Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Southern Illinois Salukis’

November 21: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 21, 2008

Michigan UCLA Basketball

Michigan coach John Beilein finally got his signature victory. Upsetting #4 UCLA at Madison Square Garden is a win that could directly alter a program- a win that encourages disappointing Michigan fans to start caring about hoops again, a win that brings back memories of the Steve Fisher glory days, a win that top-flight Detroit recruits will remember when considering the University of Michigan. A floundering program that muddled in mediocrity for the entire Tommy Amaker era finally got its savior in John Beilein, its superstar in Manny Harris, and a signature win to tout.

How did Michigan topple the Bruins? Most will point first to the 1-3-1 zone defense Michigan used for most of the night, befuddling UCLA and taking All-American point guard Darren Collison completely out of his game. To effectively score against a 1-3-1 like the one Beilein employs, the offense must be able to find seams in the defense, something Collison and Holiday struggled mightily with last night. It often seemed as if Michigan had seven players on the court on defense, always swarming the UCLA guard with the ball immediately and preventing them from kicking it out to an open shooter like Dragovic or Shipp. Another way to defeat a zone is feed the ball quickly to a scoring big man who can manuever in the post and finish. With the loss of Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bruins simply lack that type of player. None of the freshmen have emerged yet, and Aboya/Keefe will not place scoring ability at the top of their resume.

The energy and execution of the Wolverines last night was sensational. You saw it when DeShawn Sims finished a dynamite backdoor cut to ice the game under a minute. You saw it when Michigan’s Mike Gansey, freshman guard Stu Douglass, drained a quick catch-and-shoot three in the face of the UCLA defense. You saw the development of Manny Harris, a tremendous scorer who couldn’t escape defensive stud Jrue Holiday (the perfect Ben Howland player) instead find open teammates rather than force off-balance shots down the stretch. Michigan was all about three things last night: 1-3-1 zone, quality possessions and forcing turnovers. UCLA turned the ball over 17 times.

Now the Wolverines have another opportunity to play Cinderella when they face Duke in the championship game tonight in a much more difficult matchup, especially if Gerald Henderson plays with as much fire as he did in the second half of the Southern Illinois game. It may be too much to ask for this young Michigan squad to topple the Blue Devils, but they’ve certainly made quite an impact already. We could look back in January and laugh that UCLA was ever #4 in the nation. It’s possible. But for now, beware Big Ten. The Wolverines are back.

The Other Semi: I remarked to Pat midway through the first half of the Duke-Southern Illinois game last night that Gerald Henderson’s been the type of player who has failed to fully harness his talent in his Duke career, possibly associated with a lack of desire. Henderson managed just 9 PPG in three contests vs. Presbyterian, Georgia Southern and Rhode Island at home and went to the foul line just nine times in those games. Maybe he heard me. Henderson made five shots- including four from behind the arc- in a gigantic second half run for Duke, saying after the game he’s “not sure what happened.” Gerald is one of the most athletic and talented players in the country. With Kyle Singler emerging as a force and Nolan Smith an upgrade at the point, Duke could reach the Final Four if Henderson consistently plays up to his ability. Duke pulled away with a 54-35 second half, made 40 of 47 (!) free throws, and won 83-58.

San Juan Update: Every single year, Sean Miller produces a quality basketball team. They’ll try to topple another major conference foe today in San Juan when they face Virginia Tech after defeating Missouri 75-71 in the first round of the tournament. Terrell Holloway played hero for the Musketeers, sinking 10 of 10 free throws in the second half while Missouri sunk just 15 of 31 from the charity stripe in the game. DeMarre Carroll led the way with 17 points for the Tigers while Derrick Brown finished with 16 for Xavier.

Dick Vitale spent most of the Michigan-UCLA game screaming about how the Big East will be the strongest conference in his thirty years at ESPN. Um, he may have a point. The Seton Hall Pirates, predicted around 12th-14th in the loaded conference by most prognosticators, took down the consensus #3 in the Pac-10 last night in a stunning second half comeback. The halftime deficit was 43-28 and Taj Gibson was compiling easy buckets in the post against the Hall frontcourt minus Robert Mitchell. Eugene Harvey (18/5/5) and Jeremy Hazell (15/4 stl) stepped up in the second half to carry the Pirates into another tough game against Memphis later today. The Trojans have to be the most disappointing team in the nation thus far, struggling in two home games and now laying this egg against Seton Hall. DeMar DeRozan has not looked comfortable (3pts on 1/4) and Daniel Hackett was 0/7 last night. Great win for Bobby Gonzalez and his seven scholarship players.

