Head coach Dana Ford said he is confident the schedule he has helped organize will create a good resume for the Bears to make the NCAA Tournament in March.
Here are a few games the Bears need to perform well in to go dancing in March.
Vs. BYU, Dec. 4
The Bear’s backcourt will be tested as they face a dominant-looking pair of BYU guards.
Returner Alex Barcello and transfer Te’Jon Lucas both have experience as they both enter their fifth year of college ball. Each player excelled at scoring and distributing the basketball last season and both look to contribute to a potent offense.
A win here would bode well on the Bears’ resume as the Cougars were a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Vs. Oral Roberts, Dec. 11
The No. 15 seeded Oral Roberts Golden Eagles pulled off one of the most impressive upsets in NCAA tournament history last season, defeating the No. 2 seeded Ohio State.
The Buckeyes simply had no answer for Golden Eagle’s Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas as the two combined for nearly 60 points in the overtime victory. The two lead the team to yet another win to get to the Sweet Sixteen and two points shy of a trip to the Elite Eight.
Obanor left for Texas Tech, but Missouri State must prepare to defend the three as Abmas has proven he is not afraid to pull up from deep.
Vs. Drake, Jan. 2
There may not be another team in the country that wants to take down the Drake Bulldogs more than the Bears.
Ever since a crushing buzzer-beating last-second shot from Drake in the MVC Tournament last year, junior guard Isiaih Mosley has been itching to get another chance at Drake.
“(The loss) bothers me a lot,” Mosley said. “I think about it all the time ... It’s just something that’s been on my chest, and I can’t wait to play them.”
The team does return star guard Roman Penn alongside several other good players. Penn looked to be a competitor for Missouri Valley Player of the Year last season before being sidelined with a season-ending foot injury.
Every conference game is a big game, but this one may be extra-large. Not only is this a grudge match, but it will also be the first conference game at home for the Bears.
Vs. UNI, Jan. 8
AJ Green, former MVC Freshman of the Year and First-Team All MVC, entered last year with hopes of building on what was already an impressive college resume. Unfortunately, after three games, Green underwent season-ending hip surgery.
The loss of Green proved massive, as UNI finished 10-15 overall and 7-11 in conference play.
Green will return this season with just about everyone else from UNI.
The Bears need to find a way to contest Green’s unorthodox high-release jump shot. Green has had success finding open looks coming off ball-screens in seasons past.
Silencing the star in JQH Arena would prove that the Bears can hang with the big dogs in the Valley.
@ Loyola Chicago, Jan. 22
The Porter Moser era is now over in Loyola as the Rambler’s former coach accepted a head coaching position at Oklahoma this offseason. First-year head coach Drew Valentine will have some big shoes to fill after all of the success Moser had during his tenure with the Ramblers. Valentine was an assistant to Moser and coordinated the Rambler’s defense the past few seasons.
The Rambler’s were nothing short of dominant in their win over No. 1 seed Illinois that punched their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s NCAA tournament. This was in large part due to the performance of last year’s MVC Player of the Year Cameron Krutwig, who graduated.
In a stacked conference, a win against Loyola would be huge for MSU.
Follow Blake Biswell on Twitter, @BlakeBizzer
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