Posted by & filed under Baseball.

Former University of Evansville pitcher Kyle Freeland threw three hitless innings Friday night in his 2015 debut, helping the Grand Junction Rockies defeat the Ogden Raptors 5-0.

Freeland, the Colorado Rockies’ first-round draft pick a year ago, had been rehabilitating from shoulder fatigue and minor surgery to have bone chips removed from his arm. He finished the 2014 season in Single-A, but went back to Rookie League on the rehab assignment.

The left-hander got the start Friday but was on a pitch count. He struck out three batters and walked one.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

The University of Evansville basketball program has offered scholarships to Class of 2016 guards Tarkus Ferguson and Zac Saddler, according to Twitter reports.

UE is also one of 14 schools to offer 6-foot-9 rising senior power forward John Fulkerson, according to Andrew Pearson of the Asheville Citizen-Times. As a junior, Fulkerson set a single-season record with 93 blocks for Christ School in Arden, North Carolina, while averaging 10 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Saddler tweeted the news Monday. The 6-6 Saddler averaged 20.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists as a junior at New Braunfels (Texas) High School.

https://twitter.com/ZSaddler/status/623189658663456769

News of Ferguson’s offer also hit Twitter on Monday, first reported by a coach with his AAU program, the Southwest Illinois Jets.

Ferguson helped Althoff Catholic to its first appearance in the Illinois Class 3A state championship game as a junior, averaging 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Evansville’s Missouri Valley Conference rivals Southern Illinois and Missouri State are also among Ferguson’s six Division I scholarship offers, according to his Verbal Commits page.

Saddler also holds an offer to Texas-Rio Grande Valley, which is set to join the Western Athletic Conference in 2015.

Saddler has a fairly comprehensive highlight tape published after the 2014-15 high school season.

Ferguson has several video snippets on the internet, including this impressive recent dunk.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

The men’s basketball coaching staff at the University of Evansville continues to go after in-state prospects.

According to an article Sunday by Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star, Evansville is one of several school that have offered a scholarship to Fort Wayne Carroll forward Kyle Mallers.

The 6-foot-6 Mallers is set to graduate in 2016. He averaged 12.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals during his junior season while sinking 45 of 119 3-point attempts (37.8 percent). Carroll went 23-4, losing 59-57 in a Class 4A regional to eventual state champion Homestead.

Mallers was one of six players named to the Indiana Junior All-Stars core team.

According to Neddenriep, Mallers holds scholarship offers from Akron, Ball State, Central Michigan, Evansville, Indiana State, Kent State, Ole Miss and Toledo.

Mallers said in the story he would like to visit UE.

Mallers is the fourth in-state, high school player to receive an offer from the Aces. The others: Class of 2016 guard Dru Smith (Reitz), Class of 2017 guard Cooper Neese (Cloverdale) and Class of 2017 forward Jack Nunge (Castle). Ohio University transfer Ryan Taylor, a native of Gary, Indiana, reportedly visited UE on Saturday.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

The University of Evansville men’s basketball team is reportedly courting Ohio University transfer Ryan Taylor to fill its one remaining scholarship.

Taylor started 28 games as a true freshman last season, ranking fourth on the Bobcats at 8.1 points per game. The 6-foot-5 wing player also averaged 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

Jason Arkley, who covers Ohio for the Athens Messenger, tweeted Saturday that Taylor was taking an official visit to UE.

Taylor scored in double figures nine times in 2014-15, including a career-high 21 points in his collegiate debut against Appalachian State.

Evansville coach Marty Simmons said earlier this summer the Aces were still looking to fill their final scholarship, but hadn’t progressed to the point of a campus visit with any prospects. At the time, he said he would prefer to add a college transfer rather than a late high school signee.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

The University of Evansville reportedly offered a men’s basketball scholarship to Adrian Moore this spring.

Moore, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound wing player, also holds offers from Tulsa and Wake Forest, according to a July 10 Rivals.com article. And other high-major programs have shown interest in Moore, according to the Rivals.com story.

The North Little Rock High School (Ark.) senior-to-be took an unofficial visit to Kansas and has heard from LSU, Georgia, Houston and Arizona, among others.

Moore has a few highlight videos on Youtube, but the following one appears to be the most recent. If you can get past the monotonous music (or just mute the video), you’ll see why Moore is drawing all the attention. He can clearly finish above the rim and appears to possess a decent shooting stroke.

Moore is one of three Class of 2016 players who have drawn scholarship offers from UE; the others are guards Dru Smith (Reitz HS) and Christian Willis (Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis). The Aces also extended offers within the last week to a pair of in-state 2017 prospects: forward Jack Nunge and guard Cooper Neese.

