CHICAGO — Two days in the middle of May can go a long way in making or breaking the NBA dream for several players across the NCAA.
The 2018 NBA Draft Combine will take place in the Windy City on May 16th and 17th, and 69 of the top prospects from around the NCAA have been selected to attend. It gives players from all levels of college basketball the chance to showcase their skills for NBA scouts, general managers, and executives alike from all 30 teams in the league.
In terms of the top spots in the draft, it’s no secret as to who the top prospects are in this year’s field.
Sports Betting Dime says that the battle to be the no. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has, realistically, been whittled to three names: center DeAndre Ayton of the Arizona Wildcats, power forward Marvin Bagley of the Duke Blue Devils, and Slovenian guard Luka Doncic.
While Ayton is the favorite to go first overall, it will depend which team wins the draft lottery. Phoenix has the best odds and, with Devin Booker in place in the backcourt, has a greater need for a skilled big. However, if Memphis lands the top pick, Doncic may hear his name called first. It’s not that the Grizzlies don’t need a dynamic center like Ayton, they just also desperately need better guard play. You could say similar things about both the Magic and Hawks.
As things stand, Ayton is the favorite to be selected with the top pick (1/2), followed by Doncic (4/1) and Bagley (7/1).
At the combine, you won’t see Ayton or Doncic among the 69 players in attendance. Instead, you’ll see several guys who are considered fringe selections, and they’ll be looking to put forth impressive showing to help improve their draft stock come June’s draft.
NORMAL, Ill. — After losing their four game losing streak in their last outing, the Illinois State Redbirds got some redemption on Sunday in their 72-68 win over the Missouri State Bears.
The Redbirds fell to the Drake Bulldogs in their last outing, bringing an end to their four game win streak. At home on Sunday, Illinois State was looking to start a new streak at the expense of Missouri State, who came into the day riding their own four game winning streak. Thanks to 23 points apiece from Phil Fayne and Milik Yarbrough, the Redbirds bounced back and held down their home court.
Missouri State gave the Redbirds a fight in the second half. After trailing by as many as 10 points in the second frame, the Bears managed to take a three-point lead of their own with under four minutes to play. Illinois State wouldn’t allow the Bears to pull ahead any further, and they retook the lead in the closing minutes to secure the 72-68 win on their home floor.
NORMAL, Ill. — In the off-season, the Wichita State Shockers made the move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference.
The move added stiffer competition for the Shockers and bolstered the talent level of the AAC as a conference. At the same time, it opened up the Missouri Valley Conference and made the race for the league title much more exciting than in year’s past.
The Missouri State Bears came into the season as the preseason favourites, and have lived up to the bill through three games. Coming into Sunday’s contest against the Illinois State Redbirds, the Bears are one of just two teams who are still undefeated in Missouri Valley Conference play, along with the Drake Bulldogs (4-0).
Missouri State has won four straight games, and will be looking to move to 4-0 in conference play. The Redbirds won’t make things easy, as they are coming off a loss that ended their own four-game winning streak. On their home floor, Illinois State will be looking to start a new winning streak at the expense of the Bears.
CANMORE, Alta. — The level of parity in college basketball in recent years is at an all-time high.
Still, on a nightly basis, mid-major teams are often the underdogs against power conference teams. The likes of the Kentucky Wildcats, Duke Blue Devils, and other blue-blood programs land the top high school recruits each season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of talent elsewhere in the country.
Smaller programs have just as much talent on their roster, but their names don’t come with the same pedigree as the ones in the ESPN Top 100. So, we thought we would filter through all of the mid-major schools and assemble our own Dream Team for the 2017-18 season.
In two games against Wichita State, Missouri State had been defeated by 18 and 19 points, respectively.
Today was another verse to the same song.
The Bears (17-16, 7-11), held to 37.9 percent from the floor, were eliminated from Arch Madness, 78-63. The Shockers (29-4, 17-1) will play top-seeded Illinois State Sunday for a chance to etch their name into the NCAA Tournament field of 68.
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Seven days ago Dequon Miller forecasted the future. He knew his final Arch Madness would be special.
“Our run is coming at Arch Madness.”
