For the first time in school history IUPUI took part in the Sears BracketBuster. Saturday afternoon the Jaguars knocked off Nicholls State 84-80 for their 3rd straight win and the 5th win in the past 6 games. The game was not as close as the score indicates with the Jaguars building double digit leads in both halves and only trailing once. The story was once again the offense getting good looks and making those looks count. It was the second straight game the Jags shot 60% from the floor and like Wednesday it was the three seniors leading the way. The thing is, if the coaching staff had their way this game would not have been on the schedule.
For years IUPUI has been asked to participate in the BracketBuster and for years they have declined. Todd Howard never felt there was a benefit to playing the extra game. “We understand that we play in a one bid league and we are not going to bust any rackets or put ourselves on the bubble. Travel in our league is hard enough and to add another road game never made sense to us. The one positive of the win is adding another non-conference win giving us a 7-6 record out of league play and we are proud of that.”
I can see his point and a win or loss only affects your record and not your tournament hopes. Yet I think it is a way to gain some extra exposure. Zero exposure was gained from Saturdays game, but that’s because 142 teams now compete in the busters when before is was around 48. The chance to be one of 48 is a lot nicer than 1 of 142. I know not everyone is on TV, but if this was the Jags 4th buster and say they were 3-0 or 2-1, maybe they are looked at as an attraction. In the end it worked out with a road win and next year the Jaguars will return to the buster with a perfect 1-0 mark. One kick back of the game is IUPUI will host Nicholls State next year in non-conference play.
UP IN THE AIR
The trip to Nicholls State added 4 more airplane flights to an already busy February. The travel in the Summit League can take its toll on you. You can’t blame the team if they feel like they are living out of a suitcase.
February 8: fly from Indianapolis to Memphis and on to Tulsa. (side note: a delay in Indy caused the team to miss their connecting flight to Tulsa and the next flight was not until the morning. The coaches immediately made arrangements for a bus trip to Tulsa. Then Delta informs us a plane is on the way to pick us up and take us on to Tulsa. A plane pulls in and we board what we think is an near empty plane…uh no….it was a packed flight that was diverted from Detroit. We got some pretty nasty looks and more than a few people we mumbling under their breath. I later learned the passengers were told in mid flight they were stopping off in Memphis. They didn’t receive any extra benefits or vouchers and we arrived into Tulsa a full hour later than expected. It worked out for us and that was a first for me jumping on a diverted flight.)
February 10: Depart Tulsa for Dallas an then on to Las Vegas. I know, it’s Vegas, but still it’s a long travel day and a new time zone.
February 12: direct flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis (booooo)
February 15: Senior Night and a 88-70 home win over South Dakota. SD flew in for that game and flew back the next day.
February 17: depart Indianapolis for Atlanta and on to New Orleans. Ok, again, Vegas and now New Orleans? But you can see the travel is adding up right? No? I promise, you won’t be jealous of the next trip.
February 19: New Orleans to Baltimore to Indianapolis.(I’m typing this entry on the very bumpy first leg of our journey)
February 22: Indianapolis to Minneapolis to Fargo ND. Ah, jealous now?
February 26: Sioux Falls SD to Chicago to Indianapolis.
That last trip marks the end of the regular season. From February 8 to February 26 IUPUI will have been on 13 different flights and spend 10 out of 19 days in a hotel. Then it’s back in the air and back to Sioux Falls on March 1st for the Summit League tournament.
Late on Saturday February 11th the Jaguars were leading Southern Utah and close to putting the game away. Senior point guard Stephen Thomas blew by his man and went down the right side of the lane for a lay-up. The bucket was good and everyone headed back down court, everyone except Steve. He was under the bracket grabbing his ankle. “I thought he was done for the year.” Most of Coach Howard’s players probably agreed with him. It has been an injury plagued year for Thomas, but he has only missed one game. The pain began in the preseason when he suffered a concussion during the days of practice. Then during the exhibition season he severely sprained his ankle and from that point on he has been living in the training room.
“He’s put together right now with toothpicks.”. Coach Howard continues, “and yet he doesn’t miss a game and we need him. I really feared the worst at Southern.” The fears were quickly put to rest when he checked back in just minutes later. “It has been hurting all year and at that time it felt better after I walked to the bench. It’s routine now, I get treatment, practice, treatment, game,and then more treatment.”. The past few weeks he has been playing with a special ankle brace that looks more like a knee brace for an ankle than a traditional ankle brace. I’m not sure exactly what it’s made of, but my guess a semi-truck could run over it and it would still be in one piece. “It’s my brand new ankle.” No one has given me a percentage, but he sure isn’t 100% and likely not 85%. Regardless he doesn’t miss a start because the team needs him and the 5th senior wants to be on the floor.
I’LL HAVE THE LOBSTER
Food and snacks are always a big topic when traveling with the team. It’s not easy accommodating a 20 person party. Director of basketball operations Jason Buckner handles the food and restaurant stops by taking our orders before we arrive in a city. That was case at our first stop in New Orleans. Since we were in NOLA I figured I would have some seafood and there was a lobster lunch option. It was $19 and that is a bit steep, but it was under 20 and I asked JB if is was OK. He said it was fine and we agreed the price was right and I figured it was going to be only the tail.
Our food arrives and most of the players ordered chicken while the coaches tried the catfish and shrimp. (I remember those plates were about 12 bucks so clearly I was the most expensive order…not a good sign.) I see the waiter turn the corner and walk towards our table. I see my lunch and it’s not just the tail…I see a tail and two claws hanging off the front of the plate. Holy cow, I’m getting a full lobster for lunch…and the it starts…
“Whoa, look at Scotty, big timer over there”
“Is your filet on the way?”
“I see how it is, radio guy gets the lobster”
I really thought it was going to be just the tail. On top of that I enjoyed my $19 lobster in front of IUPUI athletic director Mike Moore. “I think you may be done eating for the rest of the trip.”. A not so subtle dig on my selection. (Mike and I have a great relationship and for the record I ordered low priced meals for the rest of the weekend.) The joking didn’t stop there and every place we stopped to eat the players suggested I get a lobster or surf and turf. “Can’t eat here, They don’t have a market priced lobster.” By the way, it was delicious.
Now I gotta go catch another plane. Heading home…for 72 hours