SCOUTING MISSOURI STATE!! BEWARE THE BEARS!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Superficially, Mizzou State might not knock your socks off. They're 168 in the KenPoms coming off a 16-16 season-tied for 3rd in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears are 2-1 through 3 home games in Springfield, Mo. losing their opener to Little Rock by 1(67-66) when they frittered away a 9 point second half lead then posting wins over Alabama State and Cleveland State(316 and 318 in KP's power ratings). As I said in the headline though, BEWARE the BEAR! MSU is the consensus favorite to win the Missouri Valley ahead of Northern Iowa and Loyola, "Valley" teams are sneaky good even w/o Creighton and Wichita State in the MVC anymore. Tuesday Evansville strolled into Rupp Arena and upset #1 Kentucky. The idiot fringe is calling for Coach Cal's head in Lexington. In April 2018 the Loyola Ramblers made the Final 4 w/ Sister Jean and company. Successful "Valley" teams know how to control tempo and steal wins on the road.
Mizzou State is built to play that ball control low turnovers upset special style. 35 year old 2nd season coach Dana Ford is a MVC lifer(played at Illinois State-coached under Greg Marshall at Wichita. He did well running Tennessee St. Ford has rebuilt the Bears rapidly w/ an infusion of transfers and Jucos, He has a talented veteran long team in only his second season w/ several impact Seniors and All Conference players. The new parts are meshing and learning his unique style. The goal is to win the Valley and Arch Madness in St. Louis and make MSU's first NCAA trip since 1999.
BEARS PLAY FUNKY BASKETBALL:
Mizzou State is in no hurry(326th slowest tempo in D-1). They happily milk the shot clock almost every possession making their opponent fight through a blizzard of ball screens and stay down in a defensive stance until they get back spasms. It's ball control basketball and they're wedded to it(like Northern Iowa-a team XU played 3 times over 2 seasons not long ago. It's "Burn Offense" as in burn the shot clock like Notre Dame used vs the Muskies in the 2012 NCAAs.
Xavier needs to be focused and shot clock tough w/o taking frustration fouls or gambles. Defensively, Mizzou St is unorthodox also. They will back off the ball handler-cover his passing options and bait him into a bad quick shot. X can't settle for that first open look. They have to run offense and play inside-out looking for a great shot off ball screen action-ball reversal and post touches.
BEARs HAVE TALENT GALORE:
Coach Ford has worn out the NCAA transfer portal. New parts include Lamont West (Grad transfer from West Virginia-decided to bring sanity to his final year by leaving Huggs). West played at Withrow HS in Cincinnati-averaged 11PPG last season and at 6-8 220 is a deadly 3 point sniper. JUCO All American Gaige Prim(6-8 250) has missed the first 3 games w/ injuries. He may be ready for Xavier(21PPG-12 REBS at a Texas JUCO last year).
The PG Tyrik Dixon played BIG minutes at Middle Tennessee and is coming off a red shirt season. 6-7 Josh Hall played off the bench for that Elite 8 Nevada team that upset UC in Nashville. He is coming off a red shirt. Hold-over BIG Tulio DaSilva (6-8 215) is from Brazil and a South Florida transfer(15ppg-7.4 Rebs last year)-1st Team All MVC preseason. Juco wing Keandre Cook(6-5) has scored 50 points total the last 2 games.6-5 Senior forward Kabir Mohammed looks like a sumo wrestler.
The Bears attack the offensive glass(+7 in rebounding). Hopefully, Coach Ford is still integrating the new guys, This is their first road game so Cintas could be a shock to the system. Probably-no walk-over for the Muskies. MSU is hard to speed up. They want to play and win in the 50s or low 60s and they are stubborn about it.
Ironically, Xavier could play the Bears again in Charleston. This game is a non-bracketed piece of the tournament. MSU is one the other side of the Charleston bracket playing Miami (Florida) next Thursday then either St Joe's or the Florida Gators Friday. It could be Muskies-Bears Sunday? Ideally, it's Xavier-Florida Sunday for the Championship, but who knows? Towson XU's 1st Round Charleston opponent next Thursday almost upset Florida in Gainesville Thursday losing 66-60.
Frosh guard Kyky Tandy is working out on his own and is almost ready to rejoin practice after a foot injury. He may be available in Charleston, but most likely the following week.