Tag:Missouri State
Posted on: December 28, 2011 11:42 pm

Missouri State's Weems shows loyalty paying off

By Jeff Goodman

OMAHA, Neb. - Kyle Weems had every excuse to bolt. 

New coach, seven new faces and a team that was set to be picked in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley. 

However, Weems - who could have taken advantage of the NCAA's fifth-year rule and played for a high-profile program such as Kansas, Kansas State or Oregon this year - remained at Missouri State. 

"It was flattering," Weems said moments after torching Creighton for 31 points in a 77-65 road upset. "But I love this university. I didn't want to leave this place." 

"I could have left," said Weems, who would have needed to finish an internship in the summer. "But I didn't want to be like that. My mother and father raised me not to run from challenges." 

Weems was the Valley's reigning Player of the Year, but the rest of the starting unit from the Bears team that went 26-9 overall and 15-3 in the league had moved on. The leading returning scorer to accompany Weems was Caleb Patterson, who played just 13.6 minutes last season. 

Then his coach, Cuonzo Martin, left for Tennessee. 

"I never worried about him leaving, mostly because of the people around him -- his mom and dad," new coach Paul Lusk said. "He's too good of a kid and has so much substance." 

There was Weems, who had struggled for much of the season with a new, unproven cast surround him, draining key 3-pointers in the second half to give the Bears the unlikely road victory over a Creighton team that entered the contest ranked 19th in the nation. 

Outplaying the guy on the other side, Doug McDermott, who had received far more accolades for his play thus far this season. 

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to come out and prove something -- not only for the team," Weems said. "But this was huge for us. It shows that we're still a team to be reckoned with." 

But this was a Missouri State team that has Weems and a bunch of guys that few know much about. Lusk had no option but to add a couple of junior college guys in Anthony Downing and Jarmar Gulley. He took Michael Bizoukas and handed him the starting point guard spot despite being nothing more than a role guy for the last three seasons at DePaul. He was forced to give Caleb Patterson major minutes even though he rarely played meaningful time on last season's veteran-laden team. 

It was a Bears team that came into the game with a 7-5 record, one that has been omitted from the conversation when discussing potential Missouri Valley teams that could make their way into the NCAA tournament conversation. 

"I understand it," Weems said of the lower expectations. "But it's hard to deal with it." 

Weems had also struggled individually, averaging 14.3 points while shooting below 40 percent from the field and just 33 percent from beyond the arc. But it was just a matter of time before he broke out -- and it happened in the second half on Wednesday when he scored 25 of his points and made all three of his attempts from long distance. 

"Every coach hoped he didn't bust out against them," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "But it happened tonight." 

In the same uniform he's donned for the past three years. 

Posted on: July 29, 2011 11:41 am

MVC POY shrugs off BCS suitors, stays loyal

By Matt Norlander

It's a small yet satisfying story of devotion.

My friend Jeff Eisenberg, he of Yahoo! Sports' The Dagger, brought it to my attention this week.

So you've got Kyle Weems at Missouri State. He was the Missouri Valley Player of the Year last season. Sprite, able forward who boosted the Bears to a 26-9 record and a regular-season MVC title. A fantastic mid-major player, for sure.

He's going to graduate this summer, before the season starts. What's it mean? It means if Weems wanted to, he could transfer anywhere else in his fifth and final season of eligibility. You couldn't blame him for doing so; few would notice the transfer, to be honest, and with a year's worth of house money, so to speak, why not give it a go at a major program? After all, Weems just lost his head coach, Cuonzo Martin, who took the Tennessee job in April. It would be his last and only chance to earn playing time on that kind of level, with that kind of exposure.

Kansas, Oregon, Kansas State, California -- they all expressed interest in Weems joining for a season. But Weems isn't going anywhere. He'll ride out his college career in Springfield, Mo., putting on his shoulders the effort to reach the NCAA tournament, the first for the program since Weems arrived.
"Deep down in my heart I knew I wanted to be an MSU Bear for my whole career," Weems said. "This has been my home for the past four years. I want to leave a legacy here. I want people to remember me for always having a smile on my face, for playing hard and for being a winner. I think I've done a pretty good job of that, but I felt like there's more work to do, especially an NCAA tournament bid. That's why I wasn't ready to leave."

