Sycamores' Coach Is Hog Football Fan

Indiana State head basketball coach Greg Lansing, whose Sycamores (23-10) will visit the Razorbacks (21-11) Tuesday night in an NIT match-up, is close friends with Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and actually attended the Razorbacks' gridiron opener this past season.

One of Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing's best friends lives in Arkansas now, but that person won't be rooting for the Sycamores in its NIT opening round match with the Razorbacks on Tuesday night.

That's because the friend is Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema, who has been friends with Lansing since both were at Iowa.

"I know they (the Razorbacks) have tremendous fans and I am an Arkansas football fan with Bielema being one of my best friends," Lansing said. "I have been down there in the atmosphere and seen how passionate their fans are for the Razorbacks.

"I have been by (Bud Walton Arena), but I haven't been in it," Lansing added. "I know they draw awfully well. I know it is as good a home court advantage as there is in the country. It is exciting and it's an honor to be able to come down there to play."

Arkansas (21-11) hosts Indiana State (23-10) at 8 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

Lansing actually took in the Razorbacks' football season opener this season against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"Like I said, I am an Arkansas football fan and I am a bigger Bret Bielema fan," Lansing said. "Wherever he is at, I won't him to win every game. I talked to him last night and we talk periodically throughout the year through both of our seasons and stay in close contact.

"He and I spent a lot of time together when we were at Iowa and I followed him at K(ent) State and Wisconsin and I always try to get to at least his home opener," Lansing added. "We have talked and definitely going to see each other for a little bit. Obviously he is supporting the Razorbacks as he should. "We'll talk a little bit tonight and maybe I'll see him tomorrow," Lansing continued. "I think he is coming to the game. He has got a speaking engagement, but with it being a later game, I think he can get to the second half."

This trip to Arkansas will be a business trip and not one for fun for Lansing – the exact opposite of his earlier trip.

"When I come (for football) it's fun for me, but business for him," Lansing said. "He's as hard a working head coach as I have ever been around. He is a grinder so it is not like I got to see him much or spend a lot of time with him, but he knows I'm there to support him.

"I came down with a buddy and was on the sideline and I got to go by his house after the game," Lansing added. "That is usually what I look forward to – after the game is over when he doesn't have to be on and dealing with bunch of stuff. Just to sit there and catch up as friends."

Indiana State is 9-6 on the road this season with a win at Notre Dame earlier in the season.

The Sycamores' best player is 6-4 senior point guard Jake Odum, who averages 13.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game

"Jake is a two-time, first-team all-conference here in the league and is just a tough competitor," Lansing said. "The correlation of wins we have while he has been the point guard here is highly geared toward the type of player he is and the type of competitor he is.

"We are a veteran team," Lansing added. "We have four seniors and three of them start and play, guys who have been in tremendous, tough games and tough atmospheres. We won nine pure road games this year and that's right up there in the country.

"Whether we are home or own the road, we have been pretty business-like and have been able to handle it no matter where we play," Lansing continued.

Lansing said he is surprised that Arkansas is not in the NCAA Tournament.

"They are scary," Lansing said. "I can't believe they are not in the NCAA Tournament. They should be. To have to come down there on a short turn around and play a team that plays different than anybody else."

"I admire how they play,' Lansing added. "Coach Anderson, although I don't know him well, I have always admired how he can get his teams to play for 40 minutes and compete and just be unselfish. They are an outstanding team. Huge wins, tremendous at home. Just stubbed their toe the last game of the year, otherwise they are in the field."

Lansing did see a couple of Arkansas games this season.

"All I have done last night and today is watch them.," Lansing said. "I think I have watched them twice during the year. I wish I had more time to prepare for them because again I have a lot of respect for them and how they play."

Not that Lansing understands exactly what they do.

"I don't know if there is anybody that does play like them," Lansing said. "I really don't. I admire how they play and I wish I could coach like that and get a team to play like that for 40 minutes. To play as hard as they do defensively and aggressively without what doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason at times. They just want to pressure and take you out of anything you may want to do. You just have got to put your head down and make plays sometimes.

"On the offensive end, I think they are the leading scoring team in the SEC, the leading 3-point shooting team and leading in assists so they share the basketball, they give up a good shot to get a great shot and they are just extremely aggressive at both ends of the court," Lansing added. "So I just admire how they play."

Indiana State's strength is its guards according to Lansing.

"I like our guards and I think we handle the ball and we've got guys that cab make plays off the dribble," Lansing said. "And you are going to have to do that against them. Whether we have enough of those guys to beat Arkansas, I am not sure.

"We went through a lull towards the end of the year where we had secured a second place and second seed in the tournament and weren't competing quite as hard as we needed to do to win games," Lansing said. "We lost some close games to really good teams, but then I knew we would get it back going into the tournament and I thought we competed extremely hard in St. Louis and just came up one game short."

Indiana State has played in some kind of postseason tournament for the last five years.

"I don't know if that is an edge," Lansing said. "I know they are playing at Bud Walton and that's a tremendous home court advantage, as good as any in the country, so that might be a little bit more important as advantage and they have some good players and veteran players as well.

"So they have been in enough hostile environments – whether it be in a tournament or not – that they have had their feet in the fire so I don't know that our experience in the NIT last year is going to be any advantage for us," Lansing added.

Both teams seemingly have deep benches with sophomore Khristian Smith (10.5) being named the Missouri Valley's Sixth Man of the Year.

He had 28 points against Belmont and also had 16 double-digit scoring efforts this season.

"We have relied on our bench this year," Lansing said. "Guys have taken turns making big plays in different games for us. Obviously Khristian being the sixth man of the year he is basically a starter for us. And I think Coach Anderson would say the same about a couple of guys that come off the bench for them.

"Our guys on the bench know they are going to get their name called and have to come in and be aggressive, especially in a game like this," Lansing added. "You can't come in tentatively at all because the Razorbacks are going to smell blood in the water and heat you up a little bit more with their pressure. So our depth hopefully, it's not quite as good as theirs, but our guys off the bench are going to have to be ready."

Indiana State senior point guard Jake Odum talks with Sycamores head coach Greg Lansing

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