Chris Holtmann’s Bulldogs, who fell to Notre Dame in the Round of 32 this past spring, will open with Missouri Valley Conference representative Missouri State. While Butler will have to account for the loss of contributors Kameron Woods and Alex Barlow, Kellen Dunham, Andrew Chrabascz and Roosevelt Jones are back and the team adds point guard Tyler Lewis to the mix. Lewis sat out last season after transferring in from NC State. Missouri State finished the 2014-15 season with an 11-20 record.
Also on that side of the bracket are Minnesota and Temple, with the Owls coming off of a Postseason NIT appearance and the Golden Gophers missing out on postseason play after winning the NIT in 2014. The Owls will have some key departures to account for, most notably all-conference guard Will Cummings, if they’re to contend in the American Athletic Conference. Minnesota also lost some key players from 2014-15, but sophomore guard Nate Mason will be back to lead the way.
On the other side of the bracket Utah was the most successful team in 2014-15, as they reached the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual national champion Duke. Delon Wright has moved on to the NBA, but Larry Krystkowiak welcomes back most of his rotation including center Jakob Poeltl, Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge. The Runnin’ Utes open with Texas Tech, which is looking to find its footing under Tubby Smith.
The other quarterfinal matchup may be the best one of the event, as it matches two teams looking to take a major step forward in 2015-16. Miami, which reached the title game of the Postseason NIT, returns the majority of its rotation and could potentially be an NCAA tournament team. They’ll take on Mississippi State, which has made major waves this offseason. Not only did the Bulldogs hire Ben Howland to take over as head coach, but they also landed one of the top prospects in the Class of 2015 in Malik Newman.
All eight teams will get to play three games in Puerto Rico, with the tournament beginning with a quarterfinal quadruple-header November 19. There will also be four games November 20, with the tournament concluding Sunday, November 22.
Nevada picks up a high-scoring transfer from Missouri State
Before leaving, Marshall was averaging 19.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game for Missouri State while shooting 45 percent from the field and from 3-point range.
The addition of Marshall should be a significant boost to the Wolfpack and new head coach Eric Musselman. Per NCAA transfer rules, Marshall will have to sit out next season, but will be eligible for his final season beginning during the 2016-17 season.
Missouri State announces departure of leading scorer
“Marcus is a good kid who is trying to find his way, and we wish him the best,” Lusk said in the release. “This is a mutual decision that will be the best thing moving forward for our program and for him.”
Marshall was averaging 19.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game for the Bears, who are 8-9 overall and 2-3 in Missouri Valley play following their 56-54 loss to Evansville on Wednesday. Marshall, who was the lone double-digit scorer (average) for Missouri State, put together good numbers in his return from a torn ACL suffered in a home loss to Wichita State during the 2013-14 season.
Marshall shot 45.9% from the field and 45.6% from three for the Bears, who as a team are shooting just 41.1% from the field this season.
Missouri State’s next two games are against Northern Iowa and No. 15 Wichita State, with Saturday’s game at UNI beginning a stretch in which three of their next four are on the road. The lone home game: Wichita State. Northern Iowa (37.9%) and Wichita State (41.1%) lead the Valley in field goal percentage defense, which was likely to be a problem for Missouri State even if Marshall were available.
After playing in just 12 games last season due to a torn ACL suffered in an overtime loss to Wichita State, Missouri State guard Marcus Marshall has been one of the best players in the Missouri Valley Conference to this point in the season. Marshall’s averaging 19.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, shooting 45.9% from the field, 45.6% from three and nearly 90 percent from the charity stripe in 14 games played (13 starts).
Multiple sources said that Marshall and head coach Paul Lusk had a disagreement during the team’s afternoon game-day practice.
Also of note in Scranton’s story is that “Lusk has been publicly critical of his upperclassmen, including Marshall, for a lack of leadership over the last week.” After winning their first two conference games Missouri State (8-8, 2-2) enters Wednesday having lost their last two contests.
No other Bear is averaging double figures for Missouri State, which averages just 64.9 points per game and is shooting 41.4% from the field. Missouri State is ranked seventh in the Valley in scoring offense and ninth in field goal percentage, with Austin Ruder (8.8 ppg) being the team’s leading scorer with Marshall out of lineup.
With that being the case Missouri State’s play on the defensive end of the floor is of even greater importance against the Purple Aces, who are averaging nearly 75 points per game and shooting 51.6% from the field. The Valley’s leading scorer, guard D.J. Balentine, is scoring a conference-best 21.4 ppg for Evansville.
“I’ll know more in about a week,” Mvouika said in the report. “We’re not going to rush anything, but I’ll be confident that I’ll be able to be present for the first conference game (Dec. 31). Maybe even before.”
The injury occurred for Mvouika when he was going up for a rebound in an exhibition game against Missouri Southern. The injury really hasn’t improved, which has forced the senior to miss likely a month of action.
When Mvouika returns to the lineup, he’ll give Missouri State an experienced wing who can also give some floor spacing as an additional three-point threat. Only Marcus Marshall and Austin Ruder have made more than five three-pointers this season for the Bears and Mvouika should be able to help a little bit in that category while aiding the team’s two leading scorers.
On Thursday the eight-team field for next season’s Puerto Rico Tipoff was officially unveiled, with Minnesota and Temple being two of the eight programs taking part. Joining the Golden Gophers and Owls will be Butler, Miami, Mississippi State, Missouri State, Texas Tech and Utah.
None of the eight teams reached the NCAA tournament last season, with Minnesota putting together the best postseason run as they won the Postseason NIT. Utah also participated in that event, losing to Saint Mary’s in the first round. Missouri State played in the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
The 2015 Puerto Rico Tipoff will be played November 19, 20 and 22 in San Juan. Two of the eight teams in the field have won the event in the past, with Miami doing so in 2007 and Minnesota winning the 2010 version. Temple finished third in the 2011 Puerto Rico Tipoff.