Posted by & filed under Baseball.

Another periodic update on how former University of Evansville baseball players are faring in the minor leagues:

 

Kyle Freeland, the No. 8 overall pick to the Colorado Rockies last season, hasn’t pitched in a game yet this season. He is currently with the Rookie League Grand Junction Rockies to rehabilitate from shoulder fatigue and a minor surgery to have bone chips removed from his arm, according to the Denver Post.

Eric Stamets, a 23-year-old shortstop in the Los Angeles Angels organization, is batting .249 for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers. Known for his slick fielding, Stamets has an on-base percentage of .303 with 11 extra-base hits in 49 games (10 doubles, one home run).

Sam Johns, a 6-foot-2 right-handed reliever, has a 4.63 ERA in 22 appearances with the Class A Hagerstown Suns, a Washington Nationals affiliate. Johns has allowed 36 hits and 10 walks while striking out 19 in 35 innings. He is 0-2 and has two saves in three opportunities.

— Catcher Kyle Pollock has seen his production increase since being demoted from Class A to the Rookie League Idaho Falls Chukars of the Kansas City Royals organization. In 14 games with Idaho Falls, Pollock is batting .302 with six RBIs and seven extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple, one homer). He was hitting just .214 with the Class A Lexington Legends.

— Right-handed pitcher Kyle Lloyd is 5-6 in 11 starts with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, a San Diego Padres affiliate. Lloyd’s last two appearances have come in relief. On Thursday, he struck out eight in three innings, but also allowed three hits, a walk and an earned run. For the season, Lloyd has a 4.63 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 25 walks in 79 2/3 innings.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

Castle High School forward Jack Nunge picked up a scholarship offer from the University of Evansville men’s basketball program Saturday, according to Nunge’s AAU program.

Nunge is the second Class of 2017 player the UE coaching staff has offered while at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis; Cloverdale High School guard Cooper Neese also drew an offer from the Aces this weekend.

Already 6-foot-9 going into his junior year of high school, Nunge projects to be a stretch forward at the college level. He averaged 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds for Castle last season while knocking down 26 of 68 3-point attempts (38 percent).

Evansville is the first school known to have offered a scholarship to Nunge.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Representing the United States, the University of Kansas men’s basketball team outscored Lithuania by 19 in the final quarter to pull away for a 70-48 win in the quarterfinals of the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea.

University of Evansville center Egidijus Mockevicius contributed two points, five rebounds and three blocks for Lithuania, which fell into the consolation bracket. Mockevicius played 18 minutes but didn’t get many touches in Lithuania’s offense, serving primarily as a screener.

Frank Mason had 18 points for Kansas and Wayne Selden chipped in 13. The Jayhawks held Lithuania to 2-for-19 shooting in the final quarter to turn the contest into a rout.

The U.S. (read: Kansas) plays the winner of Estonia and Russia in a semifinal, while Lithuania plays the loser of that game in the consolation bracket. The best Lithuania can finish is fifth place.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

Cooper Neese, a rising junior at Cloverdale High School (Indiana), has picked up a scholarship offer from the University of Evansville men’s basketball program, according to multiple Twitter reports.

Regarded as a shooter, the 6-foot-3, 160-pound Neese averaged 17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a sophomore. He knocked down 68 of 192 3-point attempts last season (35 percent).

According to Neese’s Verbal Commits page, Evansville is his first scholarship offer.

About the only recent highlight film I could find of Neese features him pump-faking an opponent out of his shoes, going around the sprawling defender and sinking a jump shot.

Bad defense or the best pump fake of all-time? You decide.

 

Posted by & filed under Baseball.

The University of Evansville announced on Tuesday the summer-league baseball assignments of 11 of its returning players. Here is where the Aces are heading:

PLAYER TEAM LEAGUE
RHP Ryan Brady Dodgers St. Louis Metro
RHP Nicholas Eggemeyer Hoptown Hoppers Ohio Valley
RHP Brian Jestice NW Indiana Oilmen Midwest Collegiate
RHP Brent Jurceka Waterloo Bucks Northwoods
C Billy Lipari Lima Locos Great Lakes
INF Stewart Nelson Sedalia Bombers MINK
1B Eric McKibban Terre Haute Rex Prospects
INF Jonathan Ramon Sedalia Bombers MINK
RHP Patrick Schnieders Anchorage Glacier Pilots Alaska
C Travis Tokarek Sedalia Bombers MINK
RHP Jimmy Ward DuPage County Hounds Midwest Collegiate

 

Most of these leagues have solid websites for those interested in tracking the statistics of particular players.

