Murray State and Missouri State are separated by a five-hour drive. They’re both mid-majors in solid basketball conferences. Yet, it weren’t for postseason play, they would never meet on the court.
In 2011, the last time Murray State played a non-NCAA postseason tournament, the Racers traveled to Missouri State in the first round of the NIT. They’re going back again this year, only in a different tournament.
Statistically, Missouri State is a bid odd for a 20-win team.They’re undersized, and play as deep into their bench as any team. Offensively, don’t expect the Bears to run up and down the floor: they’re methodical, shoot a lot of three’s, and get to the free-throw line reasonably well. Their defense doesn’t earn high marks, struggling throughout much of the year. They don’t rebound particularly well, (which goes back to that ‘undersized’ point) they don’t turn over the ball, but don’t really force turnovers either.
They are a solid three-point shooting team by committee, with six players hitting more than 20-three’s on the season, and shooting better than 30% behind the arc. They don’t have a lot of consistent scoring, though. Missouri State has just one player averaging double-digit scoring, and that’s 6’5 Jarmar Gulley. Gulley had 17-straight double-digit scoring games during the year, managing six double-doubles during that stretch.
Going against a team that likes to shoot three’s, one has to wonder if Murray State will respond in kind. The Racers have gotten three-point happy on a few occasions throughout the year, the last being their semifinal loss in the OVC Tournament. Likely, the Racers will look to force tempo against the Bears, and could use the pace to their advantage, although they’ll likely have to do so off rebounds and made baskets, as turnovers could be hard to come by.
On paper, it’s really not a bad matchup for Murray State. But as has been the case in many of their losses, it’s not the opponents, but the Racers that often prove to be their worst enemy.