At 4-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, MSU is tied with Illinois State (a team the Bears have already beat) for third place in the league. A win at Southern Illinois this weekend would give the Bears their most league wins since 1990, which was also the last time MSU made the FCS playoffs.
It’s been a roller coaster season that began with an 0-4 start in the non-conference schedule, followed by losing two of the first three MVFC games.
But somehow, some way, the Bears are on the upswing/
MSU has finally found some offense to go with its stellar defense, and the results have been three straight convincing wins. Their game this Saturday will have long-term and short-term implications.
A win, and the Bears keep their slim hopes for the p-word (I can’t bring myself to type it and jinx it) alive. The Bears would be 5-6 overall and 5-2 in the MVFC, with a regular season finale at home the following week against last-place Northern Iowa.
You wouldn’t think a .500-level record would be good enough to get into the FCS playoffs, but the Bears have a few things working to their advantage.
For one, they play in what’s usually viewed as one of the toughest conferences in the FCS. Generally, the MVFC sends multiple teams to the playoffs. That at-large bid may be a pipe dream with a 6-6 overall record, but at least at 6-2 and alone in third place, the Bears would have chance.
In speaking with the media this week, Allen said: “If we can get this one (at Southern Illinois), then we’re coming home and might be playing for something pretty specially. So we gotta make sure they know that, but also stay in the mindset that it’s one game at a time.”
So, you mean to say MSU’s season might not be over after playing Northern Iowa on Nov. 16?
“(Players) understand that,” Allen said. “We’ve made sure of that.”
The FCS playoffs also expanded from 20 to 24 teams for the 2013 season. While it may have been bleak to get a bid two or three years ago, the Bears could land in one of those new playoff spots.
Here’s a recap of how many MVFC teams have made the playoffs in the last five years. Keep in mind, between 2010-2012, there were 10 at-large spots available. There are 13 at-large spots this year.
• 2012 – League champ: North Dakota State; At-large: Illinois State, South Dakota State
• 2011 – League champ: North Dakota State; At-large: Northern Iowa
• 2010 – League champ: Northern Iowa; At-large: North Dakota State, Western Illinois
• 2009 – League champ: Southern Illinois; At-large: South Dakota State *16-team playoff, 8 at-large spots
• 2008 – League champ: Northern Iowa; At-large: Southern Illinois *16-team playoff, 8 at-large spots
In the interest of full disclosure, the easy case against the Bears’ playoff chances would be that none of those at-large teams in the last five years had a .500-level record. That just makes the Bears’ early season struggles all the more frustrating.
If they don’t somehow pull a loss from the jaws of victory against Murray State, Central Arkansas and South Dakota, they’re at least 6-4 and a near-lock for the playoffs if they win out.
Let’s play along and say the Bears win their last two games, defy the odds, and squeak into the playoffs with one of the last at-large bids.
Suddenly, your head coach goes from the hot seat to the contract-extension seat. Allen will have given the Bears their most league victories and first playoff appearance in over 20 years. He also would go into 2014 in the final year of his contract.
You have to bring him back for 2014 and let the contract play out, but now do you reward him with an extension? Does one improbable late-season run into a playoff spot outweigh seven seasons of average-to-above average football?
It would be hard for Allen to go on the recruiting trail, coming off a breakthrough playoff appearance for the school, and try to land players while they know his contract will be up after their first season at MSU.
That contract extension depends on if the Bears can win at Southern Illinois, then return home and beat Northern Iowa (something Allen has never done at MSU.) Past history would tell us that this is the classic MSU sports scenario where we slightly get our hopes up, only to be let down.
If they lose one or both of the next two games, we could see a lot of changes with MSU football before next season. A “lame duck” situation would not be ideal for anyone.
Still, it’s a refreshing change that basketball season is about to start and the football Bears still have something to play for.
You can listen to The Grizzly All-Star Basketball Classic by clicking below. We will begin our broadcast at 3:00pm for the first game, and continue the broadcast till the conclusion of the second game, we will also be uploading the audio for the games following the event.
(West Plains) – Saturday marks the ninth consecutive spring for the Grizzly All-Star Basketball Classic at the West Plains Civic Center. Four all-star teams comprised of senior boys and girls from across south Missouri and north Arkansas will compete at the Joe Paul Evans Arena in a pair of games, starting at three o’clock. The girls game will be played first followed by the boys.
Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly head basketball coach Yancey Walker talks about the event which started in 2006.
Former Grizzly coach Brian Ostermann and his wife, Julie, started the event as a way to honor the top high school senior basketball players in the region and gain visibility for the MSU-West Plains basketball program. There will be a dunk contest between the games and a three point contest as well.
Admission is 5 dollars for adults, 3 for children 12 and younger.
Both games will be broadcast on the Ozark Radio Network on Q-94, Jack-FM.
(West Plains) – Three members of the 2013-14 Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team have signed national letters of intent to play for NCAA Division I schools in Texas beginning next fall.
Freshman forward Justin Jamison, Garfield Heights, Ohio, and sophomore guard Devaugntah Williams, Canton, Ohio, will join the Texas Tech University Red Raiders, and sophomore guard Arroyo Edwards, Milwaukee, Wis., will become a member of the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA)Roadrunners.
“I am proud of these three young men,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “Their stories are so different, but they all have worked to accomplish the same goal of signing at an NCAA Division I institution.”
Jamison averaged 10.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game this past season. He hit 123 of 203 shots from the field for 60.6 percent, three of six 3-pointers for 50 percent, and 63 of 100 attempts from the free throw line for 63 percent. He had a total of 203 rebounds, 42 blocks and six steals.
Williams led the Grizzlies in scoring this past season, averaging 17.8 points per game. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and one steal per game. He connected on 169 of 386 shots from the field for 43.8 percent, 64 of 166 3-point shots for 38.6 percent and 79 of 115 shots from the free throw line for 68.7 percent. He collected 111 total rebounds, 99 assists and 26 steals during the season.
Edwards averaged 14.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists this past season. He connected on 130 of 291 shots from the field for 44.7 percent, 27 of 75 3-pointers for 36 percent and 143 of 200 free throw attempts for 71.5 percent. He collected a total of 68 rebounds, 95 assists and 14 steals this past season.
“It is my hope that these three experience the success they deserve at the next level,” Walker said. “Justin and Devaugntah are getting the honor of playing for someone that I believe will be in the Hall of Fame. Arroyo is not only playing for a former NBA player (Roadrunners Head Coach Brooks Thompson), but for a former Grizzly in Robert Guster. These three are a big part of the reason we had 100 Division I coaches in this year. They have certainly left their mark on this program.”
All three said they were glad they had the opportunity to play for the Grizzlies.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball team, including complete statistics from the games, visit wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb/.
(West Plains) – Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball standout Helena Peric will be taking her talents to the University of California-Riverside beginning this fall.
Peric, a 6-foot, 1-inch outside attacker from Smederevo, Serbia, signed a national letter of intent this week to play for the Highlanders, an NCAA Division I school in the Big West Conference.
“We are very excited for Helena to continue her education and playing career at the University of California-Riverside next fall,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said. “She has worked hard in the classroom and on the court to give herself the opportunity to be a leader in both areas at UC Riverside. She will do great things and will represent Missouri State-West Plains very well at her new school.”
This past season, Peric recorded 433 kills (3.9 per game), 241 digs (2.17 per game), 34 blocks (.31 per game), and 462 total points. She earned NJCAA Region 16 first team honors in 2012 and 2013 and was selected to the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship All-Tournament Team in 2012. She also earned first team NJCAA All-American and second team American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American honors in 2012.
For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/vb/. For more information about the national tournament, visit http://tbirds.info/.
McNew is currently the head volleyball coach at Mountain Grove High School, and has served as Mountain Grove’s head volleyball coach for the last three years, winning two SCA titles, one 3A level district title and one 2A district title. In 2013 McNew also led the Mountain Grove team to a Sectional Championship and 3rd place at the state tournament. She also served as the head volleyball coach at Licking for seven years, winning 3 district titles and leading the team to section finals two times.
McNew was a member of the Missouri State University volleyball team for four years. During her playing career at MSU she held All Conference for two years, numerous All Tournament teams, and 2nd team All-Region during her senior year.
McNew was inducted into the Missouri State University Hall of Fame in 2010. She was also named the SCA Coach of the year in 2011-2012.
A night after Lance Lynn shutout the Brewers, fellow hard-throwing right-hander Shelby Miller followed Tuesday by striking out seven and allowing three hits over six innings to lead St. Louis to a 6-1 win.
