The voters have spoken and it wasn’t even close: Wichita State is favored to win the Missouri Valley Conference again. The Shockers received 37 of 42 possible first-place votes among coaches, media members, and sports information directors in the conference preseason poll.
The results were revealed Tuesday morning at the annual Missouri Valley Conference media day.
Illinois State (4) and Northern Iowa (1) were the other two schools to receive first-place votes. The Redbirds and Panthers were divided by the slimmest of margins, picked to finish second and third respectively.
Northern Iowa’s Jeremy Morgan was named preseason conference player of the year and was joined on the all-conference first team by Indiana State’s Brenton Scott, the only returning all-conference player from last year.
Last year’s Freshman of the Year, Markis McDuffie (Wichita State), and two Illinois State players (MiKyle McIntosh and Paris Lee) round out the Valley’s best five.
Quotes from around the league:
Head coach Gregg Marshall on being picked to win the conference:
“That’s a testament to Toure Murray, Joe Raglan, Malcolm Amsted, Cleanthony Early, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. I tell these guys they haven’t done a thing, and that those previous players have made it extremely tough them. They will get everyone else’s best shot.”
Head coach Dan Mullen on the talented players in his starting lineup:
“People recognize how good our returning players are. They have have accomplished a great deal, but are hungry to accomplish more.”
Muller says his team has struggled in practice and on the eve of the media day, he suspended double digit scorer Deontae Hawkins for an undisclosed violation.
Head coach Ben Jacobson on being picked third:
“I don’t care at all. But from the standpoint of having 11 new players, and still being voted in the top three, seeing the bigger picture, I care that people respect what we’ve built.“
Missouri State: The Bears return four starters from last season’s team and were picked fourth in the poll. Dequon Miller leads a versatile and deep group of returning players for head coach Paul Lusk, including two members of last year’s all-freshman team.
Southern Illinois: Barry Hinson returns three starters to his Southern Illinois team that won 22 games last season. Joining O’Brien in the Saluki rotation will be senior guards Mike Rodriguez, Leo Vincent, and Tyler Smithpeters. Rodriguez is out at least until the first game with a leg injury.
The bottom five teams are Indiana State, Loyola, Bradley, Evansville, and Drake, but each has reason to believe they can surprise the prognosticators.
Indiana State has some good inside depth to complement Scott and backcourt mate Everett Clemons. Loyola’s strong recruiting class could energize Doyle and the other veterans. Last year’s Bradley wave of freshman are a year older, wiser, and stronger. Evansville is strengthened by the return of Duane ‘Boo’ Gibson to run the point, and by Ohio transfer Ryan Taylor. Building around Timmer, Drake has C.J. Rivers returning from injury and two quality junior college transfers to accelerate the Bulldog turnaround.
Now, they each have their work cut out for them.