College basketball season is finally upon us. Everyone’s undefeated, and every team’s goals are still intact. So, too, are prognosticators’ picks for which teams will do what in 2010-2011.
Last year, we at White & Blue Review threw our collective hat in the ring and published our preseason picks for the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball season. We picked the top four teams correctly, albeit with Wichita State finishing 2nd instead of 4th and the Creighton Bluejays swapping those spots with the Shox. And hey, we hit on our Evansville pick, too!
So, let’s try this again. Tuesday is Missouri Valley Conference Media Day, and the day when the preseason polls and all-Valley selections will be made public. But we don’t need to travel to St. Louis to know who is going to win the league. To the picks!
|Wichita State||58 (4)|
|Missouri State||49 (1)|
A majority of the WBR staff thinks Wichita State will win the Valley this season, and with good reason. The Shockers are led by seemingly an entire roster of returning players, including Toure’ Murry, JT Durley, and Graham Hatch. Sure, they have to replace point guard Clevin Hannah, but there are enough veteran pieces on Gregg Marshall’s team to stem the tide until a floor leader emerges.
Creighton and Missouri State also received single first place votes from WBR writers. Greg McDermott faces expectations as a first year head coach that may be higher than in some other situations, simply because the cupboards on the Hilltop aren’t bare and he knows the MVC well. As a result, we at WBR expect the Bluejays to be contenders right away under McDermott (shocker). But the Bears will be one of a handful of teams that challenge for the top spot, too, as Cuonzo Martin returns all of his starters from last season, and their seven top scorers. Plus, MSU has momentum heading into this season after winning the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament last year. Right?
As for the rest of the league, we at WBR chose Northern Iowa, Bradley, and Drake as the next tier of teams. Usual suspects Indiana State and Evansville gravitate toward the bottom of our preseason poll, but so does Southern Illinois, an interesting case. One writer picked SIU to finish 4th in the league, while another writer chose them to finish dead last. One thing’s for sure: Chris Lowery faces a critical year in Carbondale.
Preseason All-Valley Team
We at WBR also selected our All-MVC first team:
G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State*
G: Sam Maniscalco, Bradley
G: Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa
F: Kyle Weems, Missouri State
C: Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton
*Player of the Year
It was pretty easy for us to come to a near consensus for this year’s preseason first team. And Murry, the electric swingman from WSU, was a unanimous player of the year pick. Maniscalco edged out last year’s Freshman of the Year Colt Ryan of Evansville and Creighton’s Antoine Young and Gregory Echenique.
Newcomer of the Year
Sure, we may be biased, but it isn’t hard to imagine a Valley season this year during which Gregory Echenique is the most important and best performing newcomer in the conference. Echenique will become eligible right before conference play begins, and he is expected to partner with Lawson to create a formidable force in the Bluejays frontcourt. His history of play in the Big East alone raised some eyebrows and it will be interesting to see what he does in The Valley. The lone dissenting vote in this category was cast in favor of highly touted Rayvonte Rice at Drake. With Bulldogs head coach Mark Phelps’ last two recruiting classes tops in the MVC, it wouldn’t be a surprise that one of his new players will make the greatest impact.
After the down season last year, Bluejays fans are ready for a rebound. We at WBR also have high expectations for this year’s team. No one on our staff picked the Bluejays to win less than 22 games, with predictions anywhere between 22-9 and 26-5. In conference play, the predictions ranged between 12-6 and 14-4.
Averaged out, as a group we see McDermott’s first Creighton team going 24-7 in the regular season and 13-5 in MVC play.
Where are we wrong? Can Wichita State succeed as a frontrunner? Can an experienced Creighton team make a run?