CHICAGO -- Fresh off a 30-win campaign and a trip to the NCAA Final Four, Wichita State has been picked to win the 2013-14 Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball crown. The Shockers received all 40 first-place tallies, marking just the second time in the past 25 years an MVC team was a unanimous choice to win the league.
The Shockers have a pair of student-athletes on the pre-season team, including MVC Preseason Player of the Year Cleanthony Early and sophomore Ron Baker. Early (13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) is one of two returning first-team selections from last year’s all-conference squad and Baker (8.7 ppg), despite missing half of the season with an injury, was a key cog for the Shockers down the stretch and during the postseason.
2013-14 MVC Preseason Team
Ron Baker, Wichita State So. G 6-3 Scott City (Kan.) High
Cleanthony Early, Wichita State Sr. F 6-8 Middletown (N.Y.) Sullivan JC
Desmar Jackson, Southern Illinois Sr. G 6-5 Warren (Ohio) U. of Wyoming
Walt Lemon, Jr., Bradley Sr. G 6-3 Chicago (Ill.) Julian
Marcus Marshall, Missouri State So. G 6-3 St. Paul (Minn.) Johnson
Jake Odum, Indiana State Sr. G 6-4 Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo
Seth Tuttle, UNI Jr. F 6-8 Sheffield (Iowa) West Fork
Honorable Mention Selections:
Manny Arop, Indiana State Sr. G/F 6-5 Edmonton (Alberta) Gonzaga
Tyshon Pickett, Bradley Sr. F 6-6 Passaic (N.Y.) High
Seth VanDeest, Drake Sr. C 6-11 Bettendorf (Iowa) High
Preseason Player of the Year: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Team determined by panel of league SIDs, media, and coaches.
|1.||Wichita State Shockers||40||400|
|2.||Indiana State Sycamores||352|
|4.||Missouri State Bears||258|
|7.||Illinois State Redbirds||139|
|8.||Southern Illinois Salukis||123|
Jake Odum (13.6 ppg, 4.6 apg) of Indiana State is also a returning first-team all-MVC pick, and he is joined on the MVC preseason unit by teammate Manny Arop (12.0 ppg). Arop earned honorable mention recognition.
A pair of Bradley student-athletes represent the Braves on this year’s preseason squad, including Walt Lemon Jr., and Tyshon Pickett. Lemon Jr. (15.6 ppg, 75 steals) was a second-team all-MVC selection a year ago while Pickett (11.0 ppg), a transfer from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College, was a member of the 2012-13 MVC All-Newcomer Team. Lemon Jr. was also on last year’s All-Defensive Team.
Desmar Jackson represents the Salukis on the preseason team after earning All-Newcomer and Honorable Mention honors in 2012-13 in his first year with the Salukis. The transfer from Wyoming averaged 15.1 ppg to lead SIU.
UNI’s Seth Tuttle and Missouri State’s Marcus Marshall round out the seven-player preseason first-team unit. Tuttle (11.4 ppg) is third among all active MVC players in both career scoring and career rebounding, while Marshall, a member of last year’s All-Newcomer and All-Freshman teams, set an MSU freshman scoring record (368 points).
Drake’s Seth VanDeest was one of three players named honorable mention on this year’s preseason squad. He is the top returning scorer (9.5 ppg) and rebounder (4.8 rpg) for the Bulldogs, who have a new head coach. Ray Giacoletti takes over after serving most recently as an assistant at Gonzaga. He had previous head coaching stints at North Dakota State, Eastern Washington and Utah.
Pollsters have accurately predicted the league’s regular-season champ only 13 times out of 28 since 1985-86, but the pre-season favorite Shockers can take solace in that 25 of those 28 predicted champs have gone on to post-season play, with 17 of those 25 playing in the NCAAs.
The Shockers, meanwhile, have been picked to win the MVC three previous times since 1985, and in those years, they finished second each time. Wichita State does, however, own seven outright MVC crowns, fourth-best all-time.
The Braves enter the third year of the Geno Ford era hoping to improve upon their 18-17 (7-11 MVC) record. Returning for his senior season is Walt Lemon Jr., the conference’s active leader in total points and Bradley’s active leader in nearly every statistical category.
