Our tenth MVCfans.com pre-conference season Q&A is with Lyndal Scranton of the Springfield News-Leader. Lyndal has been covering the Bears since they joined the MVC for the 1990-91 season with Coach Charlie Spoonhour.
You can follow his coverage at News-Leader.com or twitter - @lscranton. His blog can be found at MSU Sports Central: Lyndal Scranton blog
Missouri State finished last year on a high note with a CIT
championship. Did that help propel the Bears into the offseason? What do
you think having a successful postseason meant to the program?
A. The CIT experience benefited Missouri State in two major ways. One, it
allowed the Bears three additional weeks of practices and game preparation.
Two, it gave the staff and players experience in one-and-done situations
which can't hurt when those guys play in the Valley Tournament and any other
postseason play beyond that this season.
MVCfans.com readers voted for Kyle Weems as the pre-season MVC player
of the year. After seeing his game winning 3 pointer against UNI in the
conference opener, it's hard to argue that Weems has the potential to be
the league's best player. He leads the Bears in scoring at 16.7 ppg. How
high is his ceiling and how much does Coach Martin rely on Weems for on
A. Weems often is his own worst basketball enemy because he's too
unselfish. He's a very outgoing guy on and off the court and wants to
involve his teammates so much that he often defers when he should be the one
taking the big shot. That, under the urging of Cuonzo Martin, has started to
change. Martin has been pushing him to become the 'go-to' guy that a team
needs down the stretch in close games. I think we saw that happen at
Northern Iowa. Even though he was having a tough night, Weems hit a short
jumper and the winning 3 in the final few minutes. Weems also is becoming
better at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket. He was
primariliy a jump shooter his first two seasons.
MSU had an 8-3 record entering MVC play, having lost at Tennessee, at
Tulsa, and at Oklahoma State. Is that where you anticipated this club
would be in the non-conference or were any of those losses particularly
difficult to stomach?
A. I think 8-3 was exactly where most people had the Bears in
non-conference with an outside shot at 9-2. MSU had a legitimate chance to
win at Tennessee, shooting for the lead with under 2 minutes to go. Tulsa
was a disappointing road loss. The team was sluggish as it faced Tulsa on
the end of a 3-games-in-4-nights stretch in 2 cities. If they play Tulsa 10
times (5 home and 5 road) I think MSU wins 7.
In recent years, MSU struggled on the road in the MVC. How important
was the win in Cedar Falls to open MVC play?
A. Winning on the road at Northern Iowa was huge for Missouri State. It's
easily the biggest win of the Cuonzo Martin era. How big we won't know for
sure until later, but I've seen this program lose that sort of game dozens
of times over the last decade. Confidence-wise, I don't think there's any
way to measure how important that victory was for the players.
Coach Counzo Martin has arguably his best Bears team this year and
expectations in Springfield are high. Do you believe this team has the
potential to reach the NCAA tournament?
A. This team has the potential, but the margin for error is thin. The
non-conference resume won't do them any favors if the Bears have to go the
at-large route to get into the NCAAs. It'll take a regular-season or
league-tourney title, obviously. But MSU cannot afford significant injuries
to any of its starters as the bench is still a work in progress. Of course,
I think that can be said for all MVC teams with the exception of Wichita
State, which is extremely deep and talented.
Thanks again to Lyndal for participating in our team by team MVC Q&A. Previous Q&A's can be found in the MVC links section of the forum.
Dec 13 - Mark Emmert - Drake
Dec 16 - Jim Benson - Illinois State
Dec 18 - Paul Suellentrop - Wichita State
Dec 20 - Steve Pivovar - Creighton
Dec 22 - Kelly Beaton - Northern Iowa
Dec 24 - Todd Hefferman - Southern Illinois
Dec 26 - Randy Beard - Evansville
Dec 27 - Todd Golden - Indiana State
Dec 29 - Kirk Wessler - Bradley
Dec 31 - Lyndal Scranton - Missouri State