Patrick Marshall of White and Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Creighton (24-6, 14-4)
- Northern Iowa (23-6, 13-5)
- Wichita St. (23-8, 12-6)
- Southern Illinois (21-8, 12-6)
- Illinois St. (23-7, 11-7)
- Bradley (19-10, 10-8)
- Indiana St. (17-13, 8-10)
- Drake (13-18, 5-13)
- Evansville (10-19, 3-15)
- Missouri St. (9-21, 2-16)
All-Conference Team. This is a guard laden league which will populate the Missouri Valley All-Conference team this season.
- Kevin Dillard (G), So., Southern Illinois ( 12.2 pts., 4.2 ast.)—The bright spot for Southern Illinois last season is a tenacious ball handler and defender.
- Clevin Hannah (G), Sr., Wichita St. (11.2 pts. 4.3 ast.)—Hannah comes in as the leader for the Shockers which will make some noise this season.
- Osiris Eldridge (G), Sr., Illinois St. (14 pts, 6 reb.)–Last season he had Champ Oguchi as a security blanket and kept him from trying to take over the game himself. His all around game development will probably garner him Conference Player of the Year honors.
- Justin Carter (G), Sr., Creighton (8.1 pts, 5.5 reb.)—Over the summer, Carter has emerged as the leader of the Bluejays.
- Adam Koch (F), Sr., Northern Iowa (12.1 pts., 5.1 reb.)—Koch was a solid player last season to help lead the Panthers to the conference championship and will get the opportunity again as the team returns pretty much everyone.
6th Man. Jake Kelly (G), Jr., Indiana St. (Transfer from Iowa)—Jake got a surprise this fall as the NCAA allowed him to be an active player on the Sycamore team instead of having to sit out a year like transfers usually must. Due to the death of his mother, Kelly returned home to Indiana last season and announced he was transferring to Indiana St. Getting immediate eligibility will solidify the backcourt for the Sycamores.
Impact Newcomer. Wayne Runnels (F), Jr., Creighton—Wayne was an all around sports star in high school and could have probably played any sport he wanted to. He decided on basketball. The JC transfer will make an immediate impact for the Bluejays.
What You Need to Know. For several years, the Missouri Valley Conference was a multiple bid conference for the NCAA Tournament, but the runs by Wichita St. and Bradley to the Sweet 16 in 2006 seem like a distant memory. The past two seasons, the MVC has only managed to get their one automatic bid into The Dance. Drake went in 2008 and Northern Iowa went last season. Both teams won the regular season title and conference tournament. Although Creighton shared the regular season championship with the Panthers last season, the Bluejays were on the outside looking in for the 2nd straight year while Southern Illinois had their first losing season in 10 years. Considering the unexpected the last two seasons, things may be returning back to the norm this winter. Casual fans of the conference may see familiar names at the top this season as Creighton, Southern Illinois and Wichita St. will be in the mix, while last season’s champion Northern Iowa returns almost everyone to a team that surprised everyone by the time conference play rolled around. Illinois State has risen toward the top the past couple of seasons and although they again have Player of the Year candidate Osiris Eldridge in the lineup, the supporting cast may not be enough this season to keep them there.
Predicted Champion. Creighton Bluejays (NCAA Seed: #9)—There are so many teams that believe they will be the best this season, but Creighton will slip to the top. Creighton worked it’s way back up to the top of the league down the stretch last season winning 11 of the last 12 regular season games before getting embarrassed by Illinois St. in the MVC Conference Tournament semifinals. Yes, Creighton lost MVC POY Booker Woodfox. Yes, Creighton lost four year starting PG Josh Dotzler. Yes, emerging big man Kenton Walker transferred. Those are definitely big holes to fill. But the returning core includes senior Justin Carter who was a JUCO transfer a year ago and by the second half of the season became comfortable and dominated the boards. He has appeared to take a leadership role over the summer. P’Allen Stinnett is fun to watch and it will be important to see if he has matured enough to also be a leader. Antoine Young emerged as the guy to lead the point for the Bluejays, but watch out for Andrew Bock to settle in as the Dotzler type of point guard Coach Dana Altman is used to and to utilize Young’s skills in his ability to drive to the basket at the off guard spot. The question mark is the inside game where Kenny Lawson is the only real veteran returning to the post position. Chad Millard is a little out of position in the post, but is the next tallest player on the team. Wayne Runnels comes in from the JUCO ranks and is expected to make an impact right away to help a team that ranked last in the Valley last season in rebound margin. A couple other players on the roster are expected to step up on a team that likes to rotate players constantly leaving the opening for others to make plays. Creighton also has the potential to have the best non-conference schedule in the league which will give them a little more wiggle room whether they win the conference or not.