Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lower-level Division I teams embrace, enjoy epic road trips

ITTA BENA, Mississippi — Mississippi Valley State was hanging fairly close with nationally ranked Michigan State earlier this year before Spartans' guard Miles Bridges took a pass, sprinted down the lane and threw down a vicious one-handed dunk over Jamal Watson.

After that, Michigan State cruised to a 100-53 win over the Delta Devils in one of their 14 consecutive road games to start the season. MVSU coach Andre Payne recalled how following the November game he took an upbeat approach to the drubbing.

Payne went around the locker room praising each player until he saw Watson. He couldn't help but grin.

"And guess what?" Payne said. "You'll get to be on SportsCenter tonight!"

The room burst into laughter. Two months of road games requires a little gallows humor, though Mississippi Valley coaches and players say the experience is often much more rewarding than demoralizing.

MVSU (0-13) and Texas Southern (4-9) are among a handful of lower-level Division I teams that lead a nomadic existence during non-conference play, traveling to play road games with guaranteed payouts.


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