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Missouri Valley Teams: Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Wichita State, Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State
The Missouri Valley Conference had only one team make it to the NCAA tournament in both the 2008-2009 and 2007-2008 seasons. Prior to that, they had multiple bids over a stretch nearly a decade long. The Missouri Valley could be on the upswing this season. Missouri Valley teams return 35 starters, 18 of 30 top scorers, and half of their rebounders. Expect both the up-and-coming and the “top dogs” to struggle, as most teams in the conference have one thing in common: They’re all getting better.
Read on for a brief 2009-2010 season preview and conference record prediction for each basketball team in the Missouri Valley Conference. Standings/Predictions are listed at the end of the conference preview.
Missouri Valley Regular Season Champions: Northern Iowa, Creighton
Missouri Valley Tournament Champions: Northern Iowa
2008-2009 Record: 21-15, 10-8
After 17 wins, the Braves were invited to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. In what was an exciting run, they beat Austin Peay, Oakland, and Pacific. They lost their fourth one to Old Dominion, 66-62. They finished 4th in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bradley is hoping that their recent deep tournament runs are only stepping stones to bigger and better things. They haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006. Bradley is excited to welcome back Will Egolf (injured in his sophomore year, granted a 6th year of eligibility), and Andrew Warren who missed last season with a foot injury. Warren joins what might be one of the best backcourts in the country.
Predicted Conference Record: 10-8
2008-2009 Record: 27-8, 14-4
Creighton found itself in the NIT after losing out on an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The Bluejays, with 26 wins racked up before selection, were likely skipped over due to scheduling. They beat Bowling Green in a close one, then lost to Kentucky to end their postseason. They got back to work right away. Creighton will see some tougher non-conference opponents. With the right wins, they’ll be able to prove themselves capable of playing in a larger tournament. Josh Dotzler, Kenton Walker, and Booker Woodfox will be among Creighton’s losses. Talented newcomers, 2 junior transfers, and a decent amount of returning experience should be enough to get the Bluejays back to the NCAA Tournament.
Predicted Conference Record: 15-3
2008-2009 Record: 17-16, 7-11
Drake went 17-16 last year, but the record doesn’t tell the real story. Four of their losses were in the final seconds. They tied for 8th in the conference, but managed to beat Creighton and Northern Iowa on the road. They were invited to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament but lost a close one to Idaho in the first round. Among the returning talent is Josh Young. Young finished third in the league in scoring last season. Starters Craig Stanley and Adam Templeton also return. Some excellent talent, and a top-notch recruiting class, has got Bulldogs’ fans talkin’.
Predicted Conference Record: 8-10
2008-2009 Record: 17-14, 8-10
The Purple Aces finished with 17 wins last season, which gave them their first winning record since 2000. They received an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but lost to Belmont by 16 points right away. Evansville fans aren’t happy to know that the Purple Aces lose more players than any other team in the Missouri Valley Conference. They lose 3 seniors with a combined 41.3 points per game. Starting guard Kaylon Williams, who led the conference in assists, transferred. Coach Simmons will have to rely on less experienced players to fill the starting roles. Expect to wait another year or two before Evansville has another winning season.
Predicted Conference Record: 3-15
2008-2009 Record: 24-10, 11-7
The Redbirds finished 3rd in the Missouri Valley Conference last year, but came very close to beating Northern Iowa for the conference tournament championship. They fell short of making the NCAA Tournament again, but received an invitation to the NIT. They lost to Kansas State in the first round. After a somewhat disappointing season end, Illinois State fans are generally optimistic. Osiris Eldridge returns for another year of college ball. Eldridge is arguably one of the best players in the Missouri Valley. Still, three key losses will make it difficult for the Redbirds to end the NCAA Tournament drought.
Predicted Conference Record: 11-7
2008-2009 Record: 11-21, 7-11
Although the Sycamores ended their season with only 11 wins, they’re feeling pretty good about how they finished. Indiana State won 7 of their last 9 games. One of the losses was to Northern Iowa in the conference tournament, and only by 4 points. Four out of five starters return for the 2009-2010 season. The one that doesn’t, Jay Tunnell with 12.5 ppg, will be severely missed. Indiana State might be a sleeper team in the Missouri Valley. If their last 9 games were any indication of how they will play this season, expect Indiana State to finish closer towards the top of the conference this year. At a minimum, they’ll manage to balance out their record with a few more wins.
Predicted Conference Record: 8-8
2008-2009 Record: 11-20, 3-15
Coach Martin got off to a rough start in his first year as a head coach last season. It was the Bears’ worst Division I record. They finished last in the conference just one year after winning 8. A turnaround this season won’t be likely with the Bears losing 3 of their top 4 scorers. Fortunately, the starters returning are valuable and so are the newcomers. National JC player Nafis Ricks joins the squad with 17.2 average points per game. Expect a lot of in-team competition as players try to prove themselves game-time worthy. This will be another rebuilding year for the Bears, but one that should lead to a better 2010-2011 season.
Predicted Conference Record: 4-14
2008-2009 Record: 23-11, 14-4
Northern Iowa tied Creighton for the regular season title and won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament for the first time. They played and lost to Purdue in their first and last 2009 NCAA Tournament. It was a significant turnaround after a 17-13 (9-9) campaign the season prior. Luckily for the Panthers, nearly everybody returns. Northern Iowa is starting the season as most people’s conference favorite. It won’t be easy for them to finish #1 two years in a row. This season, unlike last, the Panthers have targets painted on their backs.
Predicted Conference Record: 13-5
2008-2009 Record: 13-18, 8-10
Last year wasn’t easy for the Salukis. They only won 8 conference games and failed to make a postseason appearance for the first time since 2001. Two words sum up the Salukis’ 2008-2009 season: Injuries and inexperience. While still a relatively young team, Southern Illinois could see a quick turnaround if everything goes right. They’re already healthier and more experienced.
Predicted Conference Record: 8-10
2008-2009 Record: 17-17, 8-10
Coach Marshall has done a lot in his first two years just to keep Wichita State afloat. He has had to deal with poor depth, injuries, and inexperience. They won 17 games overall and tied for fifth in the conference last year. The Shockers started to look caught up about mid-season last year. They went 9-4 in their last 13 games. The only ones they lost were on the road. They return 8 of their top ten scorers this season. The Shockers should find themselves in a postseason tournament with the potential of ending up in the top 3 of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Predicted Conference Record: 10-8
Missouri Valley Conference Standings Prediction for the 2009-2010 Season:
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