At the end of the season last year, Indiana State University's Men's Basketball program was definitely looking to come into this season riding an amazing end to the year. With now junior Isiah Martin, transfer junior guard Jake Kelly, transfer sophomore guard Dwayne Lathan and seniors Harry Marshall and Rashad Reed, this team was still picked to finish 7th in the Missouri Valley Conference. With the immediate eligibility being granted to Kelly and now eligible Lathan pairing with Marshall and Reed, once believed to be an okay to average back-court now becomes one of the best in the Missouri Valley. The Indiana State frontcourt consists of senior center Josh Crawford, junior center Brant Leitnaker, red-shirt freshman forward Koang Dulouny, and sophomore guard/forward Carl Richard.
ISU began the season with non-conference match-ups with teams such as Louisiana State University, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Colorado State, Ball State, IUPUI, Toledo, Coastal Carolina, and Western Kentucky among others. After the non-conference portion of the season was over ISU emerged 8-3 ready to start conference play as one of the top teams in the conference. It has been a rocky start to the conference schedule though with a current conference record of 3-5 and an overall record of 11-8 currently putting the Sycamores at second to last in the Missouri Valley.
Tomorrow, Sunday January 24, ISU hosts the nationally-ranked Northern Iowa Panthers at the Hulman Center. This game will host two of the Valley's best players at their respective positions. Center Jordan Eglseder and Forward Adam Koch will bring up the same problem that ISU has faced all year. The post has been the problem for ISU with the lack of bulk and the lack of experience. As the season has progressed, this has improved tremendously and the post players have received some major help from Lathan and Richard who have provided some amazing dunks and blocks throughout this season, not to mention the many ally-oops thrown Lathan's way.
Being in the student section for most of the season as I have been, I have enjoyed the sight of more and more students, alumni, and other fans at the games. ISU has a more storied tradition than a lot of fans know about including one of the greatest basketball players, Larry Bird, having led the Indiana State Sycamores against Irving "Magic" Johnson's Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 Men's Basketball National Championship game. And with the athletic department and Men's Basketball team coexisting to create the promotional commercials and the video including Larry Bird for the beginning of the games.
The Indiana State Sycamores still have time to turn it around and end the losing streak and get on the track that many people believed that they would be on this season.