The Redbirds are entering the MVC tournament very similar to how they did two years ago when they posted just a .500 record in the MVC during the regular season.
The Bulls are also on a similar path to where they were last year, when they were looking at a middle-seed of the playoffs, and looking to take a team with more obvious talent down.
Both teams have very similar recipes for success, and while the Redbirds do not have a Joakim Noah type of big man on their team, they can find success.
Both teams are going to have to play tremendous team basketball in order to survive come tournament time.
The Redbirds are at their best when the ball is flying all over the court to the open shooter, and this creates opportunities to feed the big men down for easy baskets as well. Daishon Knight, Zach Lofton, Bobby Hunter and Kaza Keane all have great court-vision and are not only able to shoot, but find the open man as well.
Meanwhile Noah is carrying his Bulls to the top half of the East by doing everything he learned from the great Brad Miller, who he’s credited recently with teaching him how to pass the ball so well from the high-post. The offense runs largely through Noah with Derrick Rose out, and then they rely on point guards DJ Augustin and Kirk Hinrich to do some distributing as well.
Team basketball is what defines these teams, as no one’s scoring numbers are going to drop your jaw, but they rely on a little bit of point from everyone in their rotations.
This is what can be scary when playing the Redbirds, and we’ve seen it this year. When they are really firing on all cylinders, they can be tough to guard. ISU gave Wichita State all they could handle for much of the game played at Redbird Arena this year, and have competed with Indiana State as well. They will play Indiana State one more time too, and it will surely help before the tournament starts.
Noah and company keep on going as well. They appear to have a pretty tough schedule for the rest of the season, but the Bulls thrive against lesser teams since they play so much harder all of the time, and will be able to stay afloat in the East standings. The Bulls have seemingly hit their stride, with the exception of their loss to the Heat, and are 5-1 in their last six games. It’s also not much a shock anymore if they score 100 points. The team chemistry is really entertaining, and guys usually know where everyone is on the floor.
It’s these things which make me believe both teams can go far. I can see the Redbirds going on a run to the championship of the MVC tourney. Depending on the seeding, they may have a date with undefeated Wichita State in the final round, and a chance to ruin history. The Bulls can hopefully grab the third seed in the East and take the Heat or Pacers the distance in the second round. I’m looking forward to watching it all play out.