Other Games of Note: Illinois scored a difficult road win against Vanderbilt 69-63. Super soph Demetri McCamey sunk 5/10 threes in the contest, while senior Trent Meachem chipped in with four triples of his own. Oklahoma State and new coach Travis Ford haven’t had much trouble scoring so far this year. They dropped 91 points on a quality Tulsa squad in Stillwater with Byron Eaton (7/13 FG, 11/14 FT, 26/7/5) leading the charge. #12 Memphis pulled away from Chattanooga and won 83-71 behind five Doneal Mack treys. #19 Florida has played awesome basketball so far this year, winning 64-50 over Southern Utah behind 18/7/4 from Nick Calathes, one of the best all-around players in college hoops. Florida State narrowly avoided what would have been a horrid upset for Leonard Hamilton, beating Stetson 79-77 at home.

Upset Special: What the hell happened to George Mason?? After an intensely contested road win against NCAA contender Vermont up in Burlington, Mason faltered 50-44 to Hampton last night. They made just 33% of their shots, 2/17 from deep, turned the ball over 23 times, and compiled just four assists. Four assists! A bad, bad loss on the resume of George Mason.

Craziest Score Ever: When I saw this score for the first time on ESPN’s Bottom Line last night during the Michigan-UCLA game, I honestly thought it was a mistake. East Central Oklahoma has allowed over 100 points in each of their two games this season (D2’s VMI?), so maybe we should have seen this coming: Texas Tech winning 167-115, shattering the school record for points in a game. The Red Raiders certainly built some confidence on his squad as ten, TEN!, Tech players scored in double figures. They made 67/113 FG, 13/25 3pt attempts and compiled 35 team assists. Probably should have taken the over. Your move, Graham Harrell.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Marshon Brooks, Providence- 30 points, 5 steals, 11/15 FG, 5/8 3PT, 3/3 FT

On The Tube Today:

  • Xavier vs. Virginia Tech, 130pm (ESPNU)
  • Southern Illinois vs. UCLA, 5pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Chattanooga vs. USC, 5pm (ESPNU)
  • Akron @ Pittsburgh, 7pm (ESPN FC)
  • Duke vs. Michigan, 730pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Memphis vs. Seton Hall, 730pm (ESPNU)
  • Pepperdine @ New Mexico State, 930pm (ESPN FC)
  • North Carolina @ UC-Santa Barbara, 10pm (ESPNU)
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Top Ten Games Of The Week (November 17-23)

Posted by Zach on November 17, 2008

The first week of the college hoops season was filled mostly with low-majors attempting to pull off miraculous upsets or two of the top mid-majors in the country doing battle. I’m not saying it was a snoozer seven days; there were certainly a fair share of thrilling games and nail biting finishes for the debut week of the season. But this week we start getting into the meat of November and the preseason tournaments. It’s not quite Old Spice/Maui time yet, but these matchups should keep your plate filled until Thanksgiving break.

1. Coaches vs. Cancer Semis/Finals (November 20, 21, ESPN2)
– I made the dire mistake last week of assuming Houston would beat Georgia Southern and advance to play Duke, so rather than place Duke vs. UCLA as my #1 game, I’ll lump the entire tournament together as my number one game. The semis are both very intriguing with Southern Illinois playing the mid-major that everyone will be rooting for to topple big bad Duke. In the second game, Michigan will need another virtuoso performance from Manny Harris to take down UCLA and their deep, talented squad. Seeing as Rhode Island nearly won at Cameron Sunday, it’d be foolish to write Duke-UCLA in pen. But I’d be shocked if you didn’t see that beautiful matchup Friday night at the Garden. Prediction: Duke 70, UCLA 66 in final

2. Puerto Rico Tip-Off (November 20-23, ESPNU/ESPN2)
– Plenty of quality contests in Puerto Rico beginning on Thursday with Missouri taking on Xavier in the afternoon in what should be a very close game. The winner of that gets to take on Virginia Tech Friday afternoon. On the other side of the bracket, Memphis should defeat Chattanooga while USC will likely handle Seton Hall, setting up an Evans vs. DeRozan battle on Friday night between two very athletic teams. The final could feature any of these teams on Sunday on ESPN. You know the tournament is strong when I’m looking forward to the consolation game, as well. Prediction: USC 75, Virginia Tech 69 in final