Posted by & filed under Baseball.

Nearly two months into the minor-league baseball season, here is how several former University of Evansville players are faring:

— Left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland, the No. 8 overall pick to the Colorado Rockies in 2014, hasn’t pitched in a game this season as he is rehabilitating from shoulder fatigue. Freeland recorded a 3-0 record and 1.15 ERA in a short minor league stint last season.

Rockies senior director of player development Zach Wilson told the Denver Post last week Freeland’s injury was nothing serious and that the Denver native needed minor surgery to have bone chips removed from his arm.

“He’s doing very well. He’s making strides every day,” Wilson told the Post. “He’s steadily improving. Nothing got worse. It wasn’t a major issue, we just want to make sure he gets right.”

— In his second season with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, 23-year-old shortstop Eric Stamets has shown some quality hitting to go with his slick fielding. The No. 22-ranked prospect in the Los Angeles Angels’ system, Stamets has only played in 17 games this season due to injury but it batting .295 with a home run and eight RBIs. As this Orange County Register story notes, the Travelers won the first 11 games in which Stamets played all nine innings. This article details Stamets’ rehab from the shoulder injury that sidelined him earlier this season.

— Right-handed reliever Sam Johns, a 31st-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals last year, has a solid 3.66 ERA in 13 appearances this spring with the Single-A Hagerstown (Pa.) Suns. He has one save in two opportunities and has allowed 20 hits and eight earned runs in 19 2/3 innings. Johns has struck out 11 batters and walked six.

— Catcher Kyle Pollock batted .214 in 22 games with the Lexington (Ky.) Legends, a Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Pollock struck out once every 3.4 at-bats before being demoted to the Royals’ Rookie team in the Arizona League. The 22-year-old was selected in the 20th round of the 2014 MLB draft.

— Starting pitcher Kyle Lloyd is 2-3 with a 4.28 ERA in seven starts with the Lake Elsinore Storm, a High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. He has struck out 46 and walked 14 in 48 1/3 innings, and opponents are batting .245 against him.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Missouri Valley.

 

 

The MVC spring update is compiled from conference beat writers:

Bradley (9-24, 3-15 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Bradley’s needs were numerous after a 9-24 season. I don’t know that anyone could have predicted the massive overhaul that has taken place, starting with a new coaching staff headed by Brian Wardle, a 35-year-old Illinoisan who had good success in a five-year head coaching run at Green Bay, winning 49 games the past two seasons. Wardle’s first meeting with Geno Ford’s team that had a dozen players returning, but eight of whom were seniors-to-be, resulted in six of them asking for their release. Two more would follow in the coming weeks, leaving just four holdover players — guards Ka’Darryl Bell (6.1 ppg, 2.1 apg) and Warren Jones (11.9 ppg in 21 games), forward Donte Thomas (2.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg) and center Mike Shaw (1.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg).

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

In less than two months on the job, Wardle has added eight scholarship players and a local walk-on. All are incoming freshmen except 6-7 Alex Foster, a native Chicagoan who’s transferring from Texas Tech, where he played little.

The freshmen include 6-10 Davante Cooper of Atlanta, 6-8 Luuk van Bree of The Netherlands, 6-7 Scottie James of Tarpon Springs, Fla., 6-6 Ronnie Suggs of Washington, Mo., 6-6 walk-on Peter Hanley of Peoria, 6-3 Antoine Pittman of Rockford, 6-3 Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye of London, England and 5-11 Joel Okafor of Richmond, Ind.

Two guard Pittman and point guard Okafor were Wardle recruits to Green Bay and will likely be immediate contributors as will combo guard Ogunleye and swingman Suggs. Because of the lack of bigs in the program, Cooper, van Bree and James will certainly get a shot, too.

It’s really hard to gauge who will be the most impactful at this point. But with seven scholarship freshmen, some of them will have to be important pieces from Day One.

3. Important departures?

The most important departures were 6-7 freshman forward Josh Cunningham, second in the Valley in rebounding (7.5 as well as 7.9 ppg) and 5-11 point guard Tramique Sutherland (11.3 ppg, 3.0 apg). The others who left are 6-4 guard Omari Grier (7.9 ppg), 6-9 center Xzavier Taylor (2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg), 6-8 F-C Jermaine Morgan (2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), 6-1 PG Anthony Fields (1.3 ppg), 7-1 C Nate Wells (3.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg) and 6-2 G Kendahl Amerson (academically ineligible last season as junior college transfer, 2 years left). Wells is headed to Ball State as a grad transfer. Fields and Grier are also grad transfers with no school as of yet.

