Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Date with Indiana State conjures images of Bird
Indiana State star Larry Bird, center facing camera, embraces teammates Alex Gilbert, left, and Carl Nicks after the Sycamores beat Arkansas, 73-71, for the NCAA Midwest Regional crown on March 19, 1979, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/File)
FAYETTEVILLE - The last time Arkansas and Indiana State met in basketball, Larry Bird’s Sycamores beat Sidney Moncrief ’s Razorbacks 73-71 in the 1979 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional final to win a trip to the Final Four.
The stakes won’t be as high when Arkansas (21-11) plays Indiana State (23-10) in a first-round NIT game at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Walton Arena, but it is the Razorbacks’ first postseason appearance in six seasons.
“It’s another step in the right direction,” Mike Anderson, who has a 58-39 record in three seasons at Arkansas’ coach, said Sunday night on ESPNU’s NIT selection show. “We’re taking the right steps when you look at the progression of this program.
NIT First Round
ARKANSAS VS. INDIANA STATE
WHEN 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 21-11, Indiana State 23-10
SERIES Tied 2-2
TICKETS $15 general public, $5 for UA students
“There’s great tradition here, and we’re used to being in postseason play. We’re used to challenging for championships, and we’re in a championship tournament in the NIT. So we’re looking forward to it.”
The Arkansas-Indiana State will be televised on ESPN. Tickets are $15 for the public and $5 for Arkansas students.
Arkansas last played in the postseason in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, when the Razorbacks beat Indiana and lost to North Carolina.
The Razorbacks had a six-game SEC winningstreak late in the season to put themselves in a position to grab an NCAA Tournament bid, but then they lost at Alabama 83-58 and lost to South Carolina 71-69 in their SEC Tournament opener.
“We were playing really good basketball,” Anderson said. “But right there at the end … we didn’t do what we needed to do in order to be in the NCAA.
“So that’s going to be a lesson for our team to learn, and now we get a chance in a tournament that I actually got my start in.”
Anderson was a junior starting point guard on the Tulsa team that won the 1981 NIT championship, beating Syracuse in the final. He averaged 11.7 points and 3.5 assists in five NIT games.
Arkansas is a No. 3 seed in its eight-team NIT region. The Arkansas-Indiana State winner will advance to play the California-Utah Valley winner.
California is a No. 2 seed and will host the second-round game if it beats Utah Valley. The Bears beat the Razorbacks 85-77 in the Maui Invitational on Nov. 25.
SMU, which lost 89-78 to Arkansas in Walton Arena on Nov. 18, is the region’s No. 1 seed.
Indiana State went 12-6 inthe Missouri Valley Conference. The Sycamores lost to No. 2 Wichita State 83-69 in the MVC Tournament final as the Shockers improved to 34-0.
Indiana State has four starters back from last season’s team that lost at Iowa 68-52 in the first round of the NIT.
The Sycamores are led by 6-4 senior guard Jake Odum, who is averaging 13.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds.
Indiana State is 12-8 away from home this season: 9-6 on the road and 3-2 at neutral sites. The Sycamores won 83-70 at Notre Dame.
Greg Lansing has a 79-54 record in his fourth season as Indiana State’s coach, including an NCAA Tournamentappearance in 2011, when the Sycamores lost to Syracuse 77-60.
Anderson is coaching in the NIT for the second time. He took his first Alabama-Birmingham team to the 2003 NIT, and the Blazers went 2-1.
Arkansas is playing in the NIT for the third time. Anderson was a Razorbacks assistant coach in those previous appearances.
The Razorbacks went 1-1 in the 1987 NIT, beating Arkansas State in Fayetteville and losing at Nebraska. They went 3-2 in 1997, beating Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UNLV in Fayetteville before losing to Michigan and Connecticut in New York.
Arkansas went 3-3 against teams in the NCAA Tournament and 6-5 against NIT teams.
The Razorbacks are 2-2 alltime against Indiana State.
Arkansas and Indiana State are among 19 NIT at-large teams along with 11 automatic qualifers that won conference championships.
Sports, Pages 15 on 03/17/2014