2014-15 Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Preview

Wichita State became the first team to go 35-0 in NCAA history
Wichita State became the first team to go 35-0 in NCAA history

Wichita State

Odds to win NCAA title: 28/1

Odds courtesy of Bovada

Wichita State finished the regular season undefeated. It won its first NCAA tournament game, then ran up against a tough Kentucky Wildcat team and suffered its first loss of the season, by a mere two points.

What will hurt the Shockers the most is the loss of NBA draft selection Cleanthony Early. Early had 31 points in that loss last season and the Shockers made history being the first school to start 35-0. Still, replacing Early is what will determine if this team can make waves in the tournament this season, after last year’s bitter disappointment. NCAA basketball odds list the Shockers at 28/1, but it is early and there are surprises every year.

Fred VanVleet is a returning starting 1-man who as a sophomore last season won the league’s Bird Player of the Year award. The Shockers are not likely to fall off much. They have won 29 games or more in the last five seasons, and last year were the first to go undefeated in MVC play since 1979 when Larry Legend himself did it with Indiana State.

VanVleet will have a target on his back every game after averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 assists per game last year. Keep an eye on 6’6” senior guard Tekele Cotton who was instrumental defensively last season.

Northern Illinois
Odds: Field

The Northern Iowa teams that had suffocated teams defensively lost its acumen for that last season. Coach Ben Jacobson has been known for grinding teams down in low scoring game, but is going to make sure to put a stronger emphasis on defense this year after having loosened the reigns too much last season. The Panthers did not make a postseason tournament and haven’t been in the NCAA tournament since 2010. Last year marked the fourth straight year that NI had been bounced in the MVC quarterfinals.

Seth Tuttle has started all four seasons at Northern Illinois and averaged 15.4 points and eight rebounds a game last season and was a 1st team all conference pick. Senior guard Deon Mitchell is a force in the backcourt, but he’s going to have to lead the team more. Mitchell averaged 12.1 points per game last season.

Illinois State
Odds: Field

The Illinois State Redbirds have loaded up with JUCO talent to make a run at the MVC title. The Redbirds added four in the spring and also return six rotation players last season. The Redbirds finished 18-16 overall with a .500 conference record.

Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh will be important integrations as both missed last season. Reggie Lynch is very promising as a 6’10” center who set a league freshman record with 96 blocks while averaging 8.3 points per game.

Missouri State
Odds: Field

Missouri State finished 20-13 last season with a .500 conference record. The Bears have the 2013 Freshman of the Year in Marcus Marshall, a 6’3” point guard who averaged 14.3 points in 12 total games last season as a junior. It was a momentum crushing injury for a player who has continued to make his ascent.

Austin Ruder hit 72 threes last season and made the All-Valley freshman team. Loomis Gerring should be a nice JUCO add, as a 6’5” off guard who led his team in spring and rebounding en route to a 3rd place national JUCO finish. 6’11” 246 lb Tyler McCollough needs to assert himself much more after averaging just 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds last season as a freshman.

Odds: Field

Last year, Evansville didn’t have a single senior on the roster. The Purple Aces went 14-19 nonetheless, but were just 6-12 in MVC play. Still, the season was a positive for a young team, and with five returning starters, the Purple Aces could be a lot better this season. D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicus both looked good last year, and point guard Duane Gibson set a school record for assists (124). Villanova transfer Mislav Brzoja and JUCO add Taylor Stafford will be ready to contribute and will be keys to the Purple Aces building on last year’s 14 wins.

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