The only graduate was 6-8 F Auston Barnes (9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg).

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

As a rebuilding, freshman-dominant squad, the Braves are destined for a sixth consecutive Thursday night appearance at St. Louis. I can’t imagine a scenario in which Bradley finishes ahead of four Valley teams in the standings. The four returnees are role players at best although Thomas showed late promise and could make a big jump with lots of playing time available.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The non-conference schedule is still being put together. What is official is more than challenging for this young team. At Boise State in the MWC Challenge, at Arizona, at UT-Arlington and at the Charleston Classic, a loaded field that includes Virginia, Ole Miss, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State, Long Beach State and George Mason.

 — Dave Reynolds, Peoria Journal-Star  

Drake (9-22, 6-12 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Size and experience. The Bulldogs relied a lot on young guys last season, and it will be the same in 2015-16. One positive is the development of point guard Reed Timmer. He logged a lot of minutes as a freshman, and that should start to pay off next fall.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

You’ll hear some buzz on Dominik Olejniczak, a 7-foot player from Poland. He could give Drake some sort of presence in the post. Also, shooting guard Billy Wampler could see significant minutes. He may not be on Timmer’s level, though.

3. Important departures?

Drake will miss Karl Madison, Gary Ricks Jr. and Jordan Daniels, but it’s still pretty loaded at the guard spot.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

Avoiding the play-in game at the Valley tournament would be a nice sign of progress. Coach Ray Giacoletti has some pieces in place, but they’re at least another year away from making real noise in the Valley. So middle of the pack would be a big step up.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The non-conference schedule has not been set, yet. But there will be a matchup with Iowa. They’ll also play Nevada in the Valley-MWC challenge on Dec. 2. The Bulldogs should also host DePaul, but no date is set.

 — Andrew Logue, Des Moines Register

Evansville (24-12, 9-9 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Bringing back all-conference center Egidijus Mockevicius for his senior season was the Aces’ primary concern. With Mockevicius earning a bachelor’s degree this spring, there was speculation around here that the 6-foot-10 Lithuanian would either play pro ball overseas or use the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule to move to a bigger program.

Mockevicius did consider pro ball for a while but recently settled on finishing his eligibility at UE while pursuing a second bachelor’s degree. He averaged 12.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game last season.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

The Aces have added one incoming freshman so far in 5-foot-11 combo guard Harris Brown out of Indianapolis Howe High School. He could give Evansville a different look in the backcourt because unlike the Aces’ current point guards (Duane Gibson and Jaylon Brown) he is an accomplished scorer and consistent outside shooting threat. Brown scored 50 and 51 points in back-to-back games in high school and averaged about 30 points per game in his senior season.

Also available for the 2015-16 season will be 6-7 power forward Willie Wiley and 7-1 center Sergej Vucetic, both of whom sat out last season after transferring from other programs. Vucetic played minimally at Nebraska before coming to Evansville and I expect him to only play spot minutes next season while backing up Mockevicius.

A transfer from Vincennes University, Wiley is a more intriguing addition because he gives the Aces a traditional power forward who could play alongside Mockevicius in big lineups. Last season, Evansville used its bigger guards — 6-4 Adam Wing and 6-6 Mislav Brzoja — to defend opposing power forwards. Like Harris Brown, Wiley faces the challenge of cracking a crowded, established rotation.

Evansville has one scholarship remaining for the 2015-16 season.

3. Important departures?

Evansville loses two role players from last season — 6-7 power forward Jaylon Moore (4.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg) and seldom-used guard Taylor Stafford. Moore graduated and Stafford is transferring.

Assistants Jimmy Elgas and Carson Harris left for head coaching jobs, Elgas at Division II Henderson State and Harris at NAIA Marian University.

Lennox Forrester (former SIUE head coach) and Doug Novsek (most recently associate head coach at Nevada) will fill the vacancies. Forrester and current UE head coach Marty Simmons were assistants under Jim Crews and Novsek played high school ball with Simmons.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

This will likely be the best team in coach Marty Simmons’ nine-year tenure and should be an MVC contender. Wichita State is the clear favorite, but the Aces have the talent to finish second or third in the conference.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The Wooden Legacy tournament during Thanksgiving week will test the Aces regardless of how the bracket plays out. The field features five 2015 NCAA Tournament teams in Michigan State, Arizona, Boise State, Providence and UC Irvine. Also in the field are Evansville, Boston College and Santa Clara. UE will also host Belmont and play at Fresno State in the MVC-MW Challenge.

