the team has and its ability to defeat strong opponents, the Sycamores should be a team to watch when the Missouri Valley Tournament commences in St. Louis.