Busting Brackets

Missouri Valley Basketball: Indiana State Stuck in the NIT

2023 Indy Classic - Indiana State v Ball State
2023 Indy Classic - Indiana State v Ball State / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

The controversial snubbing of Indiana State away from the NCAA Tournament has sent two Missouri Valley Conference teams to the National Invitation Tournament. The angry Sycamores and fellow Valley member Bradley each participate in the tournament’s first round on Wednesday. 

Indiana State (28-6) hosts Southern Methodist (20-12) and Bradley entertains former Valley member Loyola Chicago. 

Sycamores Host SMU: 6:00 pm on ESPN+

While coach Josh Schertz is being rumored for virtually every coaching vacancy outside of the MVC, he and his team are preparing to prove everyone wrong. ISU is the highest rated team in the NET Era to be rejected from the Big Dance bracket and they hope to prove a point in the NIT. 

ISU is the top seeded team in its eight-team portion of the bracket and will never leave Indiana to play games. They could host three straight games and then play in Indianapolis’ historic Hinkle Field House. 

Six Indiana State players landed on an MVC all-conference team. Center Robbie Avila (1st) has great footwork in the block, can pop the three and is an outstanding passer. Second teamers Isaiah Swope, Jayson Kent and Ryan Conwell all average double figures and guards Swope and Conwell are electric offensive players. Kent is the team’s leading rebounder and rim protector. 

Point guard Julian Larry (3rd) may be the fastest Sycamore and is a shutdown perimeter defender. The versatile Xavier Bledson was the Valley’s Sixth Man of the Year. These six players run Schertz’s unique ‘read and react’ offense to perfection. 

The Sycamores are the nation’s eighth-highest scoring team with the third-best field goal percentage and tenth-best accuracy from deep. They are 13th nationally handing out 17.5 assists per game while playing at the country’s fifteenth-fastest pace

SMU struggled down the stretch. Rob Lanier’s team lost their last two games and five of their last six. The Mustangs rebound with a fervor and block nearly five shots per game. They clog the middle defensively and try to slow down the opposition. 

Zhuric Phelps (14.7 points per game) and Chuck Harris (13.2 ppg) are their only two double-digit scorers but nine players play fifteen minutes or more compared to ISU’s six. Lanier will attempt to use his depth and defensive approach to wear down the fast paced Indiana State offense.

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Can the motivated Sycamores tell a dramatic NIT story? It could be the last run for Schertz and this group of Sycamores. They want to go out, making a statement.