2007-08 Missouri State Basketball Preview
Missouri State Bears
Overall Rank: #93
Conference Rank: #6 Missouri Valley
2006-07: 22-11, 12-6, 3rd
2006-07 postseason: NIT
Every year Missouri State is so close to securing an NCAA Tournament berth, but fail. This year it should not be quite as close, but the failing will remain. With the best three players graduating, it may be a long season in Springfield. Yet, all is not lost for the Bears. Coach Barry Hinson has some talent down the bench that is ready to play bigger role on the team. The talent level is not quite NCAA worthy at this point, but in what should be a wide open race in the MVC, Missouri State will not be far behind.
Blake Ahearn, Tyler Chaney and Nathan Bilyeu were the heart and soul of the team. Ahearn may be best known for his free-throw shooting, but he did a lot more than that. The St. Louis native averaged a team high 15.4 points per game and was great three-point shooter during his senior campaign. Chaney was the next best long range shooter on the team and that is an area of concern that has to be addressed if MSU wants a shot at the postseason. At 6-6 and 215 pounds, Bilyeu was not a really big guy by basketball standards, but he never let that stop him from doing a big man’s job. He led the team in rebounding and averaged nearly double digit points during his senior season and the team will be looking to replace his toughness. Kyle Rausch, who saw limited minutes in 31 games, and Sky Frazier, who left the team after just six games last season, will not be suiting up for the Bears in 2007-2008.
It is the addition of a couple of junior college transfers that turns Missouri State from a bottom of the conference team to a potential surprise squad. Wade Knapp, a 6-8 power forward, will help the post offense right away. He is not a traditional banger under the basket, but Knapp is a solid scorer facing the basket. The versatile the 6-4 wing, Chris Cooks, is a superb athlete. He is strong enough to mix it up inside and quick enough to beat just about anybody off the dribble. Redshirt freshman Ryan Jehle is a Bilyeu type of player. He is undersized for a power forward, but has the toughness and quickness to be a solid contributor. Incoming freshman David Cline is a more traditional power forward and will be good for some rebounds off the bench if the team needs him. Small forward Kyle Weems has a decent outside shot and a healthy amount of athleticism, but will find it difficult to earn minutes as a freshman. Along with Cooks, the perimeter gets a couple more impact players with Lamont Austin and Tomas Brock. Austin has an amazing amount of speed and quickness and will be the backup point guard right away. Brock is a tremendous shooter and will garner plenty of comparisons to Ahearn early in his career.
Who to Watch:
If it was not for the newcomers, the Laurie brothers would be starting side by side for the entire season. Spencer started all 33 games for the Bears after spending two seasons at Missouri. He is a decent shooter, but it is his ball handling and playmaking abilities that make Spencer so valuable. Shane has a little more competition on his hands to earn the starting spot next to his brother. He only averaged 3.2 points and earned one start last year, but Shane will be starting at the two guard spot early in the year if the newcomers are not ready quite yet. Dale Lamberth spent all of last season coming off the bench and will likely step into a starting role this year. The 6-5 forward is a good scorer, but it is Deven Mitchell who is ready to become the team leader. Mitchell is a superb athlete and managed to average 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds last year despite struggling with some nagging injuries. If healthy, Mitchell will be one of the best players in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Drew Richards is the lone proven post presence returning. The 6-9, 250 pound center is a decent scorer in the paint and a solid presence on the defensive end. It would be beneficial if he was a little tougher on the glass, especially without Bilyeu to help him out, but the senior will get the job done. What this team has now is less experience, but more athleticism. As long as the experience concerns do not become a huge issue, Missouri State will be hanging around the top half of the conference standings for the entire season. But the lack of experience, mostly off the bench, will become an issue at one point or another and that will keep MSU from reaching the postseason.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Spencer Laurie, Senior, Guard, 5.9 points per game
Chirs Cooks, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Dale Lamberth, Senior, Forward, 7.5 points per game
Deven Mitchell, Senior, Forward, 10.8 points per game
Drew Richards, Senior, Center, 7.5 points per game