ST. LOUIS — The Missouri State men’s basketball team earned a No. 4 seed for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. The Bears are set to play the No. 5 Bradley Braves at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 8.
Here are four things you need to know before the game:
1. Newcomers lead the Bears.
Senior Josh Webster and juniors Tulio Da Silva and Keandre Cook were named to the MVC All-Newcomer Team, with Da Silva earning the Newcomer of the Year title.
Webster leads the MVC in assists per game with 5.2. He also has the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference at 3.1. He is one of three players in the league to have two games with 10 or more assists.
Da Silva has six games with 10 or more rebounds and sits fifth in the conference. He is also one of four players to have five games with 20 or more points. Cook is one of those four, as well.
Da Silva also sits third in average rebounds. The two players ahead of him and the five players to follow him have played in all 31 games so far this season — Da Silva has played in 26.
2. Only two MSU starters have previously played in Arch Madness.
Seniors Jarred Dixon and Ryan Kreklow are the only Bears to experience an Arch Madness tournament. All three newcomers have competed in the postseason, but they have never played in Arch Madness.
Head coach Dana Ford has said throughout the season that these guys have brought something new to the team because they don’t have expectations from previous years. He said Da Silva never truly understood how difficult it was to play in Loyola’s arena because he had never been there — it was just another game for him. The MVC Tournament could be the same way.
Kreklow and Dixon both said the tournament is different than anything else, and they’ve been helping their teammates prepare for the Friday afternoon game.
3. The Bears lead the series 36-22.
Missouri State defeated Bradley twice already this season, 69-64 and 55-37. The first win came before the Bears’ big chance in play. The second win came after the Bears changed their play to a low-possession style.
Since defeating Bradley and Loyola with that playing style, the Bears are 6-4. Ford said the Bears lost their last two games of the season to Illinois State and Drake because of a high number of possessions.
4. The Bears are 0-2 at a neutral site. The Braves are 2-0.
Missouri State played at one neutral site this season: the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Missouri. The Bears faced the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were ranked No. 24 at the time, and Southern California. They lost both by at least 19 points. The Huskers are 13th in the Big Ten with a 15-15 overall record, and USC is seventh in the Pacific-12 Conference and 15-14 overall.
Bradley’s two neutral-site games were in Cancun, Mexico, for the Cancun Challenge. The Braves beat Southern Methodist University, which is ninth in the American Athletic Conference with a 13-15 overall record, and Penn State, which is 12th in the Big Ten.