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Usually, the Missouri Valley Conference has several teams grouped at the top of the league at the end of the season, with at least two or three in bubble and at-large consideration. Last season, not so much. Northern Iowa won the league by three games despite losing two of its final four conference contests. Wichita State finished in second, struggling down the stretch. Illinois State and Creighton finished third and fourth, and only two teams in the league finished below .500 overall. In the conference tournament, the Panthers won their three games by an average of nearly 16 points per game. Once they reached the Big Dance, they defeated UNLV and then pulled off a monumental upset of Kansas before losing to Michigan State. Will they repeat? There should be a much more competitive league race this season.
- 1. Wichita State: Can the Shockers knock Northern Iowa off its perch? They have to learn how to win on the road, but guard Toure Murry and frontcourt players J.T. Durley and Garrett Stutz are prepared for a title.
- 2. Missouri State: Led by Kyle Weems, one of the most versatile players in the country, the Bears will make a run. Guards Adam Leonard and Jeremaine Mallett both scored in double-figures.
- 3. Northern Iowa: Although the Panthers lose several key players from last season, they do return scoring guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe and multiple players who made key contributions.
- 4. Creighton: The Bluejays will have the league’s best interior duo in Kenny Lawson and Rutgers transfer Greg Echenique, although they will need someone to step up on the perimeter.
- 5. Bradley: The Braves have one of the best trios in the conference in guards Sam Maniscalco and Andrew Warren, and forward Taylor Brown. They need to play better down low, though.
- 6. Illinois State: After being a perennial contender the past few years, the Redbirds will be rebuilding behind forwards Jackie Carmichael and Tony Lewis, and guard Austin Hill.
- 7. Indiana State: New head coach Greg Lansing will build around guards Dwayne Lathan and Jake Kelly. Carl Richard will be the main man on the inside; look out for this team.
- 8. Drake: The Bulldogs have some solid pieces returning in guard Ryan Wedel and center Seth VanDeest. The key, though, will be freshman Rayvonte Rice, a high-major player who can score.
- 9. Southern Illinois: Chris Lowery has not had Southern Illinois near the top of the MVC in a few years, and the Salukis won’t be there this year either. Carlton Fay is the top returnee.
- 10. Evansville: The Aces played fairly well down the stretch last season, beating Wichita State and Northern Iowa. Colt Ryan is an all-conference candidate at the guard position.
Player of the Year: Toure Murry, G, Wichita State
- G- Toure Murry, Wichita State
- G- Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa
- G- Sam Maniscalco, Bradley
- F- Kyle Weems, Missouri State
- C- Kenny Lawson Jr, Creighton
- G- Colt Ryan, Evansville
- G- Andrew Warren, Bradley
- F- Taylor Brown, Bradley
- F- J.T. Durley, Wichita State
- F/C- Greg Echenique, Creighton