3. Paradise Jam Semifinals (November 23, FCS Pacific)
– Assuming we avoid some stunning upset like Southern Miss over Miami, the semis at the Paradise Jam on Sunday night should be Miami vs. Connecticut and San Diego vs. Wisconsin. You’re wondering the same thing I am: why are the two best teams in the tournament on the same side of the bracket? Maybe a nod of respect to Bo Ryan and his recent success in Madison. Regardless, Miami-Connecticut is a battle of top-15 caliber teams featuring Jack McClinton trying to score over Hasheem Thabeet, while San Diego nearly beat UNLV on the road with four key players suspended, so don’t count them out against the Badgers. Prediction: Connecticut vs. Wisconsin final

4. #21 Davidson at #12 Oklahoma (November 18, ESPN2)
– The premiere matchup of the College Hoops Tip-Off 24-hour marathon on the ESPN family is not Kentucky vs. North Carolina. The best game is Davidson vs. Oklahoma for a trip to New York. You all know what to expect from the Wildcats- plenty of Stephen Curry shooting threes. And we can all agree that’s not such a bad thing, right? Also not a bad thing: Watching Blake Griffin score and rebound in the post. Because I don’t see anyone containing my National Player of the Year pick, the Sooners advance. Also keep an eye on Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson trying to contain Curry for forty minutes. Prediction: Oklahoma 80, Davidson 72

5. Kentucky at #1 North Carolina (November 18, ESPN)
– Sure, this game has lost some of its luster. Kentucky is no longer a national powerhouse and lost Friday to VMI. North Carolina declared Tyler Hansbrough out for Tuesday’s contest. Still, College Gameday will be there, it’s a historic and entertaining rivalry, and we get to see great players like Pat Patterson and Wayne Ellington. So stop complaining. Why will North Carolina prevail? I expect Ty Lawson to exploit the Kentucky point guards and have a huge game. Prediction: North Carolina 83, Kentucky 70

6. UAB at Arizona (November 18, ESPN2)- The UAB Blazers are a dangerous team this year in Conference USA, folks. They feature an ultra-talented two headed monster in Paul Delaney and Robert Vaden and Mike Davis, for all of his past transgressions, is a fine basketball coach. They’ll travel to Tuscon fearless and primed for an upset over Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and the Wildcats. Unless Budinger asserts himself from the tip, I think an upset is very possible here, with Vaden showcasing his talents on national television much like he did last year in Freedom Hall. Prediction: UAB 69, Arizona 68

7. Nevada at San Diego (November 18, ESPN FC)
– This game isn’t part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, but it very well should be. I’ll certainly be flipping over to ESPN Full Court to watch freshman phenom Luke Babbitt lead the charge for Nevada into San Diego to take on Brandon Johnson, Gyno Pomare and the Torreros. Credit San Diego coach Bill Grier for scheduling so many top mid-majors early in the season; a victory over Nevada, a tournament team, could prove vital on Selection Sunday.  Prediction: San Diego 70, Nevada 67

8. #15 Arizona State at San Diego State (November 18, CBS College Sports)
– Yet another tremendous basketball game on Tuesday, this one possibly resulting in Upset City. The Aztecs return 96% of their scoring and 84% of their rebounding from last season under head coach Steve Fisher, led by stars Lorrenzo Wade and Marquette transfer Ryan Amoroso. Kyle Spain and Tim Shelton also boost an outstanding frontcourt, meaning Jeff Pendergraph is going to have his hands full. I’m calling this one, folks. Prediction: San Diego State 70, Arizona State 68

9. Massachusetts at #13 Memphis (November 17, ESPN)
– I’ll be staying up late to watch this one on ESPNHD, with John Calipari coaching against his former assistant (Derek Kellogg) and school (Massachusetts, whom he coached to prominence in the 90’s). This will be my first look at Tyreke Evans and his ability to run the point for the Tigers. Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris may be able to hang around with Memphis for a while, but the muscle of Taggart and Dozier down low will be too much to handle. Prediction: Memphis 84, Massachusetts 74

10. Illinois at Vanderbilt (November 20, ESPN FC)
– Both of these teams will likely end up in the NIT, but it’s still Big Ten vs. SEC in November, which means I’ll be tuning in. A.J. Ogilvy is one of the top players in the SEC while Chester Frazier and Robert Meachem lead the way for Bruce Weber’s Illini in a difficult road environment. If Demetri McCamey is shooting well from deep, Illinois has a chance.  Prediction: Vanderbilt 69, Illinois 64

Honorable Mention

  • Georgia at #11 Purdue (November 18)
  • Miami (OH) at #6 Pittsburgh (November 17)
  • Tennessee-Martin at #13 Tennessee (November 18)
  • Cleveland State at Washington (November 18)
  • Tulsa at Oklahoma State (November 20)
  • Vermont at Maryland (November 21)
  • UAB at Old Dominion (November 22)
  • VCU at Rhode Island (November 22)
  • Clemson at Charlotte (November 22)

