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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Missouri State

Its weird that most teams called the Bears don’t specify which variety of bears. It’s a meaningful distinction.

NCAA Basketball: Hall of Fame Classic-Missouri State at Nebraska Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Missouri State Bears have made the NCAA tournament 6 times, winning 3 games in the process. I just mention that because I don’t have specific recollection of Missouri State doing anything the way I do Vandy or George Mason. They won by 11 over Wisconsin in a 1999 tournament game in which they scored 43 points. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember.

More recently, they haven’t done much - though they have had a lot of games in which they’ve scored more than 43 points. That trip to the NCAA tournament in 1999 was their last, and they’ve made the NIT just 5 times this millennium. Oh, they also won the 2010 CIT under Cuonzo Martin, current Missouri coach.

The current Missouri State coach is Dana Ford, who is starting his second year in charge of the program. He’s just 35, having gotten into coaching as an assistant at Chipola before rising through the assistant ranks at several Midwestern state schools and ultimately taking the reins at Tennessee State at just 30. His teams have all played slowly and forced a ton of turnovers.

Key departures

Jarred Dixon, G (13.1/2.6/1.4, .445/.333/.738)
Ryan Kreklow, G (7.9/3.0/1.2, 430/.414.774)
Josh Webster, G (7.8/3.3/5.1, .415/.255/.774)

Dixon was the perimeter bucket getter for Missouri State last year; he scored at all three levels and wasn’t afraid to get his shots up. Josh Webster was the opposite, caring for the ball and posting an impressive 30.7% assist rate. He wasn’t much of a shooter. Ryan Kreklow was (and likely still is) brother of former Creighton shooter Ricky Kreklow, who is still one of my least-favorite Xavier opponents. Ryan was a fine shooter who hit 50 threes.

Key returnees

Tulio Da Silva, 6’8” F (14.3/7.4/0.7, .554/.370/.654)
Keandre Cook, 6’5” G (12.8/4.3/0.7, .437/.372/.738)

Da Silva crushed the glass on both ends of the floor and shot nearly 60% from inside the arc. He only hit 17 threes, but he picked his spots well enough to post a reasonable percentage from deep. Cook is the team’s leading returner in FGA and 3PM. His 23 assists also lead the team’s returnees, which is obviously a problem.

Incoming players

Anthony Masinton-Bonner, 6’2” Sr. G
Lamont West, 6’8” Sr. F
Josh Hall, 6’7” Jr. G
Gaige Prim, 6’9” Jr. F

Masinton-Bonner is a Colorado State grad transfer. He scores at all three levels and is cash from the line, but he pays the bills from three, where he’s shooting 40% on 250 attempts on his career. West comes to Mo State via West Virginia. He went for 11 and 4 last year and is a career 33.6% shooter from beyond the arc. For a big man, he has always been a good, not great, rebounder.

Hall was good for 6.9/3.9/1.4 at Nevada before he transferred out with two years of eligibility remaining. He’s not a great shooter, but he has good ball skills for a man his size. Also, he hit the game-winner in Nevada’s 22-point tournament comeback. Finally, Prim rounds out the impact transfers as a JuCo guy out of South Plains College. He averaged 20.7 and 11.5 as a sophomore, which seems like pretty good output to me. He’s 6’9” and something on the order of 250; a true big man.

Outlook

You’ve gotta think a team with a couple of good returning guys and this much incoming high-level talent will challenge for the conference title in the MVC. Bart Torvik has them within touching distance of UNI and Loyola Chicago at the top, which will make this game a potential NET boon for Xavier. Of course, with that comes the responsibility of actually winning the game, which is not a given on a squad with that much potential. Dana Ford has things moving in the right direction at Missouri State.