|’Birds target UNI to open MVC tournament|
|Written by Ashley Schrader, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 29 February 2012 14:57|
“Conference tournaments, by definition, are unpredictable,” ISU men’s basketball head coach Tim Jankovich said.
While the standings in the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament eludes to unpredictability, as Jankovich notes, with two teams earning national rankings and five teams previously tied for third place, the Redbirds equally enter Arch Madness in St. Louis, Mo., with a sense of unevenness.
No. 4 ISU (18-12) will have a chance for redemption tomorrow afternoon when it opens the MVC tournament against No. 5 Northern Iowa (19-12), a team that beat the ‘Birds in Cedar Falls, Iowa, 78-63, but fell at Redbird Arena, 65-61.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” ISU junior Jackie Carmichael said. “We split with them, and we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and drop some different defensive things to kind of play them.”
The Redbirds return five players to Arch Madness this weekend; Carmichael entering his third tournament, and Anthony Cousin, Jon Ekey, John Wilkins, and Trey Blue approaching their second.
However, even with five tournament experienced Redbirds, Jankovich expects the opening game to be unique for his team.
“When you go to the tournament … it feels different,” Jankovich said. “A big key to performing is feeling comfortable and getting confident and not feeling a little scattered and hurried. Hopefully we can find our way to a confident, clear thinking 40 minutes.”
Likewise, Carmichael anticipates a different style of play at the Scottrade Center.
“When the tournament starts, it’s very, very physical down there,” Carmichael said. “There’s not going to be too many fouls called, so you have to go in with a tough mindset. You have to go in there and play one game at a time, you can’t be looking forward at all; I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that you can make.”
While the ‘Birds have not been a strong team on the road, playing at a neutral location makes for an even playing field, where Jankovich hopes ISU can take control of the game, especially when the battle gets heated.
“You hope you get off to a good start,” Jankovich said. “But I would say the start is overrated, the finish is underrated, I think what’s important is six minutes on down, what’s it looking like and who’s taking control of the game.”
Although the Redbirds are not looking too far down the road, they do hope for a victory against the Panthers as the winner between ISU and UNI will go on to play the winner between Indiana State/Southern Illinois and No. 1 Wichita State Saturday at 1:35 p.m.
At the beginning of the week, Wichita State received a No. 14 ranking, while No. 2 Creighton was handed a 24/25 spot. It is the first time in league history that two teams have earned national rankings.
“We know we can get some big things accomplished if we have the right mindset and really just go in there and play our basketball and don’t try to do anything outside of that,” Carmichael said.
The tournament has a great amount of unpredictable aspects, but the regular season has set the stage for a likely eventful Arch Madness, upon which the Redbirds positively reflect upon.
“It’s been an amazing conference season,” Jankovich said. “All across the board, we’ve seen individual performances that we haven’t seen in years and years, we got guys throwing up 45 points, we’ve got NBA prospects, we’ve got two ranked teams, and we’ve got a lot of balance and a lot of parody.”
The Redbirds will tipoff at 2:35 p.m. at the Scottrade Center tomorrow.