In 2012-13 he joined the great Hersey Hawkins as the only player in league history to record at least 500 points, 100 rebounds, 100 assists, and 70 steals in one season.
Drake will begin a new era under Coach Ray Giacolleti this season. Three key players from last year’s 9th place squad (15-17, 7-11 MVC) return, including starters Seth VanDeest and Richard Carter.
Giacoletti brings a wealth of coaching experience to the Bulldogs, having spent the last six years under the guidance of Mark Few at Gonzaga. Drake will hope to surprise opponents with its blend of experience and new talent in 2013-14.
In spite of the departure of Colt Ryan, one of the most prolific scorers in MVC history, the Purple Aces will be looking to build upon their 21 victories in 2012-13, their most since 1999. They face the difficulty of losing four starters, yet many experienced players return ready to take the helm.
Sophomores DJ Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius and juniors Jaylon Moore and Ryan Sawvell all saw action in 35 or more Evansville’s contests last season, with Balentine and Mockevicius averaging more than five points per game. In addition, Mockevicius brings defensive tenacity to the table, as he tallied 64 blocks last season, the most of any returning player.
What the Redbirds will bring to the table in 2013-14 is largely unknown. All five starters are gone from last year’s team. However, Coach Dan Muller has proven well-equipped to deal with difficult circumstances, as his 2012-13 squad bounced back from an 0-6 start in league play to finish sixth in the conference.
Sophomores Nick Zeisloft and Kaza Keane return after appearing in the vast majority of Illinois State’s tilts last season as well, providing needed experience.
The Indiana State Sycamores are one of the early favorites to contend for the MVC Championship. After spending a large part of the 2012-13 season on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Sycamores bring back veteran leadership and depth, including Larry Bird Trophy candidate Jake Odum. As a junior, Odum averaged 13.6 points per game and tallied the most assists of any returning player in The Valley.
Coach Greg Lansing’s team has participated in a post-season tournament each of the last four years, and will try to make sure that appearance number five is announced on Selection Sunday.
Newcomer Loyola Chicago adds a variable to The Valley equation, and it comes at a perfect time for the Ramblers. Bringing back what was one of the youngest squads in the nation last year, the Ramblers are led by junior Joe Crisman, junior Christian Thomas, and sophomore Devon Turk.
Head Coach Porter Moser will no doubt be prepared for the increased challenge of battling Valley competition, having spent four seasons as the coach of Illinois State
The Bears bring back an experienced squad for 2013-14 thanks in large part to the exciting announcement of the return of Keith Pickens. Senior Jarmar Gulley, too, is back after missing all of last year. He was a starter two seasons ago.
Paul Lusk enters his third year at the helm and has nine letterwinners back, including five with starting experience. Marcus Marshall was the MVC Freshman of the Year, the first MSU player to earn that since 2004.
Ben Jacobson’s Panthers bring back two starters and a host of letterwinners for 2013-14 and appear to be one of the early frontrunners to contend for the MVC title. The fashion in which the 2012-13 season ended gives the Panthers great cause for hope going forward, as they reached the semifinals of the CIT and completed their fifth-straight 20-win season.
Juniors Seth Tuttle and Deon Mitchell will lead the way as UNI aims to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.
Entering their second season under Head Coach Barry Hinson, the Salukis appear ready to continue their journey back to prominence in the MVC. During the final stretch of the 2012-13 slate, SIU was one of the hottest teams in The Valley, winning six of their final eight regular-season games.
Starters Desmar Jackson and Anthony Beane Jr. join four other 2012-13 letterwinners that will comprise the core for this year’s team.
The team to beat in the MVC this year is undoubtedly the Shockers of Wichita State. Coming off of their Final Four appearance, the Shockers are led by Larry Bird Trophy favorite Cleanthony Early, who enters his second year at Wichita State, sophomore sharpshooter Ron Baker, and junior Tekele Cotton. Wichita State brings back a total of eight letterwinners.
After setting a school record with 30 victories, excitement in Wichita is at an all-time high, and the Shockers look to prove that last year was only the beginning.
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