 — Daniel Allar, Evansville Courier & Press

Illinois State (22-13, 11-7 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

After Reggie Lynch decided to transfer back to his beloved Minnesota, the Redbirds needed to find another body in the middle. ISU will have Nick Banyard, a 6-8 transfer from New Mexico who sat out last season, and 6-11 freshman recruit Dauoda “David” Ndiaye from Senegal via Windermere Prep in Florida. But they needed someone more seasoned and added 6-8 Quintin Brewer, a graduate transfer who averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds last season at Bethune-Cookman. ISU won’t have anyone with the bulk of Lynch or graduated John Jones in the post next season. This could be a problem. Expect to see the Redbirds play more zone than man defense in 2015-16.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Besides Brewer, ISU added 6-8, 215-pound Elvis Harvey from Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla. Harvey has only played basketball for three years and appears to be a redshirt candidate. ISU did add four preps in the fall in Ndiaye, his teammate, Matt Hein, a shooting guard; point guard Keyshawn Evans from Plantation, Fla., and 6-6 wing forward Roland Griffin from Aurora, Ill. Evans and Griffin appear to be the two leading contenders for playing time. Evans will backup Paris Lee and can shift to 2 guard to play with Lee, although he is only 6-foot, while Griffin is pretty athletic and figures to play behind MiKyle McIntosh.

3. Important departures?

Lynch might be the most important departure in the league. He was a rim protector and shot blocker. His offensive game was getting better all the time. Lynch had trouble staying out of foul trouble his two years, so ISU has experience playing without him. At least Muller has all summer figuring out how the Redbirds will play in the fall to compensate for Lynch’s loss. ISU also lost forward Will Ransom and guard Mark Hall, but both played little and wouldn’t have made significant contributions in the 2015-16 season.

Coach Dan Muller added Jeremy Ballard as an assistant coach after the death of Torrey Ward in the tragic airplane crash in early April.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

With Lynch, ISU probably was the No. 2 choice in the league behind Wichita State. Replacing Daishon Knight will be difficult, but DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell figures to step into that role. Akoon-Purcell, Lee, Deonte Hawkins are returning starters along with McIntosh, Tony Wills and Justin McCloud. That probably puts ISU in the 4-5 range behind Shockers, UNI and Evansville.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The nonconference schedule will be brutal. The Redbirds open at San Diego State, probably a top-25 team, for the MW-MVC Challenge. They will face Maryland, which many believe will be the preseason No. 1 team in country, in the Cancun Challenge. Then there’s a Dec. 1 date at Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Throw in home games against Alabama-Birmingham and Murray State along with a road game at Saint Joseph’s, and the Redbirds definitely can’t say they won’t be ready for MVC action.

— Jim Benson, The Pantagraph

Indiana State (15-16, 11-7 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Indiana State had to fix rebounding, the point guard position and overall toughness. All hurt ISU at its worst moments last season in an up-and-down season.

Off the floor, the Indiana Statehouse approved a measure to renovate Hulman Center. Details (a percentage is covered by local funding) need to be ironed out, but it could be a huge boost.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Newcomers come in all forms: true freshmen, Jucos, Division I transfers and even returning veterans.

Jucos, who will be expected to help right away include PG Everett Clemens (6-1) and F Niels Buncschoten (6-9). Clemens, who played at Vincennes, is a distributor first. He was a third-team All-American and averaged 9.6 ppg and 6.2 apg at VU.

Bunschoten, a native of the Netherlands, is a stretch forward. Bunschoten converted 45 percent of his 3-pointers at Howard College. In the scope of ISU’s offense, he would approximate what R.J. Mahurin’s role once was.

True freshmen include C Emondre Rickman (6-9) and F Bronson Kessinger (6-8). Rickman is a thin, athletic prospect from Collinsville, Ill.

Kessinger, recruited as Justin Gant’s replacement, broke his leg in a January game in which he was taken out on a dunk attempt. He suffered the same injury as Kevin Ware did for Louisville in the 2013 tournament. Though his recovery is going well, his status is still unknown. He was ISU’s top target for this class and much is anticipated from him once he’s healthy.

A player who should help immediately is Citadel transfer Matt Van Scyoc. A 6-6 forward, Van Scyoc averaged 14.3 ppg and 5.3 ppg in 2014. He made 36.5 percent of his 3-point attempts and converted 80 percent of his free throws. Body-wise, Van Scyoc is similar to one-time Sycamore Matt Renn.

