#120 Missouri State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Missouri State Bears
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #120
Conference Rank: #2 Missouri Valley
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The new look Missouri Valley Conference has come at a good time for Missouri State. The MVC lost Wichita State and is basically now a one-bid league and a wide open one at that. Missouri State may just have the most talented roster they have ever had under Coach Paul Lusk. Alize Johnson came in from the junior college ranks last year and immediately made a huge impact. The 6-9 forward averaged 14.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and connected on 38.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. With his size, athleticism and versatility, few teams will have any luck containing him on the offensive end of the floor.
2016-17 Record: 17-16, 7-11
2016-17 Postseason: None
Coach: Paul Lusk
Coach Record: 88-106 at Missouri State, 88-106 overall
Who’s Out:
The lone starter lost is Dequon Miller, who ranked second on the team with 12.7 points per game and led the squad with 3.8 assists per game and 55 three-pointers made. The Bears also lose reserve guards Chris Kendrix and Austin Ruder. Those two often provided a nice offensive spark off the bench with their outside shooting ability. Jordan Martin averaged fewer than ten minutes per game, but he added some size and toughness in the paint during his senior season. Robin Thompson and Tyler McCullough are also off the roster after seeing limited action during the 2016-2017 campaign.
Who’s In:
J.T. Miller highlights a very impressive group of newcomers for Coach Lusk. Miller spent the rest of his collegiate career at Howard and the graduate transfer averaged 14.7 points per game with the Bison last season. At 6-2, Miller has enough size and strength to attack the basket and either finish or find one of his teammates. He can shoot and pass and it is never a bad thing to have a secondary ball handler on the floor. Tanveer Bhullar is also a graduate transfer. The 7-2 center never made much of an impact at New Mexico State and cannot handle playing a slew of minutes with the Bears either, but he is obviously a big body who can eat up space in the paint, grab some rebounds and block a few shots. Abdul-Hakim Fofana and Reggie Scurry are junior college transfers who have the experience to step right into a productive role. Both are forwards, although Scurry is a bit undersized, yet expect him to be a tough interior player off the bench right away. Incoming freshmen Darian Scott and Mustafa Lawrence will have time to develop with so much other experience on the roster. Redshirt freshman Greg Williams has battled serious ailments lately and it remains to be seen if he will be able to suit up for Missouri State. The point guard was a very highly regarded recruit, but his health is a much bigger concern than the Bears depth on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt will be in great shape with Ronnie Rousseau III leading the way. He was only available for the first 14 games of last season, but he started all 14 of them and averaged 11.6 points and 2.9 assists. He is a capable outside shooter, but will mostly look to attack the basket and finish or find one of his teammates. Jarred Dixon is a good scorer too, especially when it comes to getting to the basket. He started ten games last season and could be used as a spark off the bench this year with Rousseau and Miller presumably stepping into starting roles. Ryan Kreklow earned a handful of starts during the 2016-2017 campaign as well and, whether starting or not, proved to be a very dangerous outside shooter. He connected on 41.6 percent of his 101 attempts from long range. With players like Ruder and Kendrix gone, expect Kreklow to play an even bigger role this season and get more opportunities to knock down long balls. Jarried Rhodes was a regular starter at small forward last year and will be given every opportunity to hang onto that role. The 6-6 senior is a capable outside shooter and a decent slasher as well. And with his size he can provide a solid rebounding option outside of the big guys in the frontcourt.
Final Projection:
Obediah Church will have to fight it out with the newcomers to keep his starting job. The 6-7 junior has been productive in the paint and averaged 6.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.4 blocks last season. With the new found size on the roster and Johnson locked into about 30 minutes per game, the minutes will be tougher to come by. But that is a good thing for Missouri State. They have a lot of size now and a lot of options. Outside of Johnson and Rousseau, there is a lot of competition for starting gigs and playing time. Many returning players with starting experience will be pushed for minutes by experienced newcomers and developing talent that spent last season further down the bench. This is the year for Missouri State to put that depth to good use and compete for a MVC title and an NCAA Tournament berth.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Ronnie Rousseau, Senior, Guard, 11.6 points per game
J.T. Miller, Senior, Guard, 14.7 points per game (at Howard)
Jarrid Rhodes, Senior, Forward, 7.0 points per game
Alize Johnson, Senior, Forward, 14.8 points per game
Obediah Church, Junior, Forward, 6.6 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.8 (184th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.0 (91, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.3 (180, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.4 (163, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.2 (101, 5)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.4 (110, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.1 (175, 6)
Rebound Margin: 5.7 (28, 2)
Assists Per Game: 12.2 (255, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (105, 7)