Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Missouri Valley Preview

Posted by Zach on October 11, 2008

I have to admit I saw Drake coming.

Back in November, Drake made their return trip of the Bracket Buster selection from Des Moines to Milwaukee, and I happened to be in attendance along with both Tommy and Pat. Admittedly, I didn’t know that much about the Drake Bulldogs, just that they had two excellent players in Josh Young and Leonard Houston, and they were picked near the bottom of the MVC. After a drubbing in which Drake shot 13-26 from three and 55% overall from the floor, it was impossible not to ask yourself one question: “why isn’t this team considered a contender in the Missouri Valley?” That game didn’t turn out to be a fluke. Drake proved their worth winning the conference and earning a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Drake hasn’t won back-to-back titles, or even had a glimmer of success, since their Elite Eight run in 1971 before last year. So, are they primed to repeat? Or will a MVC power reclaim their glory? On to the preview…

1. Creighton Bluejays: To answer your question: a MVC power will reclaim their glory. Creighton and coach Dana Altman dealt with an extremely young core last year in Omaha with nine players performing in their first Division 1 action. Still, they managed a trip to the NIT and an impressive 22-win season. They return MVC Freshman of the Year P’Allen Stinnett, who has the potential to explode onto the national scene as an athletic superstar as his game continues to mature. Stinnett has all the ability in the world to win conference player of the year, but to help Creighton he needs to cut back on the turnovers and bonehead plays. Creighton’s strength is clearly with their backcourt. Along with Stinnett, the Jays have Booker Woodfox and Cavel Witter- two players that contributed nearly 10 PPG off the bench last season. Senior point guard Josh Dotzler isn’t a primary scoring option, but plays excellent defense and is smart with the basketball. Dana Altman also put together an impressive recruiting class led by wing Justin Carter. This team has eight freshman and sophomores and yet most agree Creighton is the clear favorite in the conference.

2. Southern Illinois Salukis: You can’t keep the Salukis down very long. Finishing third in the conference and earning a trip to the NIT is a solid year for most MVC schools; in Carbondale, it’s a huge disappointment, one that tested coach Chris Lowery. Losing forward Randall Falkner and guard Matt Shaw, two double-digit scorers and team leaders, will also test Lowery. Bryan Mullins will emerge as the new all-around scorer and passer for the Salukis. Mullins is a smart point guard with range on his jumper and the keen ability to find the open teammate. Seniors Wesley Clemmons and senior Tony Boyle are both strong defenders, tailoring to the clear strength of the SIU program. They need to get back to playing tenacious defense every game before they return to the NCAA Tournament. Lowery also added what he calls the best recruiting class in the program’s history.

3. Drake Bulldogs: New coach Mark Phelps must deal with the losses of point guard and MVC player of the year winner Adam Emmenecker, three-point specialist Klayton Korver and super-athlete Leonard Houston. Phelps, a former assistant at NC State and most recently working under Herb Sendek at Arizona State, loves the three-point shot. In a total coincidence, Drake also loves the three-point shot. So expect plenty of thre pointers from Josh Young, who made 43% of his shots from long distance last season along with a healthy 15.9 PPG overall. Young is the favorite for MVC POY. Jonathan Cox is a phenomenal inside-outside force, one that shoots the three with remarkable efficiency (44%) while also finishing second in the MVC in rebounding (8.6 RPG). Cox continued to improve as the season progressed, ending his campaign with 29 points and 16 rebounds in the shootout vs. Western Kentucky. Phelps will rely on Young and Cox, along with UC Irvine transfer Adam Templeton, in hopes of winning another conference title.

4. Illinois State Redbirds: If not for Drake, the story of the MVC last year would have been Illinois State. Former Kansas assistant Tim Jankovich improved ISU from 15-16 to 25-10 and a win in the NIT, finishing second in the conference behind Drake. Losing four of their top seven scorers from a year ago hurts, but Osiris Eldridge returns- a 15.8 PPG scorer from last year as a sophomore. The loss of point guard Boo Richardson will hinder his ability to get the ball in key spots. JC transfer Lloyd Phillips and freshman Kenyon Smith are hoping to take over at point guard and find Eldridge during big possessions. Illinois State does get a boost with Oregon transfer Chamberlain Oguchi, who led the Ducks in threes back in 05-06, eligible for the season. A potential weakness for the Redbirds could be rebounding where they already lost senior forward Brandon Sampay for the first part of the year recovering from offseason hip surgery. Junior Dinma Odiakosa (6.9 PPG) also returns; it looked like he could become a key component after exploding onto the scene in the NIT.

