Weekend homework: Life in the Valley

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
10:30
AM ET
Wichita State had an epic comeback at Missouri State a week ago.

That may just be the beginning of the grind in the Missouri Valley for one of the national title contenders.

The Shockers will get everyone's best shot.

This is Gonzaga in the WCC, Butler when it was in the Horizon, Davidson when it was the class of the Southern and to a lesser extent, every time Duke and/or North Carolina is on the schedule in the ACC.

Every team, player and coach in the Valley now wants to knock off Wichita State.

But there may be only one team capable of doing it: Indiana State.

The first of two chances occurs Saturday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in Wichita. The next chance will be Feb. 5 in Terre Haute, Ind.

"We've got to score more points than them," said Indiana State coach Greg Lansing, in jest of course.

The Sycamores, like Wichita State, are 5-0 in the Valley. They have only three losses and all are respectable (Belmont and Saint Louis on the road and Tulsa on a neutral court). Indiana State knocked off Notre Dame on the road and beat Belmont at home for its signature wins.

Wichita State poses so many problems for Indiana State or any other team. Cleanthony Early can hurt you in a variety ways inside and out. Fred VanVleet is putting together an All-American point guard season with his ability to slice through the lane, finish and get to the free throw line. Ron Baker is a versatile scorer and a winner.

"We've got to keep them off the offensive boards," Lansing said. "We've got to have ball security so they don't get easy transition baskets. We can't let Early get comfortable on offense. We've got to stay aggressive on offense but be able to play at two speeds."

Wichita State does like to run and can push the tempo. Indiana State will need to show poise and patience, especially on the road at the rocking Round House.

"We've done well taking one day and one practice at a time and not get ahead of ourselves," Lansing said.

The Valley was a multiple-bid league with Creighton in the conference. The Bluejays are off to the Big East. Indiana State may be the only other option to Wichita State.

Beating the Shockers -- at least once -- would make the selection committee pay attention.

"We're a long ways from any of that discussion," said Lansing of a bid. "But I think we can pass the eye test."

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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