And so begins a four-day sojourn in which we learn everything we can about something called Indiana State so that we may understand it, realize it's potential, despise it and then remove it from the equation.
So let's begin with what we already know. Scoop, start us off...
"Larry Bird went there."
That's right. Indiana State is the Program That Larry Bird Built And Subsequently Disappeared Again As Soon As He Left. The team didn't return to the NCAA Tournament until 2000 when they lost to Texas in the first round as a 12-seed.
They went back in 2001 and notched their only tourney victory that didn't occur in 1979. 13-seed ISU upset 4-seed Oklahoma. They ran into 12-seed Gonzaga in the 2nd round and that was that.
2011 is their first trip back to the NCAA Tourney since then. They did play in the CBI last year but lost in the first round.
The 2011 Sycamores made the tournament after winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Last year, the Northern Iowa Panthers emerged from the MVC and made it to the Sweet 16. That same UNI team played the Orange earlier this season as SU opened their 2010-2011 campaign with a 68-45 victory in the Dome. The Sycamores beat the Panthers as well. Twice. The first was a beat-down, the second was a closer call in the MVC Tournament.
In fact the two teams share a few opponents. Including UNI, the Sycamores also played Notre Dame and DePaul. The Irish narrowly-avoided the upset, beating ISU by nine. DePaul, meanwhile, laid down like the suckasses they are, losing by 22 to the 'Mores. In other words, Indiana State can hold their own.
So who do we need to become aware of right off the bat?
The Sycamores have no great surplus of height, with no player getting meaningful minutes standing taller than six-foot-eight. But forward Myles Walker blocks shots on 4.7 percent of opponent possessions. And even a team of relative Lilliputians will have its occasional stud, like Jake Odum, whose superb midrange shooting and sure passing have made him an extraordinarily steady freshman point guard.
The Sycamores wear blue and white and they're located in Terre Haute, otherwise known as the Queen City of the Wabash or, as I prefer to call it, "The Dirty Haute."
Before they were called the Sycamores they were known as The Fighting Teachers. Kinda wish they'd kept it.
Mascot Sycamore Sam is a species-less and gender-less "furry woodland creature". You might think he's a fox. Or a coyote. Or something else altogether. Your guess is as good as theirs. The former mascots of the school were Chief Quabachi and his Princess, which sounds like a great band name.
Hey, you know that John Wooden guy? He coached briefly here before heading off to UCLA to do pretty good.
The school was originally known as Indiana State Normal School, which seems like a much better name. They changed it to Indiana State Teachers College before heading in the boring direction of Indiana State. Meh.