Mark Ellis had two RBIs in his return from the disabled list, while Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta each hit solo shots in the ninth for the Cardinals, who handed Milwaukee its second straight loss following a nine-game winning streak.
Miller (1-2) routinely fired fastballs clocked into the mid-90s past hitters before turning the game over to the bullpen in the seventh. He bounced back after starting the year with two losses and a 6.35 ERA in his first two starts.
“That looks more like Shelby. The velocity was there,” manager Mike Matheny said.
Only Aramis Ramirez managed to break through off Miller hitting a solo homer in the fourth.
“Sneaky fast. He’s throwing. It’s not only sneaky … he spots his fastball really well on the outside corner, inside,” Ramirez said. “He’s going to come right at you, so we’ve got to make some adjustments.”
They didn’t make enough of them Tuesday. The Brewers have just one run and six hits over the first two games of the three-game set with their NL Central rival.
Marco Estrada (1-1) took the loss after allowing three runs over six innings.
The right-hander, who was off to a good start with a 2.31 ERA entering Tuesday, had a little uncharacteristic trouble with his command. He hit a batter in the second, then issued a walk in the third to Matt Carpenter that set up Allen Craig’s RBI double.
Estrada also threw a wild pitch in the fourth, but did allow just five hits.
“When they battle like that and keep the team in the ballgame, that’s their job. They’re not going to feel good every time out,” manager Ron Roenicke said.
It would have been more than adequate pitching during the Brewers’ long winning streak. But that was before Milwaukee had to face the aces from St. Louis.
Lynn was in control Monday night after striking out 11 over seven innings. Miller was just as effective.
He got Jean Segura to ground out to second and caught Ryan Braun looking on a 94 mph fastball to start the fourth. The only mistake was a fastball down the middle of the plate that Ramirez turned on for his second homer and team-best 12th RBI.
Miller recovered nicely to end the fourth by getting Jonathan Lucroy to hit a one-hopper to first. Miller, who improved to 4-0 career against the Brewers, had a 2.03 career ERA against Milwaukee entering Tuesday.
“A lot of power in that lineup. Really throughout the whole lineup is pretty solid, so the biggest thing you do is try and keep them off balance as much as possible,” Miller said.
The Cardinals had built a 3-0 lead by the top of the fourth to back Miller. After missing the season’s first 13 games with left knee tendinitis, Ellis made a nice debut by driving in a run in the second on a groundout, and another in the fourth off a sacrifice fly.
“Mark did a great job – all the little things we talk about,” Matheny said.
(Houston) (AP) – Kansas City rookie Yordano Ventura entered Tuesday night’s game winless in four career starts dating to last season despite posting a 2.53 ERA in those games.
On Tuesday night, he pitched seven solid innings and finally got his first victory as the Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-2.
“I’m just really proud for him because that was like his fifth time he’s gone for his first win and he’s had an opportunity to win ballgames two or three times and we couldn’t hold it for him,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “To finally get that out of the way for him, to get his first major league win was big for all of us tonight.”
Omar Infante homered and drove in two runs for the Royals.
Ventura (1-0), an elite prospect with a 100 mph fastball, allowed four hits and one earned run with seven strikeouts in seven innings – both career highs. His seven strikeouts were the most by a Kansas City rookie since Will Smith also fanned seven on Sept. 11, 2012.
“I feel really good,” Ventura said in Spanish through a translator. “I feel that the team supported me and played really good defense and scored a lot of runs for me. It gives me a lot of satisfaction so I can keep working hard to help the team win.”
Infante had a solo shot in the first inning off Lucas Harrell (0-3) and added an RBI in the third inning as the Royals found some offense after managing just five runs combined as they were swept in a weekend series at Minnesota.
Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler had an RBI each for Kansas City and Lorenzo Cain had a pair of hits for his fourth multihit game this season.
“We just got a couple of timely hits today and as an offense we need to do a better job of that,” Hosmer said. “The way our pitchers have thrown we’ve got to find a way to produce runs for them and tonight we did a good job of that.”
Carlos Corporan homered in the fifth inning for the Astros, who have scored two runs or fewer in three of their past four games.
Harrell gave up five hits and four runs in five innings and has allowed 14 runs in three starts combined this season.
“I’ve got to get strike one,” Harrell said. “Through my first 10 hitters, I threw one first-pitch strike. That can’t happen. I need to throw strikes in 1-1 counts, too, because that really killed me tonight.”
