I watched Missouri State lose to previously winless Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday night from the upper deck of JQH Arena. As the late, great Jack Buck once said in describing a sporting event, “I can’t believe what I just saw.”
Talk about handing your fans lumps of coal for their Christmas stockings. Dismal might not be strong enough of a word to sum this one up for the Bears. Embarrassing is more on point.
Just a week ago, Missouri State had the look of a team on the rise. The Bears dominated a good Oral Roberts team and did so with an energetic, fun-to-watch style of basketball. It appeared that this was a team with a lot of upside.
I’m not sure I’ve seen a team regress as much in one week. The non-competitive loss at Valparaiso on Saturday was troubling. That performance seemed to linger and it’s this simple:
You cannot lose to an 0-10 team on your home floor. Not now. Not ever.
With the ticket-buying public already voting their displeasure by staying away in droves, pressure on fifth-year coach Paul Lusk will only increase. I’m all for letting things play out, with nearly two-thirds of the season remaining, but the short-term outlook is bleak. Consider:
Missouri State opens Missouri Valley Conference play with a brutal gauntlet of games: Dec. 30 at Illinois State; Jan. 2 vs. Evansville; Jan. 6 vs. Northern Iowa; Jan. 9 at Loyola and Jan. 13 vs. Wichita State.
Zip-and-five is a distinct possibility.
Merry Christmas, Bears fans.
The MVC Power Poll (how I would pick the Valley if re-ranking the teams with nearly all nonconference play completed):
1 – Wichita State (6-5). Shockers don’t seem invincible like in the past, but they’re still the team to beat.
2 – Northern Iowa (7-4). Wins over top-5 teams North Carolina and Iowa State are great. But Panthers just 2-3 in true road games – after losing by 16 late Tuesday at Hawaii.
3 – Evansville (11-2). Purple Aces do what they do, but can they truly contend for a title?
4 – Illinois State (6-7). Lots of talent, but a lot of inconsistency so far.
5 – Loyola (7-5). Ramblers beat Creighton earlier this season. Who would have believed that two years ago, when Creighton fled the MVC?
6 – Southern Illinois (11-2). Salukis have played a soft schedule. But 11-2 is 11-2, and they have Anthony Beane.
7 – Indiana State (6-6). Not sure what to make of Sycamores, but any team with Greg Lansing as coach has a chance.
8 – Drake (5-7). Young and building for the future. Don’t we say this about the Bulldogs every year?
9 – Missouri State (4-8). No idea what to think of the Bears after the last two games.
10 – Bradley (2-10). The nation’s youngest team will find any win(s) difficult to come by.