In six words, he gave a personal warning to the whole Missouri Valley Conference. And, now, nationally ranked Wichita State will be his and the Missouri State Bears‘ next victim.
What makes me so sure? There are four reasons the Shockers will lose in the semi-finals for a third consecutive season.
From the days of Toure’ Murry and Garrett Stutz to Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State have won Arch Madness just once in the past seven years.
Regardless of possessing a two seed or higher, Wichita State has failed to play on Sunday five times. These squads have possessed some of the best “The Valley” had to offer. Six different Shockers have earned All-MVC first team honors over the tenure, including the latest duo of VanVleet and Baker being named a top-five player three consecutive years.
Though, just one championship was won (2014).
Illinois State, the current top-seed at Arch Madness, has “upset” Wichita State three of the six seasons while Northern Iowa, Creighton, and Indiana State each downed the notorious once.
Yes, the one team that hasn’t is Missouri State. Though, it just takes one time to “Shock the World.”
After all, two of the five semi-final teams to defeat Wichita State have etched their names into the field of 68 the day after.
If I have said it once, I have said it four million teams: Missouri State has GREAT depth.
Even without junior guard Ronnie Rousseau III (11.6 PPG), the Bears have eight players who average over five points per game. The group is led by All-MVC first teamer Alize Johnson, who has recorded 17 double-doubles on the season and is averaging a double-double, and stat-stuffer Dequon Miller. Yet, the x-factors are Jarred Dixon, Jarrid Rhodes, and Obediah Church. All three had their fingerprints on last night’s 70-64 victory over Northern Iowa (which was UNI’s first loss in St. Louis since 2014).
Church, an All-Defensive team selection, anchored the defense and grabbed 11 rebounds going against Panthers’ juniors Bennett Koch and Klint Carlson. Rhodes, although he only scored five points, grabbed four rebounds in 15 minutes while helping the Bears to a positive five in plus/minus.
Dixon’s impact could not have been more important. He was 10-of-10 in free throws, six of which came in the final 46 seconds. Ironically, it was only the sophomore’s FIRST game at Scottrade Center (he missed last year’s tournament due to injury).
Church, Rhodes, and Dixon will have to play tremendously to send the Bears to their first Arch Madness championship since 2011. Yet, their play is as crucial as a trio of seasoned sharpshooters.
42.4 percent, 36.4 percent, and 32.1 percent; these are the three-point shooting percentages of Ryan Kreklow, Austin Ruder, and Chris Kendrix.
The trio only combines for 17 of Missouri State’s 73 points per contest; however, one triple can sway momentum as a right hand to the temple.
All three have started games for head coach Paul Lusk. In fact, a combined 103 games have been started by the assassins. Moreover, their points per game averages are the lowest it has been in their respective college careers.
With the depth and unselfish nature of Missouri State basketball, neither Kreklow, Ruder, nor Kendrix needs to produce ten points a night. However, this season each have had outbursts of 15+ plus points. All are extremely capable, and today will be the day that they let the nation know they are high-level marksmen from downtown.
4. THE Dynamic Duo
Argue with me if you prefer, but the best guard/big man duo in the Missouri Valley Conference is none other than Dequon Miller and Alize Johnson.
Responsible for 30.5 points during conference play, Miller and Johnson are the second highest scoring two-man tandem behind Loyola’s Milton Doyle and Donte Ingram.
Johnson, individually, has had SEVEN double-doubles featuring 15 or more rebounds. In other words, Johnson may be the most valuable big man since Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle (and we all remember how he guided the Panthers to an Arch Madness championship in 2015).
On the other hand, Miller, when shooting more than 10 times in a game is lethally productive with 15.4 points per game.
In fact, when comparing the Charleston, West Virginia, product’s senior MVC season to Wichita State legend Fred VanVleet, Miller is averaging two more points per game (14.9 > 12.6). Yes, VanVleet had nearly three more assists per contest (6.4 > 3.5), but his scoring prowess in nowhere close to the Bears’ two-year star.
Miller and Johnson will have outstanding games this afternoon at Scottrade Center.
— Missouri State 67, Wichita State 63
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