A veteran player ISU didn’t have last season is forward Brandon Burnett. Expected to be ISU’s sixth man, he missed the season after he suffered a foot injury in a car accident. He is a “newcomer” in a sort of sense. In the same vein, so is guard Laquarious Paige, who played three games a year ago before sitting out with various injuries.

3. Important departures?

Forward Alex Etherington and point guard Tre Bennett left the team in a postseason purge of sorts.

Of the two, Bennett was a bigger contributor, averaging 8 ppg and 3 apg. He was on the MVC All-Bench team.

Bennett did not establish rapport with coaches and some teammates and wasn’t a good fit for ISU’s system. He was a last-minute solution when Bryant McIntosh de-committed and went to Northwestern.

In the wake of ISU’s horrific loss to Loyola at Arch Madness, Greg Lansing’s mission was to establish buy-in and rid the roster of anyone who might jeopardize that. As of now, Bennett has not transferred anywhere.

Etherington never clicked as a Division I contributor. He transferred to Division II University of Indianapolis.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender? 

Looking back, it’s pretty remarkable that ISU finished third in the MVC given all that plagued it in 2015.

This team should be better, if in no other way than a unified purpose. On paper, it should be better on the boards (it could hardly be worse) and some players (like Devonte Brown) who played out of position should be able to return to duties that enhance their strengths.

ISU needs consistency from Khristian Smith, who was up-and-down last season. It also needs Brenton Scott to build on his Freshman of the Year campaign to improve his defense and decision-making.

ISU is not a threat to unseat WSU, but if all goes well, it can compete with Illinois State, Evansville, Northern Iowa, Loyola, et al, in the top half. Of course, if all goes wrong, the competition will punish any slip-up. High middle-of-the-pack is realistic.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

Nothing eye-popping, but nothing bad either. ISU plays in the Paradise Jam. It could play a good Tulsa team in the second round if it beats Norfolk State. ISU plays at Butler and hosts Wyoming in the Mountain West Challenge. It also plays at Western Kentucky in December.

ISU plays its usual nearby rivals (Ball State, IUPUI, Eastern Illinois) and has Valpo (at home) back on the schedule for the first time in a decade.

ISU is still trying to fill two more slots. A buy game is not out of the question.

— Todd Golden, Terre Haute Tribune Star 

Loyola (24-13, 8-10 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

The Ramblers needed to add size. Forwards Montel James (6-7) and Christian Thomas (6-5) had to play out of position and give up several inches in many matchups last season. Thomas, the team’s top rebounder and emotional leader, is gone. Coffeyville Community College transfer Maurice Kirby (6-9) should help. He sat out his freshman season at Virginia Tech and averaged 8 points and 7.9 rebounds at Coffeyville, a program that also produced James and guard Earl Peterson.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

In addition to Kirby, Loyola signed forward Pernell Adgie (6-7) in the spring from Fishburne (Va.) Military School. Guard Tyson Smith (6-2), from the College of Southern Idaho, signed earlier in May. He averaged 10.5 points and has three years of eligibility remaining.

Iowa State guard Clayton Custer transferred to Loyola this spring and will sit out the 2015-16 season. He will have three seasons of eligibility.

3. Important departures?

Thomas averaged 11.2 points and 4.5 rebounds and coach Porter Moser relied on his leadership and toughness. Guard Joe Crisman started 21 games as a senior and 98 in his career.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

The Ramblers made progress in their second season in the MVC by finishing sixth and playing in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament. Loyola compiled a 16-3 record against non-conference opponents. It won the College Basketball Invitational with wins over Rider, Oral Roberts, Seattle and Louisiana-Monroe. If star guard Milton Doyle is healthy, and with six of the top seven scorers back, Loyola should consider itself capable of pushing for second or third in the MVC.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

Loyola plays at New Mexico in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge Series.

— Paul Suellentrop, The Wichita Eagle

 Missouri State (11-19, 5-13)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

Offense and depth. The Bears average only 59.7 points, failing to break 60 in 14 of 18 conference games. Due to departures and injuries, the team had only seven scholarship players available down the stretch. The season ended in fitting fashion, a feckless 55-48 loss to Southern Illinois in the MVC tourney play-in round.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Coach Paul Lusk went the juco route to seek immediate help. Dequon Miller, a 5-11 guard from Motlow College in Tennessee, is expected to be given the keys to the offense. He averaged 19 points and 9.2 assists as a sophomore. His juco teammate, 6-6 wing Reggie Williams, is coming as a walk-on. Completing the Motlow trifecta is coach Matt Sligh, added to the MSU staff as a new assistant. Guard Kevin Baker from Pensacola College and 6-8, 235-pound post Jordan Martin of John A. Logan College both played high school basketball in St. Louis. Martin originally committed to Southern Illinois out of high school before landing at John A. Logan, where he averaged 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds as a sophomore.