5. Bradley Braves:
Not many know that Bradley played into April last season. Sure, it was the CBI, but coach Jim Les will take the extra month of games and practices in preparation for this season. Losing 15.8 PPG scorer Jeremy Crouch and point guard Daniel Ruffin stings. Luckily for Coach Les, the reigns to the high-tempo Bradley offense will be handed to Andrew Warren, a 13+ PPG scorer from last year who shot effectively from the outside. Warren teams up with sophomore Sam Maniscalco. As a freshman, Maniscalco took over for the injured Ruffin and finished with an impressive 114 assists. Theron Wilson is another returning double-digit scorer. Bradley should be an exciting, guard-oriented, push-at-every-chance team to watch this season, and quietly the Braves are looking for their fourth consecutive 21+ win season. Rather than playing deep into March in the CBI, Les now hopes to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.

6. Northern Iowa Panthers: I also was able to see Northern Iowa in person last year and two things stuck out for me: 1) they play phenomenal defense and 2) they have a real difficult time scoring the basketball. Eric Coleman led the Panthers in scoring, rebounds and blocks last season. He’s gone. This means two key post players must take over the scoring load- Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder. Eglseder literally just stands in the paint at 7’1 and is able to score at will against most teams when he feels motivated, but he needs to stay out of foul trouble and be more aggressive fighting for rebounds. Koch is a talented player who has a better shot at making The Leap over Eglseder. The return of injured point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe should help UNI move up the offensive charts; they finished ninth in the MVC in scoring average last season and lost Coleman.

7. Indiana State Sycamores:
The Sycamores return three starters, notably sophomore Isiah Martin to boost interior defense and junior guard Harry Marshall for scoring. Marshall can play both guard positions and needs to take over as team leader after the Sycamores went 2-13 on the road last season. Coach Kevin McKenna hopes to gain contributions from two junior college players: former Iowa Hawkeye Josh Crawford, who averaged 4.5 BPG in JC, and Rashad Reed, who looks to replace Gabe Moore. Moore started all four years for Indiana State and will be a key loss on both ends of the floor. Newly added height should help Indiana State move up the rebounding charts in the MVC where they finished last in both offense and defensive rebounding.

8. Wichita State Shockers:
The Shockers and coach Gregg Marshall could go either way. There is a ton of uncertainty around the program after a hugely disappointing 2007-08 loaded with injuries and bad luck. Only one starter returns for this year, meaning it could be another struggle. Ramon Clemente is a breakout candidate after improving mightily as last season progressed. Sophomore J.T. Durley can explode at any point with his knack for scoring the basketball in bunches.  This team is hard to predict because of all the new additions: JC transfers Reggie Chamberlain and Kelvin Hannah, 7-foot freshman Garrett Stutz, and St. Bonnie’s transfer A.J. Hawkins can all make immediate impacts.

9. Evansville Aces:
The Aces avoid the basement because they return all five starters from their last-place finish of 2007-08. In fact, Evansville hasn’t finished with a winning record in eight seasons. The backcourt is strong with Jason Hoslinger shooting from behind the arc and small forward Shy Ely (I swear, the MVC has the best names of any conference) can play with anyone, finishing with 14.4 PPG and 5.1 RPG last season. The weakness for Evansville will be inside. They play North Carolina in November in what could be an ugly bloodbath.

10. Missouri State Bears
: Finishing behind Evansville is not something new coach Cuonzo Martin wants to place on his resume, but it could very well happen. This program is currently in disarray. The Bears are moving into a brand-new hoops facility for this season, which may be just about the only bright spot in what could be a last-place campaign. They return zero double-digit scorers and fell behind dramatically in recruiting with the coaching switch. Several newcomers such as Isaiah Rhine at forward have a chance to emerge.

First Team All-Missouri Valley:

G- Josh Young, Drake
G- P’Allen Stinnett, Creighton
G- Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State
F- Jonathan Cox, Drake
F- Adam Koch, Northern Iowa

Coach of the Year-
Dana Altman, Creighton
Newcomer of the Year- Chamberlain Oguchi, Illinois State
Sleeper Team- Wichita State Shockers
NCAA- Creighton
NIT- Southern Illinois, Drake

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3 Responses to “Missouri Valley Preview”

  1. Kathy said

    What MVC a one bid conference again for the NCAA tournament? I don’t believe it.

  2. Zach said

    It was a close call. I went back and forth in SIU….the conference overall just isn’t that strong anymore. Maybe Young and Cox can lead Drake back, but I see them as an NIT team.

  3. […] There have been several preseason previews coming out the past few days.  Here is one on the Jays from ESPN/Blue Ribbon and the Sporting News and a preview of the Valley from USA Today and a basketball fan blog. […]

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