2009-2010 Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Preview
The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) has developed into a respectable NCAA league that places quality teams in post-season play. This year the Northern Iowa Panthers, Illinois State Redbirds, Creighton Bluejays and Wichita State Shockers are all candidates for tournament play.
The Northern Iowa Panthers (23- 11 overall, 14- 4 MVC) took the conference last season, went to the Big Dance and then lost to Purdue 61- 56 in round one. This season, the club returns just about every player from last and they bring in a host of talented frosh and transfers, making them the top contender in the MVC. Senior forward Adam Koch (12.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) and senior center Jordan Eglseder (10.2 PPG, 6.4 APG) are premium performers in front. Koch is an inside-outside threat and Eglseder is an inside force who dominates opponents. The backcourt is loaded too.
For the Panthers to take the MVC crown, they will have to contend with the Illinois State Redbirds (24- 10 overall, 11- 7 MVC). The Redbirds finished third and went to the NIT where they were beaten by Kansas State 83- 79 in the first round. The team may have suffered important loses upfront and in the backcourt this year, but they are still a viable contender. Senior guard Osiris Eldridge (14.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.4 APG) is an outside-inside player. Lloyd Phillips (10.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.6 APG) is a fine setup man and ball handler. In the front, center Dinma Odiakosa (8.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG), a senior, is a fine defender and a hard working player devoted to improving. There’s a long list of new talent on board too. The Redbirds look to go back to the NIT.
The Creighton Bluejays (27- 8 overall, 14- 4 MVC) were co-champs with Northern Iowa last season but the Bluejays did not get a NCAA Tournament invite, while their fellow champs did. Instead, the team went to the NIT where they lost a 65- 63 squeaker to Kentucky in the second round. This year, Creighton will have a tough time competing for the top spot in the MVC. They still have talent but they’ve lost four key players and that’s going to hurt. Look for them in the NIT this year.
Of the top four teams, the Wichita State Shockers (17-17 overall, 8- 10 MVC) are the most improved. Last year, they finished sixth in the league. This year they could end the season fourth. The guard spots are rich as senior Clevin Hannah (11.2 PPG, 4.3 APG) and sophomore Toure’ Murry (11.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG) share the one and two spots. Hannah is a first-rate three-point shooter and Murry proved to be a go-to guy and clutch performer in his first season. In the frontcourt, junior forward J.T. Durley (8.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG) is ready to post a breakthrough season. The development of sophomore front men Garrett Stutz and David Kyles will determine the fate of this team in 2009- 2010. The NIT is a possibility.
Of the other seven teams in the MVC, the Southern Illinois Salukis (13- 18 overall, 8- 10 MVC) offer the most promise. The Salukis, who finished seventh last year, could be a fifth-place club this year. Sophomore Kevin Dillard (12.2 PPG), who won Freshman of the Year honors last season, hit 45% of his threes. At the point he can score and pass with aplomb. Senior guard Tony Freeman comes from Iowa where he averaged 13.8 PPG. There’s also fine talent upfront.
Last season, the Bradley Braves (21- 15 overall, 10- 8 MVC) finished fourth. This year, the club moves down a few notches. Senior forward Sam Singh returns for his sixth season after having his college career interrupted twice by injuries. He’s a smart, skilled, solid player. The other front men, four of them, combined for an average of 13.1 PPG and 8.9 RPG. More is needed from this group. The guards on the team are solid. They include Sam Maniscalco (12.6 PPG) and Eddren McCain (111 assists. There’s additional depth in the backcourt. The Braves have been to the post-season four years running. If they’re going to make it a fifth year, they’ll need the front men to step up.
The bottom four in this 10-team conference includes the Indiana State Sycamores (11- 21 overall, 7- 11 MVC), Missouri State Bears (11- 20 overall, 3- 15 MVC), Drake Bulldogs (17- 16 overall, 7- 11 MVC) and Evansville Aces (17- 14 overall, 8- 10 MVC).
The Sycamore backcourt could be the strength of this team as the club welcomes Iowa transfer Jake Kelly to a unit that includes Harry Marshall (13.6 PPG, 94 assists) and Rashad Reed (11.0 PPG). Kelly averaged 11.6 PPG and 3.1 APG as a sophomore with Iowa. The front men are not very big and that poses a challenge for this team. Sophomore forward Carl Richard (6.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG) is a tough bruiser. The two other upfront guys, junior center Isiah Martin and forward Josh Crawford, need to more to the court.
The Bears of Missouri State struggled all of last season. Sophomore
forward Kyle Weems (10.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG) could be a major factor
if he can upgrade his three-point game (28.1% 3PT). There’s
a load of new guys on the team, including transfers Adam Leonard
(12.2 PPG), a guard from Eastern Kentucky, and Nafis Ricks, a
point guard who won NJCAA Division II Player of the Year honors
at Johnson County Community College. Another transfer, Jermaine
Mallet, averaged 22.7 PPG and 9.5 RPG. This is a better Missouri
State team from last season and they should move a few spots from
their last place finish in 2008- 2009.
Drake won the MVC title a few years ago and then regressed to an eighth-place finish last season. The Bulldogs are hurting in the backcourt as they lack quality shooters and defenders. This is a young team that will struggle.
The Aces did better than expected last season as they managed a fifth-place finish. This year Evansville will play with seven newcomers. For coach Marty Simmons this year is about development and next year.
This is a division that will be competitive with at least 60% of the teams coming to the table with a roster of talent and depth. Northern Illinois should be the NCAA contenders but Illinois State will give them a run for their money.
2009-2010 Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Predictions
1. Northern Iowa Panthers
2. Illinois State Redbirds
3. Creighton Bluejays
4. Wichita State Shockers
5. Southern Illinois Salukis
6. Bradley Bulldogs
7. Indiana State Sycamores
8. Missouri State Bears
9. Drake Bulldogs
10. Evansville Aces