|SPRINGFIELD - A solid non-conference schedule awaits Missouri State Bears Basketball Coach Paul Lusk in his first year with the program.||The Bears' new sideline boss, will face off against four teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year, released the team' s on-conference slate Wednesday. In all, MSU will play no fewer than 11 opponents that saw postseason tournament action a year ago.|
"We are very pleased with the balance of our non-conference schedule," Lusk said. "Our fans will get a chance to see a Big 12 Conference opponent come to JQH Arena, we' ll see some impressive teams in Las Vegas, and we will be tested with some quality opponents on the road. From a coach' s standpoint, you want a schedule that gets your team ready for conference play, and this will certainly do that."
Lusk noted that the team is still seeking one additional non-conference opponent for a November home game.
The eight-team Las Vegas Classic field also includes West Virginia, Baylor, Saint Mary' s, Bethune-Cookman and Tennessee Tech.
Baylor and West Virginia were NCAA Tournament teams last season, while St. Mary' s was in the NIT. Each team in the tournament will play four games, including the first two at campus sites and the final two rounds at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 22 and 23.
Missouri State will open the regular season at Nevada on Nov. 11 in a return game from the 2010 BracketBusters series. The Bears will have a short turn-around going to Arkansas State on Nov. 15. The club will then return to JQH Arena for a pair of home games with the open date and a visit from Tulsa before closing out the month at Oral Roberts on Nov. 30.
December begins with a trip to New Mexico and a date with former MSU head coach Steve Alford in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge on Dec. 3. The Bears are 1-0 all-time in the MWC-MVC Challenge and will be playing the Lobos for just the second time in school history.
From Albuquerque, the Bears return home for the Oklahoma State game on Dec. 7 and then take a trip to 2011 NCAA Tournament participant Arkansas-Little Rock. MSU will then close out December with the Las Vegas Classic before beginning conference play.
The Missouri Valley Conference is expected to release its schedule in late August. The 2011-12 league slate will again feature home-and-away games with the other nine MVC foes. Including Missouri State, six MVC teams participated in postseason tournaments in 2011, including Indiana State in the NCAA and Wichita State, which won the National Invitation Tournament.
The State Farm MVC Tournament will take place March 1 through 4, 2012 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Of the Bears' 13 potential non-conference foes, six finished with an RPI in the top 100 last season, including West Virginia (21), St. Mary' s (53), Oklahoma State (58), New Mexico (71), Tulsa (84), and Baylor (95). Of those, only Tulsa did not participate in a postseason tournament. Additionally, UALR (196) was an NCAA Tournament team, while Oral Roberts (135) played in the College Insiders Tournament.
|The club will also have a rare opportunity to play three preseason exhibition games this season, all against in-state foes. Lusk' s troops will welcome Truman State (Oct. 27) and William Jewell (Oct. 29) to JQH Arena before a trip to Joplin to take on Missouri Southern for a Nov. 5 benefit game. All proceeds from the game at MSSU will go directly to the Missouri Southern Foundation' s Tornado Emergency Relief Fund to help aid the Joplin tornado.||Complete television information, including nine games produced by KY3, Inc., for the Missouri State Television Network, will be finalized by Nov 1.|
Missouri State, which finished with an RPI of 39 and played in the NIT last season, is coming off a 26-9 campaign in which the Bears claimed the MVC regular-season title for the first time. Lusk was hired on April 1 and inherited a program that returns six lettermen, including 2011 MVC Player of the Year Kyle Weems (16.0 ppg), and seven newcomers.
Bears basketball season ticket information is available now by calling 417-836-7678 or 888-476-7849. Two-day passes for the final rounds of the Las Vegas Classic can be purchased for $115 by calling the same numbers starting Monday or by visiting the Missouri State Athletics Box Office at JQH Arena. Summer hours for the box office are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ticket information for the Missouri Southern exhibition game will also be released later this month.
Editor's note: The complete non-conference schedule can be found at www.monett-times.com.