Make Your Case: Missouri State BearsPosted by jstevrtc on March 12th, 2011
It’s back. Around this time of year we like to yield the soapbox to representatives of bubble teams and give them the opportunity to explain to the hooping nation why their team should be granted admission into the NCAA Tournament. We encourage them to be as irrational and nonpartisan as they want. As always, feel free to tell us how you think they did in the comments section. If you’d like to make the case for your school, send us an e-mail at JStevRTC@gmail.com and we’ll hear your preliminary arguments.
Billy Jansen, a Missouri State alumnus, now makes the case for the Bears.
You all remember the headlines in 2006, but for Missouri State fans, that same nightmare plays out every season when ESPN and the national sports talk scene start talking about “the bubble.” Out of the 10 teams with the highest RPIs ever to be left out of the NCAA Tournament, Missouri State has three of them. The most painful was the No. 21 RPI left out in 2006.
But the 2011 Missouri State Bears have something that the 2006 team didn’t: a Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship. Going 15-3 in the MVC regular season, they also won a Missouri State-record seven league road games, a tough task when you have the target on your back from being #1 in the league. MSU has won an incredible 10 road games this season. They lost by four at Tennessee, but they had a short bench because of illness, which explains their falter just two nights later at Tulsa.
This team also has excellent senior leadership, but to go along with that they have the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, junior Kyle Weems. They also have the MVC Coach of the Year in Cuonzo Martin. The former Purdue assistant has one of the most inspiring stories in all of college basketball, from growing up in rough East St. Louis, Illinois, to winning his fight against lymphoma. “You’ve got to dream past what you’ve got right now,” he said in his Coach of the Year press conference.
The selection committee probably feels the safe bet would be to take a 19-win team out of the Big East or another “power” conference, but for a program that has been forgotten by the selection committee, I guarantee you that those teams will not fight and claw the way this Missouri State team has done all season, and would do in the NCAA tournament.
When you look at the Missouri Valley Conference, even in a down year, you see a league that is traditionally strong and produces teams that are able to make runs in the NCAA tournament. It would be difficult for power conference schools to go 15-3 in this conference. In the entire history of the MVC, every team that has reached the 15 league-win mark has made the NCAA tournament. On top of that, every year since 1993, the top seed in the MVC tournament has made it to the Big Dance.
A computer might tell you the MVC is the 12th-rated conference this year. That same computer might tell you the Bears did not beat a team ranked in the top 50. That same computer might tell you the Bears only beat three teams in the top 100. That same computer, however, also tells you there are only 41 teams better than the Bears. If you don’t want to look at the computer at all, GREAT. But, if you do want to look at it, the most important number it spits out is where it ranks the Bears, not the conference or the opponent, or the opponents’ opponent.
Finally, when compared to other bubble teams, the Bears did what the others didn’t do — they won seven true road games and they suffered zero bad losses. The other bubble teams had their opportunities to prove themselves worthy of a bid and failed to do so. The Bears were not afforded the multiple opportunities that other bubble teams were. The one weakness on the Bears’ resume is their strength of schedule, however, their non-con slate had games at Oklahoma State, at Tennessee, and at Tulsa. You cannot punish this years team because the schedule played out weakly for them with those three teams not being as strong as usual.
Bottom line: there are not 37 teams that are more deserving of a bid than Missouri State, and this fan base deserves a break from the heartache.