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Mar 19, 2024 8:15 pm

Indiana State ‘shattered’ over snub but preparing for SMU in NIT

robbie avila

Relegated to the NIT despite notable qualifications, Indiana State will host SMU in the first round Wednesday night in Terre Haute, Ind.

Indiana State, a No. 1 seed, finished 28-6 but saw its bubble burst despite an NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rating of 29, the best ever for a team not to make the NCAA field.

Coach Josh Schertz used terms like “devastation,” “shattered” and “beyond disappointing” to describe the snub, which the NCAA tourney committee attributed to the Sycamores’ nonconference schedule, partnered with a handful of conference tournament winners that were guaranteed berths, eating up at-large spots.

Indiana State experienced the second factor firsthand, losing to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference final March 10. Only Drake gets to dance.

“It just felt like, all year, the league was trending toward a multi-bid league, and we did enough,” Schertz said. “(The NET) is supposed to be the tool … that doesn’t have any bias to it. It’s beyond disappointing, but it’s the way it is.”

Adding to the drama surrounding Indiana State, Schertz has been linked to numerous coaching vacancies, notably St. Louis.

While some schools turned down the NIT, Indiana State star Robbie Avila said his team is “motivated as ever.”

Avila, a center, averages 17.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, and he hits 40.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

“To be able to have that opportunity to come back and win some more hardware is a blessing,” he said.

Five players score in double digits per game, and the Sycamores are tied for eighth in Division I at 84.4 points per game.

Asked how his team would stop Avila, SMU coach Rob Lanier said: “Same thing everybody else did. Try hard.

“When he picks and pops, you have to deal with that. But when he puts it on the floor, he’s so savvy, such a great passer, if you try to double-team him … they shoot the ball so well from every spot on the floor that you do wind up in a lot of pick-your-poison propositions.”

The Mustangs finished 20-12, but their NCAA tourney hopes crumbled when they lost five of their last six games. They dropped all four of their Quad 1 games, and five of seven in Quad 2.

Zhuric Phelps and Chuck Harris lead the Mustangs with 14.7 and 13.2 points per game, respectively, while SMU averages 76.3 points per contest.

Harris is coming off an ankle injury suffered last Thursday in the Mustangs’ loss to Temple in the second round of the American Athletic Conference tournament.

–Field Level Media

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