Are the Bears & Ramblers Climbing Higher?
(St. Louis, MO) – As Wichita State has moved on to the American Athletic Conference, the question arises, ‘who is the next power team or at least the favorite in this year’s race among Missouri Valley Conference teams?’
Illinois State head coach Dan Muller told me in May that he thought Missouri State would be very tough to beat, and would probably be the early favorites. Valparaiso has the highest rated recruiting class. Muller’s Redbirds have some high level recruits and Loyola has everyone except Milton Doyle returning with some impressive prep big men on the way.
Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois have a lot of fire power returning too, and perhaps the Bradley Braves, who aren’t so young anymore could climb the ladder of success.
Some coach said recently, it could be like the ‘wild-wild west’ with no clear favorite. That could make for a very interesting 2017-18 MVC season.
Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk says if his team is picked as a favorite, his team shouldn’t be over confident, but he also really likes his team’s talent and experience.
Loyola’s Porter Moser says neither national pundits nor local fans should worry about a drop off in play or in respect for the Valley programs. The former Creighton player and second time MVC head coach says he’s seen the league go through many transitions and he’s confident the basketball culture of the Valley will stay strong.
Lusk says he and the other coaches can’t worry about what other programs like Wichita State do, but have to work on improving their own particular programs.
One constant in basketball is the need to defend and new Drake head coach Niko Medved says improving the Bulldog defense will be the key to Drake’s ability to compete during his first season on the bench.
Missouri State has five seniors, three third-year juniors and some very good front court players including all conference forward Alize Johnson. Highly touted Reggie Scurry (Northern Oklahoma College) joins that front court. Scurry was ranked as one of the nation’s top 50 available junior college players. Lusk told me he and Johnson could be a very formidable rebounding tandem.
No, Gregg Marshall won’t be storming up and down the court adjusting his watch and sending waves of talented and tenacious players in to the game. No Milton Doyle, Jeremy Morgan, Paris Lee and Deontae Hawkins won’t be lighting up the scoreboards, but this year’s Valley season could be the dawning of a new era.
Loyola’s outstanding freshmen big men, and Northern Iowa’s twin towers of Koch and Carlson, or MSU’s veteran club could be the next history making program.
It’s a wide open Valley season that we are waiting to see, and the talent level from the current ten-team league is outstanding.