Coach: Greg McDermott, 23-10 in one season
2010-11: 23-10, 10-8 MVC; CBI runnerup
Star power: F Doug McDermott (14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds), G Antoine Young (13.1 points, 5.0 assists), C Gregory Echenique (10.5 points, 5.8 rebounds)
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Remember this name: G Grant Gibbs, a transfer from Gonzaga, gives the Bluejays an experienced wing who can pass and help Young run the offense.
Glass half full: The Bluejays make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 with McDermott as MVC Player of the Year. Young leads the MVC in assist-to-turnover ratio for a third straight season and freshman G Austin Chatman plays well as a reserve to cut Young's minutes.
Glass half empty: Creighton misses the luxury of bringing a 6-foot-9 Kenny Lawson off the bench. Echenique is over-worked and foul-prone because Creighton's young big men aren't ready.
Come mid-March: The Bluejays expect to be preparing for the NCAA Tournament. There is no guarantee a non-conference schedule highlighted by UAB, Iowa and San Diego State will be strong enough for an at-large spot.
2. Wichita State
Coach: Gregg Marshall, 82-55 in four seasons
2010-11: 29-8, 14-4 MVC, NIT champion
Star power: G Toure Murry (9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds), C Garrett Stutz (7.2 points, 35 rebounds), G David Kyles (9.3 points, 39.5 percent three-point shooting)
Remember this name: F James Anacreon. The junior-college transfer didn't go to Brazil for exhibition games and missed preseason practices with injuries and family matters. It may take him longer than other newcomers to get up to speed, but he needs to be a productive part of the rotation by February. He can add depth to a front-court that figures to need bodies.
Glass half full: Experienced guards give the big men time to mature and by January the Shockers resemble the deep team that won the NIT last season. Stutz plays up to his potential, earns All-MVC honors and carries the Shockers to a conference title.
Glass half empty: A tough non-conference schedule takes its toll on the Shockers, leaving them to decide their fate in St. Louis. Foul trouble keeps Stutz and C Ehimen Orukpe on the bench and the newcomers aren't ready to win on the road.
Come mid-March: The home-heavy non-conference schedule should help WSU build an NCAA resume. WSU came close the past two seasons. This season, it gets the breaks and makes the 68-team field.
3. Indiana State
Coach: Greg Lansing, 20-14 in one season
2010-11: 20-14, 12-6 MVC, NCAA first round
Star power: G Jake Odum (9.3 points, 4.1 assists), F Carl Richard (9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds), G Dwayne Lathan (10.9 points, 4.6 rebounds)
Remember this name: C Jake Kitchell, a 6-foot-10 freshman, is the best bet to give the Sycamores inside depth. He redshirted last season.
Glass half full: Odum continues to grow, adding range to his shot and becomes a better defender. C Myles Walker cuts down his fouls and gets some help from young big men to make the Sycamores an MVC contender. Best of all, Lathan plays an injury-free season and makes All-MVC.
Glass half empty: Opponents are ready for the Sycamores and Odum's drive-and-dish game. A lack of size again hurts and the Sycamores can't recapture the magic of last season.
Come mid-March: Indiana State hasn't been to the NIT since 1978. Unless the Sycamores roll through the Old Spice Classic in November, they will need another big run in the MVC Tournament to return to the NCAAs.
4. Northern Iowa
Coach: Ben Jacobson, 109-57 in five seasons
2010-11: 20-14, 10-8 MVC, CIT
Star power: G Anthony James (12.4 points, 41.3 percent three-point shooting), F Jake Koch (9.8 points, 5.0 rebounds), G Johnny Moran (9.6 points, 3.2 rebounds)
Remember this name: Injuries are giving F Seth Tuttle a chance to play big minutes as a freshman. He started, playing 19 minutes and scoring nine points, in UNI's exhibition win over Northern (S.D.) State.
Glass half full: Freshman G Deon Mitchell helps Moran run the team and frees up James to score big. Koch improves his post scoring and the Panthers come from the shadows to finish third.
Glass half empty: The defensive slump that ruined last season continues with an inexperienced group of big men. Without Kwadzo Ahelegbe, the perimeter defense suffers and James is forced to handle the ball too much.
Come mid-March: Northern Iowa will gear up for a run in St. Louis and they are capable. The NIT is a good landing spot for a team with one senior and a seven players with a redshirt season with more to come. Next season, expect even bigger things from the Panthers.
Coach: Marty Simmons, 51-72 in four seasons
2010-11: 16-16, 9-9 MVC, CBI
Star power: G Colt Ryan (15.7 points, 87.4 free-throw shooting), F Denver Holmes (7.8 points, 40.7 percent three-point shooting)
Remember this name: Sophomore G Jordan Jahr didn't start a game last season and averaged 9.7 minutes. By the end of the season, however, Jahr showed the ability to contribute. He scored 13 points against Hofstra in the College Basketball Invitational, 10 points in a February game against Creighton and 16 in a late-January game against Indiana State.
Glass half full: Simmons cobbles together an inside game as new faces step up to help F Kenneth Harris. Ryan and Holmes continue to set the tone by playing hard and the Aces find enough scoring to finish third.
Glass half empty: The lack of height puts too much burden on Ryan. The lack of scoring punch puts too much burden on the defense. The result is another finish in the bottom half of the MVC.
Come mid-March: Expect to see the Aces back in another one of minor postseason tournaments. With their top four scorers back and a favorable home schedule, Evansville can't afford to take a step back.