Ventura had retired 12 of the last 13 batters when Corporan launched his homer into the first row of the seats in right field with one out in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 4-2.
He got back on track after that and didn’t allow another hit until Matt Dominguez singled to start the seventh inning. He walked Jonathan Villar with two outs, but ended the threat and his night when he retired Dexter Fowler after a short coaching visit to the mound. Wade Davis pitched a perfect eighth before Greg Holland struck out the side in the ninth for his fourth save. He has converted 13 straight save opportunities dating to Sept. 7.
Infante put Kansas City up early with his solo homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field with one out in the first inning.
Fowler hit a leadoff double and reached third on a one-out single by Jason Castro. Fowler scored on an error by Ventura with two outs on a pickoff attempt to first base to tie it at 1-1.
Infante grounded into a forceout that scored Cain, who had led off the inning with a single, to make it 2-1 in the third inning. Hosmer followed with an RBI double to push the lead to 3-1.
A single by Nori Aoki followed by a pair of walks loaded the bases for Kansas City with one out in the fifth, and Butler’s sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 4-1.
(Milwaulkee) (AP) – The St. Louis Cardinals have activated Mark Ellis from the 15-day disabled list and inserted him into the starting lineup at second base for Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ellis missed the first 13 games of the season with left knee tendinitis. He went 1 for 3 while playing five innings during a rehab game Sunday at Triple-A Memphis.
Ellis signed a one-year deal with St. Louis in the offseason. The 11-year veteran is a .407 career hitter against Milwaukee.
Shortstop Pete Kozma was optioned to Triple-A on Monday night to make room for Ellis on the 25-man roster.
(West Plains) – Several area high school senior boys and girls basketball players will take the court one more time Saturday afternoon, April 19, in the ninth annual Grizzly All-Star Classic hosted by the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball program.
The girls game will get underway at 3 p.m., and the boys game will follow at 5. Both games will be played in the West Plains Civic Center arena. Three-point and slam dunk contests will take place between the games.
Players from schools Alton, Ava, Bakersfield, Bunker, Couch, Crane, Gainesville, Hartville, Houston, Iberia, Koshkonong, Mtn. View-Birch Tree Liberty, Licking, Salem, Seymour, Thayer, West Plains and Winona in Missouri, as well as Norfolk and Salem in Arkansas, will be featured in the games, Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said.
“It’s an honor every year to reward the area student athletes for their performances during the basketball season,” he said. “It has become a great tradition that we are proud to continue.”
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children age 12 and under.
For more information about the games, call the Grizzly Basketball office at 417-255-7993.
(West Plains) – The recruiting season is underway for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team, with Head Coach Yancey Walker’s announcement today of the signing of two players from Memphis, Tenn., for the 2014-15 team.
They are Myron Johnson, a 5-foot, 10-inch point guard from Central High School, and Sam Edwards, a 7-foot forward who attended Kingdom Preparatory Academy in Lubbock, Texas.
“We are thrilled to add two young men of Myron and Sam’s caliber to our team,” Walker said. “Myron is very respectful, he is very focused on the right things, and he is an exceptional basketball player. In many cases, guys who have the ability to score don’t always pass or defend well. That is not the case here. Myron is the entire package.
“Sam is also very respectful, gracious and focused,” the coach continued. “He has so much potential as a basketball player. With his size and athleticism, we feel very confident that he will develop into one of the best two-year big men in the nation.”
Johnson, a 2012 graduate of Central High, averaged 14.7 points per game his senior season and helped lead his team to a 21-8 record and a seventh place ranking in Tennessee.
Johnson said he chose Missouri State-West Plains because “I wanted to be in a situation where I could go to school to better myself and be in a positive surrounding. My goal is to graduate with my four-year degree, and I felt like Missouri State-West Plains was the best place to get started on that. I feel like I can be a big part in getting us back to the national tournament as a leader and by making everyone on the team better.”
Edwards said he chose the Grizzly program because he really liked the facilities, the campus and the environment. “My goal is to play NCAA Division I basketball and then go to the NBA. I saw how much the big guys improved over nine months in the program, and it made me wonder how much I can improve in two years. My goal is to help us win a championship. I really like that Myron and I will get to play together, too!”
Walker said the coaching staff can’t wait “to get these two on the floor wearing Grizzly blue.”
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball team, including complete statistics from the games, visit wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb/.