MVC trivia: Who is the only man to coach eight or more Valley seasons without finishing second or better? Bradley’s Jim Les, who enters his ninth season in Peoria with fourth-place finishes in 2007 and 2009 his high marks.
I’ve got more: Who are the only MVC coaches to coach eight or more seasons without winning a title? Les, Bradley’s Joe Stowell (13 seasons), Missouri State’s Barry Hinson (nine) and Tulsa’s Joe Swank (eight). Stowell and Hinson each came in second four times; Swank once. Twenty-four coaches own eight or more MVC seasons.
That doesn’t tell the whole story of Les’ time at Bradley. He went to the Sweet 16 in 2006, won a game in the 2007 NIT and played in the CBI championship series in 2008. Braves fans will have to decide if that’s enough. Bradley appears to be a program with the resources, fan support, recruiting grounds and tradition to be more of a factor in the MVC race.
Les’ teams always play good schedules – probably the best in the MVC in recent years. They are entertaining and they win at least a few more than they lose. None of those trends seem likely to change this season. The Braves are loaded at guard with gritty, gutty Sam Maniscalco and smooth Andrew Warren back. Senior guard Dodie Dunson is healthy after missing last season with a broken arm. Guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards was one of the MVC’s better freshmen. Forward Taylor Brown is one of the MVC’s more talented players, and also one of the most unreliable. The Braves need Brown to be more consistent and junior center Will Egolf to take a full step forward to move up in the standings.
1. Is Sam Singh still on the roster?
No. After six injury-plagued seasons, Singh exhausted his ineligibility. Somebody else will set bone-jarring picks.
2. Can Brown show up for work each day?
It’s time. Bradley needs him. Brown averaged 13.5 points and 6.9 rebounds as a sophomore. In 17 conference games, he averaged 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. He also missed four games, including one at Wichita State, by displeasing Les. That can’t continue, or an All-MVC talent will go to waste.
3. Will the Braves remember the defensive lessons of 2009-10?
Bradley started the MVC schedule 1-4 and allowed 80 or more points in three of those losses. The Braves rebounded with three straight wins, holding opponents to 56, 55 and 64 points. They gave up 80-plus once the rest of the season. The Braves will score plenty. Their issue is defending and rebounding, especially against teams with post scorers.