There's more detailed reporting from Eisenberg, like how Weems' parents have remained loyal at their jobs and been dedicated to their communities since he was born. There are principles with his parents that he wants to emulate. It includes this rational level of thinking which, frankly, is a little startling to hear from a college basketball player with options to go bigger and "better."

"That's dedication," Weems said. "If they can work a 9-to-5 job like that, then I feel I can be loyal to a university, which has done nothing but great things for me."
How about that. Hey, good on Weems. The Missouri Valley should be fairly interesting this year (isn't it always?), but this will be one storyline to follow. And even if the Bears can't manage an NCAA berth, if they're successful and competitive, it's doubtful Weems will have any regrets.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 21, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 4:06 pm

Missouri State coach compelled to help Joplin

By Matt Norlander

He was in West Lafayette, Ind., on that Sunday, making the move from his old job to his new one. Then the texts began to beep from his phone. They were from friends in Joplin, Mo., telling him about the tornado that bore down on his former town. It was May 22. A day that began full of happiness, promise, potential and eagerness for a new job and lifestyle ended with worry and concern for first-year Missouri State coach Paul Lusk.

Lusk, 39, was hired away from Purdue, where he was an associated head coach the past three years. He was once an assistant at Division-II Missouri Southern, which is located in Joplin. He was there for three years, from 1999 to 2002. His wife worked at the junior high in town. They still have plenty of friends there, those who still work with Missouri Southern, and others who don’t.

Upon hearing the news and seeing the horrifying video that dominated mainstream media coverage over the next 72 hours, Lusk made calls and sent text messages to find out if all those people he knew in town were OK. They were.

“Every one of our close, personal friends were accounted for and really didn’t lose anything, thankfully,” said Lusk, adding that there were a number of Missouri Southern boosters who “lost a lot.” One of his wife’s really good friends lost his church.

“I still haven’t been to Joplin yet, but [my friends] tell me, ‘You can’t believe the damage until you see it,’” Lusk said.

After he settled into his new home in Springfield, Mo., Lusk (above) wasted no time in doing the obvious: attempting to schedule an exhibition game with his former school. He soon found out the University of Missouri was planning to do the same thing. The tricky part was convincing the NCAA to allow Missouri State to schedule another exhibition. Since it was the same situation Mizzou was in, initially, there was some concern over the NCAA allowing both of these games to be held.

Fortunately, after a few forms were sent and some finagling was done (Missouri State had to move an exhibition against D-II William Jewel), the NCAA allowed both schools to play road games at Missouri Southern.

Missouri State’s game is schedule for Nov. 5. Like Missouri, Lusk’s team will make the 50-minute drive west on Interstate 44 and play the game for the benefit of the Joplin community, all proceeds from the game going to the Missouri Southern Foundation's Tornado Emergency Relief Fund. Lusk has already had help from within the Missouri Valley, too, as fellow league coach Ben Jacobson of Northern Iowa sent T-shirts and other goods directly to Joplin.

Lusk has also been in frequent contact with his former mentor, Missouri Southern coach Robert Corn. There’s been a definite reconnection there, though Corn’s always been a part of Lusk’s life since he left the school for a head-coaching job at the University of Dubuque in 2002. Lusk and Corn are already preparing for the exhibition, the biggest challenge being selling out the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center — and doing it a week after Missouri comes to town.

“The most important thing I’ve been trying to sell is trying to have as big of a crowd as we can,” Lusk said.

Missouri Southern could provide a real challenge for the Bears, by the way. Corn's crew went 26-5 last season, and the head coach was named a finalist for national coach of the year in D-II. Missouri State went 26-9 last season and won one game in the NIT tournament.

The Bears have no players on its team who are from Joplin or bordering towns. This exhibition is happening not only because it’s the obvious, right thing to do, but because Lusk feels a connection to the town because of this tragedy. In a way, the tornado has forced him to come full circle in his early career.

This could also be the start of an annual exhibition meeting between the two schools.

Photo via Missouri State athletics

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 27, 2011 8:28 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 8:37 pm

Cuonzo Martin will be good for Tennessee

Posted by Eric Angevine

The news just became official: The University of Tennessee has moved quickly to fill the coaching vacancy left by the firing of Bruce Pearl, and has hired Cuonzo Martin of Missouri State.

