UPDATED: The men’s and women’s preseason all-MVC teams were released Wednesday morning in preparation for MVC media day at Loyola University’s Gentile Arena. Below is a rundown of the poll, preseason all-conference teams, and some thoughts and observations from around the league.
The UE men’s squad was picked to finish sixth in the conference, finishing with 186 points in the poll, ahead of Illinois State and behind Bradley. The pick seems just about right for the Aces, who are sporting a very young, athletic team this season. Wichita State is the favorite to win the conference, receiving all 40 first-place votes.
The entire preseason poll is as follows:
1. Wichita State (40) 400
2. Indian State 352
3. Northern Iowa 318
4. Missouri State 258
5. Bradley 244
6. Evansville 186
7. Illinois State 139
8. Southern Illinois 123
9. Loyola 95
10. Drake 85
Coaches and players from around the conference gave the Shockers the respect they deserve after a great NCAA Tournament run, but also think the conference is going to be as tough as it has in years past (which it probably will).
Dan Muller, Illinois State head coach: “Wichita State deserves it, first of all. Of course their success last year, They’ve got some returners who are really good, but until you beat them, they deserve it. I think Indiana State is going to be really good this year — they only lost one player to a transfer, they’ve got some really good kids coming in that are extremely talented. The rest of us have so many new guys it’s hard to know who’s going to be good. There’s not a team in this league that didn’t lose significant starters.”
Walt Lemon, Jr., Bradley senior guard: “I don’t see it as Wichita State versus everybody, I see it as Bradley versus everybody. I think it’s us against the world. People have their own opinion of what they want to pick us, but we have to show up on the court. If you pick us last, we’re still going to go out and play hard and try to win every game. I just see it as a sign of picking us as an underdog as usual.”
The biggest surprise was probably SIU picked to finish eighth after a 5-12 MVC finish and a 14-17 season, and head coach Barry Hinson was not shy with saying how he felt about that:
“I was really surprised. I really want to smoke what those guys were smoking who picked us above 10th. You have one returning starter and you finish 10the and you’re in last place in virtually every category statistically, and somebody picks us better than 10th.”
On a more serious note…
“I think it shows several things. I think it shows the legacy of SIU, of what SIU did in the 2000s, which I’m happy about. We have to earn it, it’s not given, but it’ll be interesting to see what we do. I like our guys.”
The preseason all-MVC included seven players instead of the typical five, most likely due to ties in voting. Here are all seven honorees:
Ron Baker, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early, WSU
Desmar Jackson, Southern Illinois
Walt Lemon, Jr., Bradley
Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
Jake Odum, Indiana State
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
The Aces women team was picked to finish ninth in the MVC, earning 104 points in the ballot, ahead of Southern Illinois and behind Illinois State. Indiana State was the favorite to win and got a majority of the first-place votes. Wichita State and Loyola also received first-place votes.
1. Indiana State (26) 378
2. Wichita State (13) 360
3. Northern Iowa 259
4. Drake 221
5. Missouri State 216
6. Loyola (1) 211
7. Bradley 194
8. Illinois State 166
9. Evansville 104
10. Southern Illinois 91
Of course the Sycamores and Shockers are going to be the top two teams heading into this season, each led by two of the best players in the conference. Wichita State is coming off of its best season in program history with its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid, and Indiana State is coming off a WNIT appearance.
What might be shocking, though, is the Ramblers receiving a first-place vote. Loyola finished third in the Horizon League last season and hired former WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes as head coach in April. The Ramblers also have Simone Law, a preseason all-MVC pick, who was a first-team all-Horizon honoree last year.
Swoopes: “The competition in the Valley, anybody can beat anybody on any night. From top to bottom, the teams are pretty good, the players are good, the coaches are good. I do think adding Loyola into the Valley, being in Chicago — it’s a media market, it’s a sport city — I do think us joining the valley will strengthen the quality of play, the competition.”
The preseason all-conference team for the women is as follows:
Kyndal Clark, Drake
Alex Harden, WSU
Simone Law, Loyola
Cartaesha Macklin, SIU
Anna Munn, ISU