Missouri Valley looks to bring conference back to elite status

The Missouri Valley is one of the top mid-major conferences in the nation, and has a decorated amount of success in the postseason.

In 2010, Northern Iowa upset No. 1 ranked Kansas, and last season featured Wichita State winning the NIT and Creighton finishing second in the CBI.

Last year Indiana State jumped from being ranked seventh in the MVC preseason poll to winning the conference. Every year in the Valley brings surprises and disappointments. Here is the Scout’s take on all of the teams in the MVC for this upcoming season:

 

1. CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS (10-8 MVC, 23-16 OVERALL)

The one name to remember is McDermott. Greg McDermott coached the Blue Jays to a second-place finish in the CBI, while his son Doug, a six-foot-seven forward, led the team in scoring and rebounding with 14.9 points and 7.2 per game. Gregory Echenique, a six-foot-nine junior transfer from Rutgers, helps bolster the Blue Jays with the top frontcourt in the conference as he finished last year with 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

While the frontcourt puts Creighton in the top half of the league, they become elite team with six-foot point guard Antoine Young who averaged 13.1 points per game and led the Valley with 195 assists. Creighton has a balanced attack making them one of the most feared teams in the country, let alone the Valley.

 

2. WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (14-4 MVC, 29-8 OVERALL) The Shockers are looking to have another strong season after winning the NIT last year when they narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament. They have a strong chance of being competitive with the return of five of its top six scorers from last season.

Wichita State is led by Toure’ Murry, a six-foot-five guard who averaged 9.4 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. Another player that will help the Shockers is seven-foot center Garrett Stutz, who averaged 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds a game while having a strong perimeter game. With the high number of returners, the Shockers have a strong chance to make the MVC a multi-bid conference in the NCAA Tournament.

3. INDIANA STATE SYCAMORES (12-6 MVC, 20-14 OVERALL)

The underdog story of last season saw the Sycamores jump to a NCAA tournament spot with a young team and a new coach. Its six-foot-four sophomore point guard, Jake Odum, led Indiana State last season with his 9.3 points per game along with 139 assists and 62 steals. The Sycamores have four returning starters and a strong balance throughout their bench, which could bring them a spot near the top of the conference.

 

4. EVANSVILLE PURPLE ACES (9-9 MVC, 16-16 OVERALL)

Evansville showed its true potential last season as they beat MVC champions Indiana State twice, and the NCAA runner-up Butler. The Purple Aces also advanced to the second round of the CBI. One of the main reasons for Evansville’s success is six-foot-five guard Colt Ryan. Ryan averaged 15.7 points per game last year as he netted 87 percent of his free throws and 41 percent of his 3-pointers. The Purple Aces don’t have a lot of size in the front court, which may limit them this year, but its backcourt is one of the best in the conference.

 

5. NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS (10-8 MVC, 20-14 OVERALL)

The Panthers entered last year with a major target on their backs after defeating No. 1 ranked Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. However, they were unable to battle past the pressures to gain another berth in the Big Dance. Northern Iowa will be led this season by guards Johnny Moran (9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game), Anthony James (12.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game) and forward Jake Koch (9.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game). James scored a career-high 25 points against the Braves last season in Peoria.

6. DRAKE BULLDOGS (7-11 MVC, 13-18 OVERALL)

The Bulldogs had a decent season last year, and should build off it with four returning starters. Unfortunately it has been a long offseason for Drake with sophomore guard Rayvonte Rice being arrested and junior center Seth VanDeest undergoing shoulder surgery. Rice averaged 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year on his way to the Valley’s All-Freshman team, while VanDeest averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds a game and may miss the entire season. The Bulldogs should improve this year, but its offseason wasn’t a good start.

 

7. MISSOURI STATE BEARS (15-3 MVC, 26-9 OVERALL)

The Bears were one of the top teams in the Valley last season and nearly made the NCAA tournament. However, this team will be much different after losing four starters and its head coach Cuonzo Martin. The lone bright spot for new coach Paul Lusk is the return of senior Kyle Weems. The six-foot-six senior averaged 16.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game on his way to the MVC Player of the Year. Weems will be forced to do it all while learning a new system and play with four new starters, which makes it unlikely that Missouri State will find success this season.

 

8. ILLINOIS STATE REDBIRDS (4-14 MVC, 12-19 OVERALL)

The Redbirds didn’t have much to celebrate last season, which may explain why their fans stormed the court in their win against the Braves last year.

Jackie Carmichael, a six-foot-nine junior forward, averaged 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last year, and has always played well in conference action. Illinois State can also expect to have good contributions from six-foot-nine junior forward John Wilkins, who averaged 7.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

9. BRADLEY BRAVES (4-14 MVC, 12-20 OVERALL)

Although Bradley can only go up from last season, it will face its own struggles to replace last year’s MVC top scorer Andrew Warren and learn a new system under new coach Geno Ford. Junior Dyricus Simms-Edwards finished last season on a tear, and will be called upon to led the Braves on offense along with senior Taylor Brown. Brown missed all of last season but was fifth in the Valley with 14.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game in 2010.

 

10. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS SALUKIS (5-13 MVC, 13-19 OVERALL)

It was a long time ago that Southern Illinois was a perennial powerhouse in the Valley and routinely stamped their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The Salukis are stuck in rebuilding mode and it may be a couple of years before they reach their way to the top of the conference. Mamadou Seck, a six-foot-seven senior forward, led the conference last year with 8.1 rebounds per game. Another top returner is guard Kendal Brown-Surles who averaged 7.2 points and 2.4 assists per game last year.