Martin is a 39-year-old former Purdue player, a product of the Gene Keady coaching tree. Martin played for Keady from 1991-1995. His NBA career was over in 1997, and by 2000, he was back in West Lafayette as an assistant. That led to his hiring as head coach at Missouri State in 2008.

The hiring of Martin works on a couple of levels for Tennessee. First, Martin seems to be a good coach. Second, he looks like a genuinely good person.

If Bruce Pearl was the slick, popular car salesman, Martin is the humble church deacon. He may not entertain like Pearl did. He most definitely will not appear shirtless and painted orange for any reason. What he will do is win coaching awards and speak from the heart about what it takes to be a good man. We know this, because he gave this moving speech after being named Missouri Valley coach of the year this season:

Only the most cynical fan could look at that and think that Martin is anything but a genuinely decent man who will fly the Vols program straight and be a good mentor to his charges.

That's how we know he's a good man. We know he's tough, because he's survived a bout with cancer at age 26. How do we know he's a good coach?

Truthfully, the evidence is slim, but all good. He learned from Keady as a player and assistant coach. He worked with Matt Painter, the current Boilermakers coach. No doubt both can and did vouch for Martin in the process of the coaching search. When Missouri State was looking for a replacement for Barry Hinson in 2008, they tabbed Martin, and he turned the mediocre program around quickly. His first season was an 11-20, injury-riddled mess, but the team did manage to beat Arkansas in the non-conference season before sliding to 10th in league play. The next season, the Bears were 24-12 and 7th in the MVC and played in the CIT. This past season, Missouri State went 26-9 and won a dramatic final home game over Wichita State to claim the school's first regular-season Missouri Valley title. The tourney title eluded the Bears, who made it to the second round of the NIT.

So, admittedly, in some ways, this was a cosmetic hire. Martin doesn't have any direct head-coaching experience with the NCAA tournament, and his bio is short. But the University of Tennessee has been in a world of hurt over the past three seasons, with scandal dogging the football and basketball programs. To get ahold of a man who has a spotless reputation, a direct and forthright manner, and the potential to right the reeling program quickly is about as good as the Vols could have done under the circumstances.

We'll know more about what Martin will have to work with (and against) when the NCAA has its say in upcoming months. That's when the transfers will likely start and recruiting will become difficult. Martin knew all of that coming in. Tennessee backers are going to have to have a lot of patience with their athletic program over the next few years. But they can rest assured that Cuonzo Martin has a plan, and he won't embarrass them any further.

All things considered, that's a big win for a program that has been dragged through the mud recently.

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Posted on: March 9, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 4:38 pm

It's Gene Keady's world, we just hoop in it

Gene Keady could have a huge influence on this year's NCAA tournament

Posted by Eric Angevine

How bloggy is this post going to be? Very bloggy.

The West Lafayette Journal and Courier started it, though, so there's that.

The paper put out a list of Gene Keady assistants who are expected to be in the NCAA field due to strong at-large resumes, a list we'll share:

  • Former Purdue guard Matt Painter has the Boilermakers (25-6) at No. 8 in this week's RPI.
  • Former Boilermaker graduate assistant Steve Lavin comes in at No. 22 in the RPI with red-hot St. John's (20-10). Keady is back on the bench with Lavin, serving in an advisory capacity.

  • Kevin Stallings, who played at Purdue and later served as an assistant coach, has Vanderbilt (21-9) at No. 26 in the RPI.

  • Bruce Weber, Keady's Purdue assistant from 1981 through 1998, has Illinois (19-12) in the RPI's No. 40 slot.

  • Finally, former Boilermaker player and assistant coach Cuonzo Martin's Missouri State team (25-8) comes in at No. 42 in the RPI.
  • Of course, Keady himself is in there, albiet as a wise Yoda to Steve Lavin.

    The last two slots there are dubious, of course. Weber and Martin are very much on the bubble and sweating it. It does raise the interesting question of coaching trees. Which coach has the most influence on this bracket? We won't know for sure until all the decisions are made, but this list makes a strong case for Keady. It does get a bit confusing at times, though. For instance, Stallings was also a Roy Williams assistant at Kansas, so who claims him? I suppose both.

    This will be a fun game to play on Selection Sunday, though. We'll be doing an epic live chat that afternoon, so maybe we can all keep track of the coaching ties after the bids are announced.