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November 13: The Day After

Posted by Patrick on November 12, 2008

PATRICK: Here are some notes on the games that took place last night in the 2k Sports Classic:

Miami (OH) defeats Weber State in a close one: I guess this is a bit of an upset because Miami is traveling halfway across the country to play this game. Congratulations, now you get UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

Michigan wiped the floor with Northeastern: I thought this was going to be a much closer contest, but I was mistaken. Michigan dominated the second half of this game offensively and defensively. They forced Northeastern to put up bad shots and the Wolverines lived at the free throw line where they missed only 1 of 26 attempts.

Manny Harris- In my opinion, Harris is the frontrunner for Big Ten Player Of The Year; this kid has ridiculous game. 26 points and 10 rebounds tonight, and against a formidable opponent. It will be nice to see how he performs on the national stage at Madison Square Garden.

Michigan a Sleeper?- Just the fact that they have Manny Harris on their roster makes them a potential surprise in the Big Ten, but tonight some other players stepped it up. DeShawn Sims, a junior forward, scored 19 points, and fellow big man Zack Gibson had a great game as well. The Michigan coaching staff is saying that Laval-Lucas Perry (transfer from Arizona that will be eligible after the fall semester) is the “hardest player to stop in practice”. Unless Harris doesn’t practice, that’s saying a lot for this young man.

—————————————————————————

ZACH: I know this blog is quickly turning into the Manny Harris Fan Site, but I have to give my own tip of the cap to his performance against a quality mid-major opponent. The scoring total isn’t all that surprising given the potential of Harris, but 10 rebounds and 8 assists, too? Only a sophomore, Harris, as Pat so astutely pointed out, is the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year. Raymar Morgan still hasn’t shown me enough consistency to garner the favorite tag, the Purdue guys don’t put up the numbers, and Mullens is still TBD. I feel like Trevon Hughes can be a sleeper. No doubt it’s Harris at this early stage, though. The fashion in which he dominated scoring-wise while also keeping Sims, Gibson and others involved was a thing of beauty. Harris went 13-14 from the FT line, also. This is enough to give him the Horse Trailer for the second consecutive day!

A game I was really looking forward to seeing the result of was Southern Illinois vs. Massachusetts. How would the defensive-minded, slow-paced Saluki offense match up against the run-and-gun UMass scoring attack? The Minutemen led by 11 at half and Chris Lowery’s team was 0 for 8 from three. In the second half, Southern Illinois hit nine threes and Bryan Mullins finished with 13 assists. The 52 points SIU notched in the second frame has to be a high total for them in a long time.  Overall, not a great night for the commonwealth of Massachusetts. The dynamic backcourt trio of Lowe-Gurley-Harris combined for 56 of the 73 UMass points, but they ultimately fell 80-73 in Carbondale. Why did I pick against them at home??

The preseason top-five UCLA Bruins kicked off their season last night against Prairie View A&M, winning 82-58 and leading comfortably throughout. I wasn’t able to see any of this game, but I’m hoping to catch some UCLA-Miami (OH) action after the Patriots-Jets game tonight. Darren Collison led the way for the Bruins with 19 points, 4 assists and his usual solid defense. The freshmen: Morgan with 4, Gordon with 6, Holiday with 11.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Manny Harris, Michigan- 26 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 6-9 FG, 13-14 FT

Other quick notes as I peruse the box scores:

– Massachusetts point guard Chris Lowe committed a whopping 10 turnovers with zero assists last night. I know the Saluki defense is mauling, but coach Kellogg is going to need much more proficiency out of his point guard if he wants to win big A10 road games at Xavier, Charlotte and St. Joe’s

– Miami (OH) barely escaped on a late Kenny Hayes three to defeat Weber State, as Pat mentioned. Hayes actually hit all seven threes he attempted (no relation). Their matchup tonight should be catastrophically slow-paced until Darren Collison is racing up the floor with another steal. Miami was dominated on the boards, outshot, and nearly outplayed by Weber State. This can’t spell good fortunes for their matchup tonight if they had any upset thoughts.

UM Hoops and Rush the Court points out that Northeastern grabbed 20 offensive rebounds last night. Where art thou on the offensive boards, DeShawn Sims? They’ll need to improve on the glass or the Big Ten won’t be happy times.

Tonight on the tube: Miami (OH) vs. UCLA- 11 PM ET (ESPNU)

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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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