College Basketball season is rapidly approaching and there are now only 50 days until the official start of College Basketball season. With that, I’m bringing back the Top-50 team countdown for the first time in writing since 2019. This is a countdown of the Top-50 teams in College Basketball and is corresponding with each day left until College Basketball officially begins. Let’s kick this off right by heading to the Missouri Valley and looking at a team with legitimate NCAA Tournament upside, Dana Ford’s Missouri State Bears.
Missouri State comes into this season with two of the best players not only in the Missouri Valley but in College Basketball as well. Isiaih Mosley is a 6’5” wing that is an elite bucket-getter, he has good enough size to rise up over defenders. He is good at scoring inside, is an efficient three-point shooter, and while he turns it over a little bit too much, that can be worked on. Inside, Gaige Prim will dominate the game. Prim is a 6’8 big man that is really good on the block, he’s an efficient interior scorer, a great rebounder, a solid defender, and is a good free-throw shooter. This duo might be the two best players individually in the Missouri Valley and either could win Conference Player of the year.
While those two stars are what brings this team’s ceiling to where it is, another reason for optimism is that the Bears also return all five starters. Demarcus Sharpe is a good tone-setting point guard, he’s a good passer, solid defender, and while not a great offensive threat, he can make open shots. Outside of Isiaih Mosley, Ja’Monte Black provides the best outside threat, he’s a good shooter and shot on a high volume, oftentimes Black had to be the second option inside with Prim getting in foul trouble and he stepped up in those moments. Keaton Hervey stepped into a role as the starting four-man late in the season, Hervey really fits in nicely because of his floor-spacing ability, he ended the season with the best three-point shooting percentage.
Adding Donovan Clay, a four-man from Valparaiso who could play minutes as a small-ball five could be key. IUPUI transfer Jaylen Minnett provides a solid backup option at the point, while he’s a solid shooter and scorer. Lu’Cye Patterson will look to take a bigger role as a sophomore this season, while Missouri State is hoping to get something out of 7’0 big man Dawson Carper off the bench.
Missouri State arguably has the most talent of any team in this league. Isiaih Mosley showed throughout last season that he is a pure bucket-getter, while Gaige Prim will continue to dominate inside. Those two alone will be enough to win a lot of games for Missouri State but the surrounding cast needs to step up for this team to make the NCAA Tournament. If defenses over-focus on that duo, Demarcus Sharpe and Ja’Monta Black will need to make defenses pay for that. If Prim gets in foul trouble, the Bears will need to find a way to manage around that as well. Despite that, the Bears should still be able to roll through the majority of their Valley games, but those are the things that could hold them back.
For this team to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large, they must avoid losing to the Evansville’s of the world, while they will also need to pick up quality wins, and a finish of at least second in the Valley would go a long way. Even if they are out of the at-large picture, winning the Missouri Valley should be a reasonable task, at the end of the day, having not one but two of the best players on the court should be enough to carry them to a Missouri Valley Conference title.
PG: Demarcus Sharpe
SG: Ja’Monta Black
SF: Isiaih Mosley
PF: Keaton Hervey
C: Gaige Prim
B1: Donovan Clay
B2: Jaylen Minnett
B3: Lu’Cye Patterson
B4: Dawson Carper