Paul Suellentrop looks at the Missouri Valley

11/02/2013 10:00 AM

08/06/2014 8:50 AM

1.Wichita State

Coach: Gregg Marshall

2012-13: 30-9, 12-6 MVC

Star power: F Cleanthony Early made himself a national name with 24 points and 10 rebounds in the national semifinal vs. Louisville. With a strong season, he can move up the NBA draft rankings.

On the bright side: WSU’s biggest obstacle to winning the MVC Tournament is gone with Creighton’s departure to the Big East.

Compelled to mention: The Shockers lack the experienced backups that helped them survive a series of injuries last season. There is no Demetric Williams or Ehimen Orukpe to help out in an emergency.

Come mid-March: The Shockers expect to be waiting for their NCAA Tournament destination after cutting down nets in St. Louis.

2. Indiana State

Coach: Greg Lansing

2012-13: 18-15, 9-9 MVC

Star power: G Jake Odum woke up Sycamore basketball in 2011 when he sparked Indiana State to the NCAA Tournament. He wants to finish his senior season the same way.

On the bright side: The Sycamores return eight players with starting experience. With four seniors, they are built to survive the Valley’s 18-game schedule and give it a run in St. Louis.

Compelled to mention: The Sycamores aren’t great outside shooting team (32.1 percent last season) and lost R.J. Mahurin (33.9 percent) to transfer.

Come mid-March: The Sycamores will spend most of the season on the bubble before settling for a second consecutive NIT.

3. Bradley

Coach: Geno Ford

2012-13: 18-17, 7-11 MVC

Star power: G Walt Lemon Jr. averaged 15.6 points last season and should be more effective with better talent surrounding him.

On the bright side: Four transfers should give the Braves more depth and more athletic ability. Ford gets the Braves to play hard and this program appears to be on the right track.

Compelled to mention: Bradley hasn’t finished above .500 in the MVC since 2009.

Come mid-March: An NIT bid gives Ford another nice step in his rebuilding process.

4. Northern Iowa

Coach: Ben Jacobson

2012-13: 21-15, 11-7 MVC

Star power: F Seth Tuttle averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. He needs to be more assertive on offense as a junior.

On the bright side: The addition of transfer G Wes Washpun, from Tennessee, should add athletic ability to the roster. Freshman center Ted Friedman is 6-foot-9, 230 pounds and started UNI’s exhibition game. The Panthers need size and he may be ready to contribute.

Compelled to mention: The Panthers appear to lack inside scoring, unless a newcomer steps up.

Come mid-March: Northern Iowa could give the MVC a third NIT team if the newcomers produce as expected.

5. Missouri State

Coach: Paul Lusk

2012-13: 11-22, 7-11 MVC

Star power: G Marcus Marshall, the MVC Freshman of the Year, averaged 11.5 points and played showed no fear as a rookie.

On the bright side: F Jarmar Gulley is back after missing 2012-13 last season with a knee injury. He averaged 10.4 points in 2011-12.

Compelled to mention: The Bears are counting on newcomers to solve defensive and rebounding problems from last season. Freshman Tyler McCullough, a 6-foot-11 center, is a key addition. He started an exhibition win over McKendree (Ill.) and blocked six shots and grabbed seven rebounds.

Come mid-March: MSU is a year away from challenging for the NIT. Lusk will be happy with one of the lesser tournaments.

6. Evansville

Coach: Marty Simmons

2012-13: 21-15, 10-8 MVC

Star power: G Charles Balentine is a good shooter who averaged 8.1 points. With Colt Ryan gone, the scoring burden shifts to him.

On the bright side: The Aces have some height and sophomore C Egidijus Mockevicius is a legitimate scorer and shot-blocker. Blake Simmons, son of the coach, is a scorer who will try to repeat the McDermott success story.

Compelled to mention: The loss of Ryan and two other starting guards will test Evansville’s ability to run its motion offense.

Come mid-March: Evansville will take a winning record and any postseason tournament that is available.

7. Southern Illinois

Coach: Barry Hinson

2012-13: 14-17, 6-12 MVC

Star power: G Desmar Jackson survived a year of turmoil with Hinson. If he can focus on basketball and stay straight off the court, he is a potential All-MVC talent.

On the bright side: Things have to get better for the Salukis in Hinson’s second season. SIU finished 2013 strong, including a win over WSU.

Compelled to mention: The Salukis will play small out of necessity again. Only two players are bigger than 6-foot-7.

Come mid-March: Hinson will have plenty of recruiting time to add more talent for his third season.

8. Drake

Coach: Ray Giacoletti

2012-13: 15-17, 7-11 MVC

Star power: C Seth VanDeest is the only recognizable name remaining after a coaching change. He averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds and should improve in his second season after missing 2011-12 with shoulder injuries.

On the bright side: Giacolletti left a job at Gonzaga to come to Drake. That must mean something good for long-suffering Bulldogs fans.

Compelled to mention: Five of Drake’s top seven scorers are gone, including MVC All-Freshman team forward Joey King, who transferred to Minnesota.

Come mid-March: Giacoletti will continue revamping the roster and trying to figure out how Keno Davis did it in 2008, Drake’s most recent MVC title.

9. Loyola

Coach: Porter Moser

2012-13: 15-16, 5-11 Horizon League

Star power: F Christian Thomas is the Loyola’s foundation. He averaged 12.1 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore.

On the bright side: G Milton Doyle started his career at Kansas and gives Moser a high-quality athlete to build around.

Compelled to mention: Loyola doesn’t have a scholarship senior on the roster.

Come mid-March: Armed with a season in the MVC, Moser can recruit knowing what to expect.

10. Illinois State

Coach: Dan Muller

2012-13: 18-15, 8-10

Star power: G Bobby Hunter, a transfer from Santa Fe (Fla.) College averaged 25.2 points and earned NJCAA All-American honors.

On the bright side: Muller improved the non-conference schedule with games against VCU, Dayton and DePaul.

Compelled to mention: That schedule appears overwhelming for a team with two returners, both sophomores. The Redbirds are in a messy transition after four players transferred and one was kicked off the team.

Come mid-March: Muller will be happy to put this season behind him.

Paul Suellentrop

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