Conference Tip-Off Primer: Missouri Valley Conference

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

Conference play takes off in the Valley on Wednesday afternoon. We get you ready with a look at the biggest surprise and storylines from around the Missouri Valley Conference.

Conference play begins Wednesday in the Missouri Valley Conference, here is where things stand on the eve of tip-off in the Valley:

Conference Standings:

Place Team Record
1 Wichita St. Shockers 13-0
2 Missouri State Bears 10-2
3 Drake Bulldogs 9-3
3 Indiana State Sycamores 9-3
5 Illinois State Cardinals 7-5
6 Evansville Purple Aces 7-6
7 Northern Iowa Panthers 6-6
8 Loyola Ramblers 5-7
9 Bradley Braves 5-8
10 Southern Illinois Salukis 4-9

Top Scorers:

Rank Player PPG
1 D.J. Balentine (Evansville) 22.8
2 Desmar Jackson (SIU) 20.8
3 Richard Carter (Drake) 18.4
4 Cleanthony Early (Wichita St.) 16.0
t-5 Walt Lemon Jr. (Bradley)
Milton Doyle (Loyola)
15.1

Assists Leaders:

Rank Player APG
1 Fred VanVleet (Wichita St) 5.2
2 Duane Gibson (Evansville) 5.1
3 Jake Odum (Indy St) 4.6
t-4 D.J. Balentine (Evansville)
Walt Lemon Jr. (Bradley)
4.2
6 Gary Ricks Jr. (Drake) 3.6

Top Rebounders:

Rank Player RPG
1 Seth Tuttle (UNI) 7.8
2 Tyshon Pickett (Bradley 7.2
3 Egidijus Mockevicius (Evansville) 7.1
4 Christian Thomas (Loyola) 6.6
t-5 Auston Barnes (Bradley)
Cleanthony Early (Wichita St)
6.5

Biggest Surprise:

The biggest surprise in the Valley this year has to be first year head coach Ray Giacolleti's Drake Bulldogs. Our own Dan Bogle picked the Bulldogs to finish eight in the conference in our preseason preview. Drake doesn't have any losses that jump out at your right off the bat, but their only losses came to a trio of pretty good teams in Iowa, St. Mary's, and New Mexico State. Senior guard Richard Carter has been phenomenal, doubling his points per game from a year ago at 18.2 while also adding 2.6 steals, 3.8 assists, and 2.8 rebounds.

Player of the Year:

Wichita State's Cleanthony Early has to be the pick here. He is averaging 16 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Jake Odum from Indiana State can certainly give him a run for his money, but you have to think the best player on the best team will likely take this title.

Biggest Storyline:

You guessed it...Wichita State. The Shockers have picked up right where they left off after their Final Four run and are 13-0 and ranked eighth in the country. How long can the Shockers stay undefeated? Ken Pomeroy has a February 5 visit to Terre Haute and the Indiana State Sycamores as the Shockers greatest chance as a slip up.

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