The Bonafide Bunch
Drake, UNI, SIU, Missouri State
Drake will likely three-peat as MVC champions. The Valley is improving, however, so they will not finish 18-0 this conference season like the previous two. The Bulldogs return the defending MVC Player of the Year in forward Becca Hittner and Defensive Player of the Year Sammie Bachrodt. The supporting cast will lead this team to the top of the conference once again.
Northern Iowa might have what it takes to dethrone Drake. They will host a game in the preseason WNIT and return their top scorer and rebounder, Megan Maahs. She’ll lead the Panthers to a top-two finish.
SIU will be led by All-MVC first-team selection Nicole Martin and 2018 MVC Freshman of the Year Abby Brockmeyer. Brockmeyer provides a strong presence down low, both defensively and offensively, where she is ultra-efficient. The Salukis will give UNI and Drake a run for their money, but will come up just short.
Rounding out the top tier is Missouri State. I expect the Bears to make a deep run in postseason play. They return nine players from last year’s team, which finished second in the Valley. Senior Danielle Gitzen will step up in a big way.
The Up and Comers
ISU, Bradley, Indiana State
Illinois State returns MVC Newcomer of the Year Simone Goods who recorded 12 double-doubles last season. The Redbirds are most excited about their recruiting class which includes: Mary Crompton who shot the three ball at a 46.3 percent clip in high school, post player Lexy Koudelka who was ranked 75th in her recruiting class nationwide and Ally Gietzel, who was a three star recruit.
Bradley is young with nine underclassmen on their roster, but they are growing up fast. Bradley was second in the MVC in defensive field goal percentage and led the Valley in rebounding last season. All of the post players return. Bradley lost a defensive stopper in Dani Brewer but their deep roster will step up. Additionally, they shoot the ball well from behind the arc led by sophomore Gabi Haack.
Although Indiana State has a new coach in Vicki Hall, coming off six seasons as associate head coach at Toledo, the team is on the upswing. The Sycamores will have 69 percent of their scoring back in Terre Haute and four returning starters. Ashli O’Neal will look to build off her breakout sophomore season in which she led the team in scoring. She’s quick to the basket and can shoot the long ball.
Valparaiso, Loyola, Evansville
Valparaiso will enter their second year in the MVC coming off their inaugural season in which they won five conference games. They return nine of their top 10 scorers from last season. First year coach Mary Evans comes to Valpo from Ohio University where she was assistant coach, and was integral to turning the program around. She’ll look to do the same at Valpo.
Loyola returns 62 percent of their scoring. Abby O’Connor led the Ramblers in scoring, rebounding and blocks last season as a freshmen. With O’Conner leading the charge, there is nowhere to go but up.
Evansville is redesigning both basketball programs. Now a senior, Kerri Gasper will look to continue to lead the team in scoring and mentor seven new players, but it will be a while before they compete.