Missouri Valley Conference Preview: Wichita State stays the favorite even amid new era

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
0 Comments

Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Missouri Valley Conference.

It’s the end of an era in the Valley with the graduation of Wichita State’s Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, but it doesn’t look like the end of the Shockers’ reign atop the league. Coach Gregg Marshall is the constant and Wichita State figures once again to be ahead of the league once March rolls around, especially with sophomore Markis McDuffie around to run the conference ragged.

Wichita State also returns Connor Frankamp, the former top 50 recruit and Kansas player, who should be ready to step into a larger role in the back court, while Landry Shamet should be healthy after missing last season. Bet against Marshall at your own risk.

The Shockers won’t be without competition, however. Northern Iowa and Illinois State both look like serious contenders to the crown. The Panthers, whose epic collapse in the second round cost them a Sweet 16 trip, may be without last year’s senior trio of Paul Jesperson, Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun, but wing Jeremy Morgan might be the best player in the conference and Klint Carlson figures to take a step forward to make UNI a problem for the rest of the league.

The Redbirds’ duo of Paris Lee and MiKyle McIntosh is one of the strongest in the Valley, and in total, they return three double-figure scorers and four starters from a team that finished tied for second in the league last season.

Missouri State returns four starters in a league that will be short on experience, making the Bears an interesting team compared to the rest of the conference. Coach Paul Lusk has two double-digit scorers back in Dequon Miller (12.7 ppg) and Chris Hendrix (12.1 ppg) for one of the better one-two punches in the Valley.

It’ll be interesting to see how Evansville moves on from D.J. Valentine and Egidijus Mockevicius era as those two were major cogs in the Purple Aces’ attack the last two seasons, when they won 25 and 24 games. Jaylon Brown is back after averaging 10.8 points and 2.8 assists per game last season. Southern Illinois will also be competitive. They won 20 games and finished 11-7 in the MVC a season ago and return three starters.

Indiana State (Brenton Scott) and Loyola-Chicago (Milton Doyle) both have potential first-team all-MVC performers that look stuck on bottom-half teams.

As a whole, the MVC will be in a year of transition, but it’ll be competitive at the top and one of the more interesting mid-major league races to monitor throughout the winter as the conference tries to dethrone the Shockers after a dominating three-year run.

MORE: 2016-17 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON MVC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Morgan, Northern Iowa

The Panther senior averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 48.5 percent from the floor and 40.7 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-5 wing will take over a huge role for UNI with the graduations of Paul Jesperson, Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON MVC TEAM:

  • Markis McDuffie, Wichita State:The post-Baker and VanVleet era is in good hands in last year’s conference freshman of the year.
  • Brenton Scott, Indiana State: The junior is the only returning player among last season’s first- and second-team all-conference selections after averaging 14.9 ppg.
  • Paris Lee, Illinois State: Lee is a capable offensive player, but his real talent is on the defensive end of the floor.
  • Reed Timmer, Drake: The Bulldogs’ hope of moving up the conference standings will rest on Timmer’s shoulders.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @ValleyHoops

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Wichita State
2. Northern Iowa
3. Illinois State
4. Missouri State
5. Indiana State
6. Southern Illinois
7. Loyola
8. Evansville
9. Drake
10. Bradley