March Madness: Sweet 16 set to begin for men and women

The Missouri State Lady Bears and Oregon Ducks are the only double-digit seeds left standing for men and women’s Sweet 16 of March Madness.

As natives of Southwest Missouri, the first order of business is to celebrate the Missouri State Lady Bears’ Sweet 16 bid. This is the first appearance at this stage of the tournament for the Bears since the Jackie Stiles days in 2002. To be the top “Cinderella story” at this stage is special not just for the team, but for all Springfield, MO area basketball fans that have been hungry for this kind of success at the national level.

In the same vein, we need to give props also to the Drury Lady Panthers. Drury looked unstoppable all season and made it all the way to the Final Four of the NCAA Division II tourney. They suffered their first loss of the season to Lubbock Christian, but still had an incredible year.

Despite a smattering of upsets, the men’s bracket looks much like how the rankings predicted that it would. The left side of the Sweet 16 bracket has all of the top seeds, 1 through 4 in both quadrants. There were some scares such as Duke’s narrow victory over UCF, but things still shook out predictably.

On the other side, it was almost the same story. The 1, 2, and 3 seeds are still alive in both quadrants. The 4 seeds were the twist, with 5 seed Auburn sliding past Kansas and 12 seed Oregon beating fellow underdog UC Irvine, who knocked off 4 seed Kansas State.

For the women, all four 1 seeds as well as 2 seeds are alive in the Sweet 16 as well. It gets more interesting from there, with Missouri State leading the charge as an 11 seed. Past the Lady Bears, there are just some 5 and 6 seeds making the field interesting.

Coverage begins tonight (2/28) for the men and tomorrow (2/29) for the women. Congratulations to all teams and players for making it to this point. To keep winning through such a grueling and highly scrutinized event is a special accomplishment. Luckily for the viewers it is also one of the most exciting spectacles in all of hoops. Good luck again to the MSU Lady Bears as well! We will all be watching!

Missouri State basketball is gearing up

Today’s Missouri State intrasquad scrimmages served as a reminder that NCAA hoops are on the horizon.

Southwest Missouri - it’s time to get excited. Bears basketball is on it’s way. Missouri State’s men’s and women’s teams held open practice this morning to have intrasquad scrimmages. The scrimmages have become a football homecoming weekend tradition. This also serves as a reminder that if you are a Drury or Evangel fan all the way through Duke or Kentucky, college hoops are right around the corner.

This morning’s scrimmages turned out plenty of MSU fans that were willing to break away from all the other homecoming activities. The players all looked good and the coaches spoke some encouraging words for those in attendance.

MSU’s men’s team was recently picked to place 8th in the MVC pre-season poll. Coach Dana Ford is confident that their hard work can drive them well beyond that mark. The men’s schedule is below, taken directly from missouristatebears.com

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The Lady Bears are expected to finish much higher in the Missouri Valley Conference. They were picked to end up 3rd overall in the preseason poll. The lady’s schedule is below, also taken from missouristatebears.com.

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2018 NBA Draft pick Alize Johnson - The Basketball Movement

Missouri State Alum Alize Johnson talks with The Basketball Movement after being selected in the 2018 NBA Draft.

The first Missouri State Bear selected in the NBA Draft since Winston Garland (1987), Alize Johnson is a versatile threat destined for professional basketball at the highest level. No stranger to The Basketball Movement, we had the opportunity to talk to him after the draft.

Fans of Missouri State basketball are very familiar with Alize's game. He is a capable scorer and is a 20-rebound threat despite his versatility as a stretch-big. With the size and quickness to guard multiple positions, he was coveted by several NBA teams.

Alize Johnson has had a very busy Summer, working out with 12 NBA teams all over the country. He said that it was a "Dream come true" being in all of those facilities and meeting the personnel.

Players or fans alike would recognize another versatile big man named Johnson that Alize got to meet recently. "Meeting Magic Johnson in LA was not normal" Alize said. "I had to act normal, but to meet someone on his level with his experience... it was definitely cool."