3. Important departures? 

Marcus Marshall was a well-documented departure in mid-January after a beef with coach Paul Lusk. Marshall averaged 19.5 points in 14 games. He will transfer to Nevada and sit out a year before playing one. Gavin Thurman, a forward who averaged 6 points as a junior, is transferring back home to Wichita to play at DII Kansas Newman. Ron Mvouika missed all but two games last season with a back injury. He is transferring as a graduate student to play his final season at St. John’s. Missouri State gave him a chance to return and pay his own way, not wanting to risk a scholarship because of his iffy health.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

If the juco players, and Dequon Miller in particular, live up to their billing then this team should be no worse than a middle-of-the-pack bunch. If the jucos don’t make a major difference, this team will be destined for Thursday status at the MVC tourney — and that could leave Lusk’s future as coach much in doubt.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

Home vs. Tulsa. The Puerto Rico Tip Off tourney is loaded with the Bears joining Butler, Miami (Fla), Minnesota, Mississippi State, Temple, Texas Tech and Utah.

— Lyndal Scranton, Springfield News-Leader

Northern Iowa (31-4, 16-2 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

UNI needs to find a way to capitalize off its most acclaimed season in school history. Aside from recruiting, this won’t exactly be addressed this off-season — we’ll know more a year or two down the road — but the Panthers missed an opportunity after the Sweet 16 run in 2010. The decommitment of Doug McDermott had something to do with it, but not making another NCAA Tournament until 2020 would be disappointing. Overall, the program is as strong as it’s ever been.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Incoming freshmen: Justin Dahl, Luke McDonnell, Spencer Haldeman, Lincoln Conrey (walk-on)

Incoming junior: Aarias Austin

UNI is losing its top three front court players, so Dahl and McDonnell can help there. McDonnell is more skilled but will need to gain some weight. Also, sophomore center Ted Friedman is coming off a redshirt season — he started the first few games of his true freshman season in 2013. Haldeman is a combo guard and will most likely redshirt. Austin is a juco transfer and brings some good length and athleticism to the backcourt.

3. Important departures?

Five seniors including MVC Player of the Year Seth Tuttle, who had perhaps the best season of any UNI player ever. Deon Mitchell was a starter at point guard for most of his four years. Marvin Singleton and Nate Buss played their roles in the front court perfectly this past season.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

MVC contender, depending on whether Wichita State allows anyone else to be. I anticipate the Panthers to be picked second in the preseason poll with several upperclassmen returning.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

There has been heavy speculation that North Carolina will come to the McLeod Center. Marcus Paige is from Cedar Rapids and Roy Williams has a history of scheduling a “home” game for his players. The fact that it hasn’t been made official yet is somewhat concertning, but if the Tar Heels do come to Cedar Falls, UNI will have a top-15 non-conerence strength of schedule.

Other key games include: home against Stephen F. Austin and Colorado State (MVC-MWC), on the road at New Mexico, neutral against Iowa State (Des Moines) and a solid field at the Diamond Head Classic.

— Carson Tigges, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Southern Illinois (11-21, 4-14 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

SIU’s off-season problems extended off the court as much as on the court for the upcoming season. Frustrated donors and other fans lost confidence in the program’s overall direction with the 12-21 season, just two losses off the school record despite an incredibly easy schedule. They showed some spirit as the Salukis finished somewhat strong the last eight games and won a game at the MVC tournament, but now are back questioning coach Barry Hinson’s methods after five players departed. Hinson asked four of them to stay, and three of them, forward Jordan Caroline and guards Deion Lavender and Charles “Chaz” Glotta, basically chose to sit out a year rather than return to a team that might have had five returning starters.

The Salukis needed to find a replacement for Caroline’s inside presence, a solid point guard and a scoring presence to take away some of the pressure on Anthony Beane.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

Hinson added a high-scoring junior college point guard and a prep school forward in April and signed Leo Vincent, a sophomore point guard at Harcum (Pa.) College near Philadelphia, on Tuesday. Vincent averaged 15.5 points per game and 4.2 assists per game, and was an honorable mention NJCAA All-American for a 28-4 squad. Mike Rodriguez was the eighth-leading scorer in the NJCAA (22.5 points per game) at Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College, and could help SIU turn around a season when it had just 274 assists and 423 turnovers.

