#67 Missouri State: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #67
Conference Rank: #3 Missouri Valley Conference
2009-10: 24-12, 8-10
2009-10 postseason: CIT
Coach: Cuonzo Martin (35-32 at Missouri State, 35-32 overall)
These days four teams finish a season with a championship due to the added postseason tournaments and Missouri State is one of those teams coming off of a championship. It may have been the least valued hardware to take home, but the Bears are still rebuilding and after finishing 3-15 in conference play just a year earlier, winning anything is a step in the right direction. Now this team will need to take the next step.
Key Losses: G Justin Fuehrmeyer
It has not been the greatest off-season for Missouri State, which will put a little more pressure on the newcomers. All four are perimeter orientated players and will have to provide almost all of the depth in the backcourt. Nathan Scheer may be the player who makes the biggest impact since he is a 6-5 wing who can play multiple positions. Nick Valla is an underrated 6-2 guard out of Chicago, Illinois and will be given every opportunity to be a playmaker off of the bench. Corey Copeland and point guard Aaron Cooper are decent recruits for the Missouri Valley Conference and either one of them could emerge as the team’s sixth man.
The newcomers became much more important when Keith Pickens was declared out for the season following a knee injury. Pickens had a fine freshman campaign and started 17 games. Without Pickens and Justin Fuehrmeyer, Nafis Ricks has to go from super sub to starter. Ricks is not a great scorer, but he does a fine job attacking the basket and led the team with 2.7 assists per game last year despite not starting and averaging less than 19 minutes per game. Thrust into a starting role, Ricks should be in for a big senior season. Adam Leonard and Jermaine Mallett are the big stars of the backcourt. Mallett is a decent outside shooter, but he does most of his scoring around the basket. However, what makes so valuable is his ability to rebound from the wing. Leonard is the pure shooter of the group and he connected on nearly three three-pointers per game last year. Leonard is a shooter first and foremost, but he can attack the basket and if he does that more during his senior campaign he will turn into a very dynamic scorer.
It is possible to play Will Creekmore and Caleb Patterson at the same time, but Missouri State hopes that those two can fill up all 40 minutes at the five spot. That should leave little time for them to spend at the four. Creekmore should return to his starting role after averaging 8.6 points and 4.7 rebounds during his junior campaign. He is not the strongest rebounder around, but he is a decent interior scorer and has a good enough mid-range jumper to cause problems for the opposing defense. Patterson is full of potential. He tallied 6.1 points and 2.4 rebounds during his first year in Springfield after transferring from Colorado. Patterson has the ability to stretch out the defense even more than Creekmore and just about every opposing big man finds it difficult to defend the 6-11 Patterson on the perimeter. Isaiah Rhine will be in the mix in the frontcourt as well and he will have to play more than 6.4 minutes per game this year if the frontcourt is going to have any depth whatsoever.
Who to Watch:
It would be nice to have Kyle Weems on the floor 40 minutes per game, but the 6-6, 230 pound junior would foul out of about every game. Weems is a superb scorer from anywhere on the floor and an amazingly consistent outside shooter. Despite hanging out on the perimeter, Weems managed to lead the team in rebounds, blocks and steals. Add that to his team high 13.6 points per game and Missouri State has their superstar.
The backcourt should be fine despite the lack of experienced depth. The bigger concern is the depth in the frontcourt. Weems has proven that he can be a great power forward and Creekmore and Patterson can handle the five spot, but Rhine is a question mark and this team is one injury away from having to start a freshman on the perimeter and run a four guard offense. Yet, if everybody from this point on can stay healthy, Missouri State has a very good team and should take the next step up from the CBI to the NIT.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Nafis Ricks, Senior, Guard, 7.4 ppg
Adam Leonard, Senior, Guard, 13.0 ppg
Jermaine Mallett, Senior, Guard, 10.6 ppg
Kyle Weems, Junior, Forward, 13.6 ppg
Will Creekmore, Senior, Center, 8.6 ppg
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