    You have to do something while you're waiting for the First Four to tip off, after all.

    Photo: US Presswire

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    Posted on: March 6, 2011 6:18 pm
    Edited on: March 6, 2011 7:14 pm

    Indiana State with a gutsy MVC title win

    ST. LOUIS --- For the first time in a decade and only the third time since Larry Bird departed campus, Indiana State will be dancing in March. The Sycamores defeated Missouri State 60-56 on Sunday to complete its surprising run through the MVC tournament and earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

    Led by its guard combo of Aaron Carter and Jake Odum, Indiana State was down three at halftime, after a sloppy first half that saw both teams struggle to execute their game plans. But Indiana State came out with defense on its mind in the second half,beginning the second half on an 8-0 run. Missouri State went until the 9:19 mark in the second half before it made its first field goal and the Sycamores were able to withstand a late Missouri State’s rally to get the win.

    Having played three games in less than 48 hours, Indiana State came into the game hoping to shoot a high percentage and win with defense. The Sycamores accomplished the first by shooting an impressive 50% from the field, allowing them to overcome a significant size disadvantage and rebound differential on the glass. And defensively, Indiana State was able to limit the scoring opportunities of Missouri State’s big three, Kyle Weems, Adam Leonard and Jermaine Mallett, holding them to only 39 points on 8-25 shooting.

    Still yet, Missouri State was able to remain in the game thanks to the striking disparity on the boards. The Bears’ 20 offensive rebounds, in contrast to Indiana State’s four, kept them within striking distance throughout their poor play in the second half. When Missouri State’s Adam Leonard drained a contested three to cut the margin to one with 27 seconds left, it looked as if the Bears might yet be able to once again overcome their poor play with timely late shooting heroics.

    After Indiana State’s Jake Odum made one of two free throws, the Bears took over for a final possession to tie or win the game. With six seconds remaining, the ball was inbounded to Missouri Valley Player of the Year, Kyle Weems, whose game winner earlier in the tournament against Southern Illinois sent the Bears to the semifinals. Indiana State quickly double teamed, forcing him to pass to conference tournament MVP Jermaine Mallett. After a quick first step to the basket, the ball slipped from Mallett’s hands rolling out of bounds and handing Indiana State the victory.

    Missouri State never looked completely in sync at any point in St. Louis. From the outset, the Bears were unable to execute with their normal offensive efficiency, and won primarily via a desperation to end the school’s NCAA drought. The Bears were fortunate to win their first game against Southern Illinois, overcoming a nine point deficit in the game’s last three minutes, and never were able to regain their regular season form. Each game featured impressive late comebacks designed to overcome large second half deficits, but on Sunday, their fortune finally ran out. The regular season MVC champion, which has been perpetually on the bubble in recent years, likely does not have a strong enough resume to get into the big dance and will probably once again have to settle for a disappointing NIT bid on Selection Sunday. 

    As for Indiana State, the NCAA Tournament now awaits for a program that hasn’t been invited in nearly a decade. Just three years removed from a 20 loss season and one summer from having its head coach leave the program to become an assistant at Oregon, the Sycamores are now dancing. First year coach Greg Lansing says his team is “made of the right stuff” and their path, which featured a buzzer beating win and victories over the top two teams in the conference proves their mettle. They now head to the NCAA Tournament, hoping to recreate the glory of the past with a tough, young team ready to make history of its own.

    MVC Conference Page and bracket

    Posted by MATT JONES

    Coach Greg Lansing on the victory:

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    Posted on: March 6, 2011 4:27 pm
    Edited on: March 7, 2011 1:30 am

    Poppin' bubbles: Bid thief emerges

    Posted by Jeff Borzello

    Saturday was enormous for the bubble – of course, by “enormous,” I mean that it made things impossibly crowded at the bottom of the at-large pile. Certain teams played themselves into the picture, while others will inevitably be sweating come Selection Sunday (Seth Greenberg, we mean you). Sunday will be no different; there is no shortage of games with big-time bubble and at-large implications.

    Gonzaga 71, San Francisco 67: The Bulldogs did what they needed to do in order to stay in the hunt, even if it wasn’t pretty. Gonzaga has won eight in a row and 10 of its last 11, forging a share of the conference title at 11-3. Can the Zags get into the NCAA Tournament even with a loss Monday in the title game? They have defeated Xavier, Marquette, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the non-conference season, but the RPI is in the 60s and the SOS is in the triple-digits.