He has encountered players at all levels on his journey. He said of his fellow draftee, Dante DiVincenzo that he was not surprised in the least that he went 17th. He also mentioned De'Aaron Fox, who was drafted last season but is technically younger than Alize. "He has been great to defend this offseason. I've learned where I need to be in my lateral movement from his speed."

The Draft

Hearing your name selected in the NBA draft is an incredible accomplishment for basketball players from every corner of the world. In case he was not tired of answering the question already, we asked Alize what it felt like to get drafted:

It felt like a dream. I have worked extremely hard and been through a lot with my family. It was an emotional night, but now I’m looking forward to getting to play with the best players in the world.
— Alize Johnson

When asked what the next step is for him, Alize explained that NBA Summer League is the next big moment. "I'm learning plays and getting a feel for how they want to use me" Alize said. He aims to impress them with his ability to fill any role on the floor. He says he would be comfortable at the 3 or 4 position - whatever the team needs.

He said he is currently working on conditioning and getting back to being a knock-down three-point shooter like he was his Junior year at MSU. Speaking of putting in work...

Alize Johnson and The Basketball Movement

His time at Missouri State is what led to meeting Rob Yanders and working out at The Basketball Movement. He said that he heard this is where local guys came to get great workouts.

Rob is a great guy - very genuine. He can explain how to work out efficiently for you specifically. He’s a great trainer but an even better dude.
— Alize Johnson on Rob Yanders

As it is often goes with time spent at The Basketball Movement, it is easier to show you the work than to explain it in words. Check out the video below for some of the work Alize Johnson put in here at The Movement.

Asked to give advice to The Basketball Movement's up-and-comers on how to get your name called in the draft, he had a few simple tips.

Our personal favorite is "Use Rob." Alize explained that Rob has played as a professional and had players come through his doors from the highest level. Having such a resource here in the Midwest is a great way for players to get ahead.

Beyond that, Johnson spoke on the importance of character and leaning on whatever religion you may follow. He said to remain humble, but also to work extremely hard.

If working "extremely hard" doesn't scare you off of your path to the top, contact The Basketball Movement to get to work right away.

We wish our friend, Alize Johnson the best of luck in the NBA! Summer League in Vegas starts tonight with all games televised on either NBA TV, ESPN, or ESPN U, so don't forget to tune in!

Missouri State parts ways with Coach Lusk

The MSU Bears men's team has finished what wound up being a disappointing season.

The writing was on the wall for Head Coach Paul Lusk, barring anything but a miraculous run to end the season. Recent contract negotiations had already hinted that the separation was eminent.

Lusk was the head coach for seven seasons with the Bears after coming over from Purdue. The Bears finished 3rd in the conference in his first season, which would be the highest finish of his tenure. He finishes with a 105-121 overall record as the leader for the Bears.

A Division I University invests a lot of money in a head coach and has decided to eat the salary for Lusk's final contract year and begin their search. Below is a quote from MSU President Clif Smart per ozarksportzone.com:

It is particularly important that our men’s basketball season is successful because it is our main revenue sport. I’ve had many conversations with the board of directors and have determined a new direction is necessary.
— Clif Smart, MSU President

The MSU Bears were loaded with talent this year, higlighted by star senior, Alize Johnson (1st team all Missouri Valley Conference). They were expected to be the top team in the MVC, but had a poor conference showing.

Missouri State finished 18-15 overall, but were only 7-11 in conference play. They won their play-in game against Valparaiso March 1st but fell to Southern Illinois in the first round of the MVC tourney. SIU lost the next game to Illinois State, who went on to fall to Loyola (CHI) in the championship game.

With Alize Johnson and Lusk out, the Bears will have a different look next year. Hopefully the Bears will be able to establish a winning culture and find a way to replicate the success of the Wichita States of the world (though Wichita is still not a state).

With March Madness nearly upon us, keep it locked to The Basketball Movement and follow us on Twitter @BBall_Movement to stay on top the big news in the game.