SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- Two straight 20-win seasons and a clear path to the NCAA Tournament have elevated Missouri State into the college basketball conversation in a state dominated by the Big 12 program to the north.
The Bears remain tied for first in the Missouri Valley Conference after Tuesday night's 60-51 home win over Drake. Coach Cuonzo Martin starts four senior alongside conference player of the year candidate Kyle Weems, and the team embraces a defense-first mindset honed by Martin as a Purdue player and assistant coach.
Missouri State is aiming for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999, when Steve Alford led the school then known as Southwest Missouri State to the Sweet 16.
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