    Saint Mary’s 73, Santa Clara 64: The Gaels also took care of business in the West Coast semifinals, advancing to the title game. When compared to Gonzaga, they have fewer good wins, with the only top-50 victory coming over St. John’s back in the season opener. Outside of that, the best non-league win was over Long Beach State. On the plus side, they have better computer numbers – but that loss to San Diego is an eyesore.

    Florida State 72, North Carolina State 62: If Chris Singleton was playing, the Seminoles would have locked up a bid by now. Without him, though, they needed to prove that they could win without him. Florida State won five of seven to end the season, finishing 11-5 in the ACC. The ‘Noles have a marquee win over Duke, which is carrying their profile right now. Victories over Boston College and Clemson help. They will likely face Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals – can they survive a loss?

    Indiana State 60, Missouri State 56: What a devastating loss for Missouri State. The Bears likely needed to win the automatic bid in order to get to the NCAA Tournament; third-seeded Indiana State made sure that didn’t happen. Missouri State simply doesn’t have the profile necessary to get an at-large bid. The Bears don’t have any top-50 wins, with just three coming against the top 100. The best non-league win came over Oral Roberts. It will be a stressful week on the bubble – and I don’t think Missouri State gets in

    Kentucky 64, Tennessee 58: Tennessee is probably safely in the field due to its non-conference wins over Pittsburgh and Villanova, but the Volunteers are not doing themselves any favors. They lost six of their final nine games to drop to 8-8 in the SEC. With seven top-50 victories, a win in the SEC Tournament over Arkansas should lock up a bid. If the Vols lose to the Razorbacks, though, this will be an interesting case.

    Penn State 66, Minnesota 63: A few weeks ago, this might have been a must-win for Minnesota, not Penn State. However, the Golden Gophers finished the season by losing five in a row and nine of their last 10. On the other hand, Penn State moves to 9-9 in the Big Ten and has a shot heading into the conference tournament. The Nittany Lions have some decent wins over Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State, but a loss in the conference tournament would be their 14th of the season. That could be tough to overcome.

    VCU 79, George Mason 63: We have our first potential “bid thief” of Championship Week. With George Mason already locked into a bid, VCU now has a chance to take one of the few remaining at-large bids if it can win the CAA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, the Rams might still hold an outside shot at getting an at-large bid should it lose in the championship game. The win over the Patriots was VCU’s third top-50 win of the season.

    Boston College 84, Wake Forest 68: The win didn’t really do anything to enhance the Eagles’ profile, but at least they avoided a bad loss. A defeat here and BC would have likely been out of the field. With the victory, the Eagles get the five seed in the ACC Tournament, meaning a rematch with these Demon Deacons. If Boston College defeats Wake Forest in the opening round, we could be in store for a bubble play-in game between BC and Clemson. The Tigers have already defeated the Eagles once.

    Photo: US Presswire

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    Posted on: March 6, 2011 8:52 am

    Sunday Preview: bids and seeds go flying

    Posted by Eric Angevine

    Plenty of games on today, but I'm going to focus on a handful. Starting with:

    Kentucky @ Tennessee, 12:00 p.m. ET, CBS: Uh-oh, one last road game for the Wildcats before the SEC tournament begins. See above.

    Indiana State @ Missouri State, 2:05 p.m., CBS: Another NCAA bid goes out today. Will it belong to Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri State Bears, who are celebrating their first-ever MVC regular-season championship? Or will Larry Bird's alma mater get back to the Dance for the first time since 2001? Either way, there will be one less bid up for grabs at the end of this one. Matt Jones will be live on site. | MVC title game preview

    Wisconsin @ Ohio State, 4:00 p.m., CBS: Purdue's baffling loss to Iowa yesterday took some drama out of this one, as it handed the Big Ten title to the Buckeyes outright. Still, this should be a dynamite battle between two top-ten teams, with OSU looking to stay firmly on top, and Wisconsin trying to grab a season sweep that could dramatically improve their Big Dance seeding. | Video Preview

    I'll be at the CAA semifinals, where multiple bids appear to be solidly in play. Should be another exciting day of college hoops!

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    The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com