ST. LOUIS -- Wichita State, which returns four starters from a team that won 25 games last year, has been picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball title in 2010-11. WSU was last picked to win the league in 2003-04 and last earned the league's regular-season title in 2006.
2010-11 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team
Kwadzo Ahelegbe, UNI, G, 6-2, 213, Sr., Oakdale (Minn.) Tartan High
Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton, C, 6-9, 250, Sr., Oceanside (Calif.) Vista High
Sam Maniscalco, Bradley, G, 6-0, 175, Sr., Chicago (Ill.) St. Patrick High
Toure' Murry, Wichita State, G, 6-5, 197, Jr., Houston (Texas) Klein Forest High
Kyle Weems, Missouri State, F, 6-6, 232, Jr., Topeka (Kan.) Highland Park High
Honorable Mention: Taylor Brown, Bradley; J.T. Durley, Wichita State; Adam Leonard, Missouri State; Colt Ryan, Evansville; Seth VanDeest, Drake; Andrew Warren, Bradley.
Preseason Player of the Year -- Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton
MVC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
School (First-Place Votes) / Total
1. Wichita State (33) ... 382
2. Missouri State (1) ... 313
3. UNI (3) ... 289
4. Creighton ... 282
5. Bradley (2) ... 264
6. Illinois State ... 165
7. Indiana State ... 136
8. Drake ... 121
9. Southern Illinois ... 120
10. Evansville ... 73
Last season, Wichita State was second in the MVC behind UNI and lost to UNI in the State Farm MVC Championship title game. The Shockers played in the NIT.
The Shockers received 33 of 39 first-place votes in a poll conducted by league coaches, media, and sports information directors. WSU earned 382 out of a possible 390 points and outdistanced Missouri State, which received one first-place tally and 313 total points.
A pair of Shockers highlight the pre-season honorees. Toure' Murry is part of the five-person pre-season all-conference squad, and he's joined by teammate J.T. Durley - one of six players named honorable mention pre-season all-conference. Murry is the top returning scorer for Wichita State after averaging 11.9 points and 5.0 rebounds last season for Gregg Marshall's ballclub.
Murry is joined on the pre-season all-conference unit by UNI's Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Creighton's Kenny Lawson Jr., Bradley's Sam Maniscalco, and Missouri State's Kyle Weems. Weems and Murry are juniors, while the other three are seniors.
Weems is one of five student-athletes with starting experience for Cuonzo Martin's Bears. In fact, Missouri State returns its top seven scorers, losing only two seniors, including Justin Fuehrmeyer, who had a 3.1 assist average and scored 3.6 points per game in 16 starts. The Bears won 24 games last year and claimed the league's first post-season tournament title, winning the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Weems is joined by fellow starters Adam Leonard -- the 2010 MVC Newcomer of the Year, Jermaine Mallett; Will Creekmore and Keith Pickens.
UNI, meanwhile, returns eight letterwinners and two starters from last year's Panther squad that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 and won a school-record 30 games. Senior guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe will be looking to lead the squad to a third-straight regular-season title and third-straight State Farm MVC Tournament title. No team in league history has accomplished both feats in three-straight years. Johnny Moran joins Ahelegbe as a returning starter. The Panthers received 289 points in the poll and three first-place votes to finish third in the pre-season rankings.
Creighton is fourth in the pre-season rankings, with 282 total points. And for the first time in 17 years, the Bluejays have a new man on the sideline, as Greg McDermott takes over for Dana Altman, who left Creighton after 16 seasons as head coach. The Bluejays are one of just 10 schools nationally who have made a post-season tournament in 13 consecutive seasons. Kenny Lawson Jr. is one of four returning starters for Creighton. Lawson, who was a second-team all-MVC pick last year, averaged 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds and was tabbed by the voters as the league's Preseason Player of the Year.
Bradley is the fifth pick in the poll, receiving 264 total points and two first-place votes. Of the 11 student-athletes honored by the pollsters, the Braves have the most, as Sam Maniscalco is on the pre-season team, while teammates Taylor Brown and Andrew Warren were honorable mention. That trio all averaged better than 31 points per game for coach Jim Les and combined to average 41.0 points per game for the Braves.
Illinois State is picked sixth in the pre-season rankings, with 165 points. The Redbirds have two returning starters, and have lost their top three scorers. Notably, ISU has won more games than any other Valley team in the past three years, as Tim Jankovich has compiled a 71-31 mark in his first three seasons at ISU.
Indiana State also returns just two starters from last year, and the Sycamores are picked to finish seventh in this year's MVC basketball race. Greg Lansing takes over as head coach after spending the last eight seasons as an assistant under Kevin McKenna. Carl Richard and Jordan Printy are back as starters, yet experienced Dwayne Lathan and Jake Kelly also return after missing portions of last year with injury.
Drake edged Southern Illinois by a single point in the pre-season poll and the Bulldogs are the eighth pick with 121 total points. Seth VanDeest, one of three returning starters for Mark Phelps, represents the Bulldogs on the pre-season unit as an honorable mention pick. VanDeest averaged 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds and is joined by fellow starters Ryan Wedel (MVC All-Newcomer Team) and Frank Wiseler. The Bulldogs have had the top-rated recruiting class in each of the past two seasons (by ESPN.com publications).
Southern Illinois will be looking to get back to "Floorburn U" and the Salukis return two starters and eight total letterwinners. Justin Bocot and Carlton Fay are joined by three others who saw more than 15 minutes per game last year, including all-Freshman Team selection Gene Teague, John Freeman, and Kendal Brown-Surles.
Evansville returns four starters and eight of its top nine scorers, led by CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Freshman of the Year Colt Ryan. Ryan is on the league's pre-season honorable mention unit and is the Missouri Valley's top returning scorer after averaging 14.5 points per game last year. Teammate Denver Holmes also returns for coach Marty Simmons and also reached double-figure scoring last year at 10.7 a game.
Pollsters have accurately predicted the league's regular-season champ only 12 times out of 26 since 1985-86, but the pre-season favorite Shockers can take solace in that 23 of those 26 predicted champs have gone on to post-season play, with 16 of those 23 playing in the NCAAs.