6. Missouri State
Coach: Paul Lusk, first season
2010-11: 26-9, 15-3 MVC, NIT
Star power: F Kyle Weems (16 points, 6.9 rebounds), G Nathan Scheer (4.1 points, 1.8 rebounds)
Remember this name: Senior G Michael Bizoukas, a transfer from DePaul, handed out 16 assists in MSU's two exhibition games with two turnovers. His job is getting the ball to Weems, and he understands.
Glass half full: Weems carries the Bears back into the upper division with another superb season. Senior C Caleb Patterson rebounds and defends like a 7-footer and Scheer thrives in a more prominent scoring role. G Jarmar Gulley provides a second scorer to help Weems.
Glass half empty: The loss of four starters is too much for an inexperienced coach and losing frustrates Weems. Teams relish the chance to beat the defending champs, and the Bears sink from first to the play-in round in St. Louis.
Come mid-March: Weems makes the Bears dangerous on most nights, but a challenging non-conference schedule (five road games, home dates with Oklahoma State and Tulsa) dooms MSU to a losing record.
7. Illinois State
Coach: Tim Jankovich, 83-50 in four seasons
2010-11: 12-19, 4-14 MVC
Star power: F Jackie Carmichael (9.8 points, 5.4 rebounds)
Remember this name: G Tyler Brown, a junior transfer, averaged 21.1 points at Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College. The Redbirds desperately need offense after averaging 61.1 points last season and Brown should help.
Glass half full: A young front-court matures and Brown and G Darious Clark, also a juco transfer, juice up the offense. Carmichael, a junior, takes the next step forecast for him to become an All-MVC force at power forward. Jankovich shores up point guard with freshman Nic Moore, runner-up for Mr. Indiana Basketball, and returner Anthony Cousin improves in his second season.
Glass half empty: The Redbirds continue to shoot poorly (31 percent from three-point range) and the newcomers aren't ready to play defense in the MVC. Cousin and Moore struggle at point, causing front-court talent to go to waste.
Come mid-March: The Redbirds will be a dangerous team by February and go into the offseason convinced 2012-13 will be a big year. There isn't a senior on the roster.
8. Southern Illinois
Coach: Chris Lowery, 137-93 in seven seasons
2010-11: 13-19, 5-13 MVC
Star power: F Mamadou Seck (10.8 points, 8.1 rebounds), G Justin Bocot (6.2 points, 2.3 rebounds)
Remember this name: F Dantiel Daniels started SIU's first exhibition game and scored 11 points while grabbing seven rebounds.
Glass half full: Lowery's purge of talents who didn't play defense finally pays off and the Salukis resemble their great teams of recent years with plenty of floor burns. Bocot shakes off injuries to give SIU a scorer. Transfers Jeff Early and T.J. Lindsey, both from Monroe (N.Y.) College, give Lowery the ball-handling and defense he missed in recent seasons in the backcourt.
Glass half empty: SIU is too reliant on first-year players and the losses mount while the crowds disappear from SIU Arena. By February, it's obvious Lowery's job is in danger and problems build.
Come mid-March: SIU will be happy to avoid the play-in round at the MVC Tournament. Lowery is trying to patch together a competitive team with nine newcomers. Only Bocot has been at SIU more than two seasons.
Coach: Mark Phelps, 43-53 in three seasons
2010-11: 13-18, 7-11 MVC
Star power: G Rayvonte Rice (13.8 points, 4.8 rebounds), F Ben Simons (8.1 points, 42 percent three-point shooting)
Remember this name: G Kurt Alexander struggled (53 assists to 55 turnovers) at point guard last season as a junior transfer. With Ryan Wedel and Frank Wiseler gone, Drake is counting on a better effort from Alexander.
Glass half full: C Seth VanDeest recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum in time for MVC play and his return energizes the Bulldogs. Rice improves his shot selection and cuts down on turnovers to lead Drake into the upper division. Kraidon Woods and Jordan Clarke combine for 14 points and 12 rebounds at power forward to help VanDeest.
Glass half empty: VanDeest redshirts to rob Drake of its best big man and slows the program's improvement. Point guard remains an issue and the Bulldogs continue to rebound and defend poorly.
Come mid-March: Drake could be the Valley's big riser if VanDeest is healthy. Without him, the Bulldogs are likely to battle Bradley to stay out of the MVC cellar. If VanDeest plays most of the season, Drake could compete for one of the minor postseason tournaments.
Coach: Geno Ford, first season
2010-11: 12-20, 4-14 MVC
Star power: G Dyricus Simms-Edwards (10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds), F Taylor Brown (13.5 points, 6.9 rebounds in 2009-10)
Remember this name: G Donivine Stewart, a freshman, could be just the solid player a first-year coach wants. Stewart scored 12 points, making all five shots, handed out six assists and didn't commit a turnover in Bradley's first exhibition game.
Glass half full: Brown returns (he sat out last season for cardiac evaluation) to form quickly and regains his spot as one of the MVC's top talents. Ford keeps the Braves playing hard and improving through losing streaks and the Braves pull an upset or two.
Glass half empty: A lack of size and experience puts too much burden on Simms-Edwards and Brown to carry the offense. G Walt Lemon isn't ready to run the offense, putting the Braves in the hands of Stewart.
Come mid-March: Bradley will be looking forward to 2012-13, when Ford gets a better chance to put his mark on the program.