Rudolfs Stradnieks, a 6-9 prep school forward from Lee Academy in Maine, will team with redshirt freshman forward Austin Weiher, another prep school forward, to help the Salukis inside. SIU’s coaches are also high on the other redshirt freshman, 6-4 guard Armon Fletcher, who could help the Salukis’ shooting. He’s got great length on defense but no Division I experience yet. Hinson has two scholarships left for the upcoming season.

3. Important departures?

Caroline was SIU’s leading rebounder (6.2 per game), the team’s second-leading scorer (9.2 points per game) and a member of the MVC All-Freshman Team. Lavender wasn’t a big scorer but played a big role in diverting some defensive attention from Beane. Senior-to-be guard Jalen Pendleton appeared to be the team’s best candidate as an on-court leader, but he decided to go elsewhere in search of guaranteed playing time. SIU’s other departures were seldom-used guards K.C. Goodwin, Glotta and associate head coach Tom Hankins, who accepted the head coaching job at Division II Central Oklahoma near his native Tulsa.

Caroline signed with Nevada, Lavender signed with UAB, and Glotta went to Northern Colorado. Pendleton signed with Division II Minnesota State, and Goodwin signed with Division II Union (Tennessee) University.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

The Salukis have a lot of question marks, but one of them is not their expected slot in the Thursday night foursome. They will be hard-pressed to avoid it even if Beane and forward Sean O’Brien have first team all-conference seasons.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

SIU has not announced their multi-team event, and they have a lot of slots to fill still. As of today, SIU-Edwardsville is coming to SIU Arena, as are Kent State, Southeast Missouri State and Air Force through the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge. The road game at Murray State is probably their best opponent right now, but they are looking at a buy game and should have at least one BCS team in their MTE.

— Todd Hefferman, The Southern Illinoisan

Wichita State (30-5, 17-1 MVC)

1. What was the team’s major off-season issue that needed addressing?

The Shockers needed to add a big man to the rotation to replace Darius Carter. Returning big men such as Shaq Morris, Bush Wamukota and Rashard Kelly had good moments, but aren’t sure things. WSU landed Cleveland State transfer Anton Grady (6-foot-8), an All-Horizon League pick in 2015, and he is eligible immediately. He should give WSU an experienced player who can contribute during his one season of eligibility.

2. Who was added to the roster for 2015-16 and how will the newcomers help?

WSU’s top addition is sophomore guard Conner Frankamp (6-1), a transfer from Kansas. He becomes eligible on Dec. 12 and should give the Shockers a significant boost with his shooting and experience. Frankamp, a Wichitan, practiced with WSU during the spring semester and can both play guard spots.

WSU can also use depth at point guard. Incoming freshmen Landry Shamet (6-4) and Tyrone Taylor (6-4) will try to learn more quickly under seniors Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker than previous candidates.

WSU added forwards Markis McDuffie (6-8) and Eric Hamilton (6-8). McDuffie is a scoring wing and Hamilton went through summer practices with WSU in 2014 before going to prep school last season. Shamet is ranked No. 88 on Rivals.com national list. McDuffie is No. 93 on ESPN’s top 100.

3. Important departures?

Guard Tekele Cotton, a two-time MVC Defensive Player of the Year, is gone and WSU must develop a lockdown defender. Sophomore Zach Brown is the top candidate and his play in March was encouraging.

The Shockers will miss Carter’s scoring and rebounding. For much of the season, he was WSU’s lone inside scoring threat. He scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament and WSU can’t be sure if it possesses a player capable of a similar effort.

Much to the relief of WSU fans, Baker and VanVleet decided to return after weighing their options to turn professional and skip their senior seasons.

WSU coach Gregg Marshall, who weighed an offer from Alabama, is back and must replace another assistant coach. Steve Forbes took the head coaching position at East Tennessee State after two seasons at WSU.

4. Is this team an MVC contender? Middle of the pack? Thursday contender?

The Shockers will start the season as the MVC favorite. VanVleet and Baker are used to winning MVC titles and their goals will include another deep run into the NCAA Tournament.

5. What games highlight the non-conference schedule?

The Shockers play Utah at Intrust Bank Arena and face UNLV at Koch Arena. It travels to Seton Hall, Tulsa and Saint Louis. The Orlando Classic features Alabama, Dayton, Iowa, Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Xavier and Monmouth.

— Paul Suellentrop, The Wichita Eagle