Men’s and women’s basketball preseason ballots

Basketball season is (finally) right around the corner, so here’s a rundown of my MVC preseason ballots.

For the men’s side, the top four spots were pretty clear; then it turns difficult. Though this is my first year covering the Valley, I have just as good a guess as any picking spots 5-8 in the conference. So without further ado, here’s my ballot:

1. Wichita State
2. Indiana State
3. Northern Iowa
4. Missouri State
5. Bradley
6. Evansville
7. Illinois State
8. Loyola
9. Drake
10. Southern Illinois

Wichita State is the obvious favorite for many reasons I need not list here, but the Sycamores and Panthers are contenders, too. Jake Odum for ISU is a playmaker in the backcourt and UNI brings back two starters and most of its bench. Don’t count out the Bears, though — I think sophomore guard Marcus Marshall will have a fantastic season after a good rookie campaign.

Bradley, Evansville, Illinois State and Loyola all have questions to answer, and any of those squads could finish in a variety of ways. Walt Lemon Jr. will be the floor leader for the Braves, the Aces will have to find a replacement (or two or three) for Colt Ryan, the Redbirds have to replace Jackie Carmichael, and no MVC team really knows much about the Ramblers, so they could be a surprise.

The Bulldogs and the Salukis could also be surprises, but first-year head coach Ray Giacoletti will have a tough task on his hand turning the program around and Southern Illinois will probably have another down year.

Also part of the poll is the Preseason All-Conference team and Player of the Year. My picks are as follows (in alphabetical order):

1. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
2. Walt Lemon Jr., Bradley
3. Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
4. Jake Odum, Indiana State
5. Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa

POY: Cleanthony Early

If Early wasn’t on NBA scouts’ radars after last year’s Final Four run, he certainly will be after this season — the senior is going to dominate the paint just as he did last season.

 

On the women’s side, things were difficult, too. Here’s my preseason ballot:

1. Indiana State
2. Wichita State
3. Loyola
4. Northern Iowa
5. Illinois State
6. Bradley
7. Evansville
8. Drake
9. Missouri State
10. Southern Illinois

Anna Munn is going to lead a Sycamore offense that returns four starters from last year’s WNIT team, which is why I picked ISU for the top spot. The Shockers lost four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but I think they should still field a strong squad.

The Ramblers also return four starters from last year’s team, and Sheryl Swoopes will have success in her first year at the helm. Northern Iowa and Illinois State don’t have a single major scorer returning this season, but that could be beneficial if multiple players can develop into threats.

The Braves are full of upperclassmen, which is why they’ll have a good year after losing three of last year’s starters and the Aces should have a healthy Khristian Hart and Mallory Ladd for the start of MVC play. Drake, Missouri State and Southern Illinois round out the bottom of the conference, but any of those teams could be surprises.

A Preseason All-Conference team and Player of the Year was also included on the women’s side, so here you go (in alphabetical order):

1. Kyndal Clark, Drake
2. Alex Harden, Wichita State
3. Khristian Hart, Evansville
4. Simone Law, Loyola
5. Anna Munn, Indiana State

POY: Anna Munn

Munn should have another great season, but I believe any of the five players I selected could have excellent years. Clark could help pace the Bulldogs to exceed expectations; Harden — the lone returning starter for the Shockers — should be the obvious go-to player for WSU; Hart, if fully recovered from an ACL tear, can pair up with Ladd to be the dynamic duo the Aces need on offense; and Law dominated the post in the Horizon League last season.

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