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After losing to Indiana State on Sunday in the finals of the Missouri Valley Tournament, the Bears lost their chance for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Now fans are wondering if this year is just another year of not making the tournament. KSMU’s Adam Hammons talked with Bears play-by-play announcer Art Hains about the chances of the team making the Big Dance.
For over a decade Missouri State fans have been patiently waiting for another chance for the men's basketball team to make it to the NCAA tournament. Nineteen ninety-nine was the last time the Bears made it, which led them to a Sweet 16 appearance where they lost against Duke. Ever since, the Bears have been close to getting a bid, but always fell short. This year Bears fans are hopeful for a bid. The loss to Indiana State means the Bears will have to get an at-large bid. This means the Bears need to be ranked above a certain number of teams to make it into the now 68 team tournament. Missouri State Bears radio announcer Art Hains believes it could go either way even though he says most national people have the Bears out of the tournament. “But I think there are a lot of things in our favor. One being all the other times the Bears have been snubbed with the top 50 or even top 40 RPI ratings, we have not been regular season champs. This year we do have that.”Hains says another positive for the Bears getting a bid is that there are three more spots in the tournament this year than ever before (from 65 to 68). He also says many traditional power conferences will have fewer teams, leaving more open spots. “I think there’s a pretty big bubble there and we’re hopeful the Bears will be on the right side of it for a change.”Hains acknowledges there are some hurdles that could keep the Bears out of tournament play. One challenge is that the Missouri Valley Conference is not as highly regarded as it used to be. He also says the Bears do not have any signature non-conference wins which dampens their reputation. If they do get into the tournament, MSU athletic director Kyle Moats talks about how it would affect the university.“Oh I think it’ll be a great, if we get in, it’ll be a great situation for not only the university but for the community. Just the recognition and the publicity you get alone is a great, really an infomercial for the university.”Art Hains says if the Bears do get in, it will probably be in the “last four in.” This is part of the new format where four teams play each other for a spot in the bracket. Hains says whoever wins those games will go into the bracket ranked around number 12. The finalized tournament bracket will be announced on Sunday, March 13. For KSMU News, I’m Adam Hammons.