Indiana State joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1976. At no point since has it been regarded as Wichita State’s No. 1 rival. Most years, it probably didn’t register in the top five, except for a few baseball seasons during the 1980s.
While it is too early to consider Indiana State an MVC rival on the order of Tulsa or Creighton, the MVC’s All-Sports standings highlight the fact that the Sycamores might be the closest thing to a well-rounded challenger that exists. WSU easily won the All-Sports award and Indiana State finished second, its best finish. While I would consider Missouri State, because of its success in many sports and proximity, the logical choice to heat up the rivalry with WSU, the Bears need to do some work to grow more relevant than the Sycamores.
Surprising, I know. It might be hard for Shocker fans to muster up hard feelings for the Sycamores, based on the tepid history between the schools and location. There might not be any better choices in the near future.
Consider that Indiana State finished second in MVC men’s basketball and tied with WSU for the women’s title. Indiana State’s baseball team earned another NCAA at-large bid (to go with one in 2012) and finished ahead of the Shockers two of the past three seasons. In track and field, Indiana State replaced Northern Iowa as WSU’s biggest challenge in MVC meets.
The rivalry will grow or wither on the strength of men’s basketball, where WSU needs a school to push it in the manner Creighton did for so many years. With its recent success, Indiana State generates some buzz when it’s on the schedule. If coach Greg Lansing can keep his team near the top of the Valley, the rivalry might grow into something.
That Indiana State is mentioned in this discussion is a credit to its administration. It is the smallest (enrollment 11,494) of the MVC’s six public schools and Terre Haute’s population of 59,000 is the second-smallest among MVC cities. Indiana State doesn’t appear to be rolling in dough compared to its MVC rivals.