ST. LOUIS -- Creighton has been picked to win the 2011-12 Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball crown. The Bluejays return three starters from a team that won 23 games last year. Kyle Weems of Missouri State, meanwhile, has been tabbed the league's Preseason Player of the Year.
Creighton tied for fourth in the league race last season and represented the MVC in the championship series of the CBI, falling to Oregon in a best-of-three series. Returning starters include Doug McDermott, Antoine Young, and Gregory Echenique.
The Bluejays enter the 2011-12 campaign as one of nine schools nationally who have made the postseason in 14 consecutive seasons. McDermott, one of two sophomores on the 2011-12 pre-season all-MVC team, last year became the first freshman since 1951-52 (Cleo Littleton of Wichita State) to earn first-team all-MVC honors. He set the league freshman scoring record with 581 points, and he averaged 7.2 rebounds per game.
Echenique, meanwhile, led the league in blocks (1.83) and field goal percentage (60.9). Young was tops in the conference in assists (5.0) and he averaged 13.1 points per game last season. Both Echenique and Young earned spots on the pre-season honorable-mention unit.
||MVC Preseason Poll
||School (First Place Votes)
||Wichita State (7)
||Indiana State (4)
Poll determined by panel of league sports information directors, media, and coaches.
2011-12 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team
Name, School, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year, Hometown, High School
Jake Odum, Indiana State, G, 6-4, 170, So., Terre Haute (Ind.) South Vigo High
Doug McDermott, Creighton, F, 6-7, 220, So., Ames (Iowa) High
Toure’ Murry, Wichita State, G, 6-5, 203, Sr., Houston (Texas) Klein Forest High
Colt Ryan, Evansville, G/F, 6-5, 210, Jr., Batesville (Ind.) High
Kyle Weems, Missouri State, F, 6-6, 226, Sr., Topeka (Kan.) Highland Park High
Honorable Mention: Gregory Echenique, Creighton; Anthony James, UNI; Rayvonte Rice, Drake; Mamadou Seck, Southern Illinois; Antoine Young, Creighton.
Preseason Player of the Year -- Kyle Weems, Missouri State
Creighton received 29 of 40 first-place votes in a poll conducted by league coaches, media, and sports information directors. The Bluejays received 389 of a possible 400 points and outdistanced Wichita State, which received seven first-place tallies and 350 points.
Last year, Wichita State won the NIT with a 66-57 victory over Alabama at Madison Square Garden and set a school record with 29 wins. The Shockers, who return three starters from last year, have recorded a 54-18 record during the past two seasons.
Toure’ Murry is the top returning scorer for Gregg Marshall’s ballclub as he averaged 9.4 points per game last season. He’s a member of this year’s five-person all-MVC preseason unit. He was a second-team all-MVC pick last season.
Indiana State is picked next in the preseason poll, as the Sycamores received four first-place votes and 331 total points. ISU won the 2011 State Farm MVC Tournament and represented the league in the NCAAs. Four starters return for coach Greg Lansing, who last season became just the second ISU coach to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament in his rookie campaign (Bill Hodges, 1979).
Jake Odum, a member of the 2011 State Farm MVC All-Tournament team as a freshman, earned a spot on this year’s pre-season team. That gives the league two sophomores on this year’s pre-season unit. It is believed that it’s the first time in league history that two sophomores have occupied spots on the pre-season all-MVC team. The league began publicizing a pre-season poll in 1985-86. Recent sophomores to earn pre-season all-MVC accolades include Creighton’s P’Allen Stinnett (heading into the 2008-09 season), Drake’s Luke McDonald (2001-02), Creighton’s Rodney Buford (1996-97) and Tulsa’s Shea Seals (1994-95).
UNI, meanwhile, follows Indiana State in this year’s pre-season poll. The Panthers received 245 points and have three starters returning from last year’s 20-14 team. Anthony James earned a spot on this year’s honorable mention pre-season squad. He is the top returning scorer for UNI after averaging 12.4 points per game last year, which ranked No. 9 in the MVC.
Evansville is the fifth pick in the pre-season rankings, and the Purple Aces are led by junior Colt Ryan. Ryan ranked third in the conference in scoring last year with 15.7 points per game and is on this year’s pre-season team. The Aces, notably, return three of the top four scorer’s from last year’s 16-16 team that played two games in the CBI Tournament. Evansville, picked in the league upper division for the first time since 2000-01, will open up the new 11,000-seat Ford Center with November games against Butler and Indiana.
Last year’s regular-season champion Missouri State is picked sixth in this year’s pre-season poll. It marks the lowest pick for a defending champ since 1991-92, when defending champion Creighton was picked ninth after winning the 1991 regular season.
The Bears return the Larry Bird Trophy Winner in Kyle Weems. Last year, he became the first junior to win the league’s top individual player honor since 2004, when Southern Illinois’ Darren Brooks won the first of his two league MVP awards. Paul Lusk, a former player at Southern Illinois and assistant coach at Purdue, takes over the reigns for a team that lost four starters and coach Cuonzo Martin after a 26-9 season.
Drake is picked seventh in this year’s poll, and they’ll be led by sophomore Rayvonte Rice, a member of this year’s pre-season honorable mention unit. Rice set the Drake freshman scoring record last year with 428 points while leading the Bulldogs in nearly every statistical category. He ranked sixth in the MVC in scoring.
Illinois State returns three starters from last year’s team that tied for ninth. Jackie Carmichael is the top returning scorer for ISU after averaging 9.8 points per game a season ago. Southern Illinois, meanwhile, is picked ninth in the poll and the Salukis return just two starters. One of them -- Mamadou Seck -- led the league in rebounding last season and is a member of this year’s pre-season honorable mention squad.
Bradley’s new head coach Geno Ford inherits a team that finished tied for ninth and lost two of its top three scorers. The Braves’ top returning scorer is Dyricus Simms-Edwards, as he averaged 10.5 points a year ago. Taylor Brown, a pre-season all-MVC pick last year, is also back after missing the entire 2010-11 campaign.
Pollsters have accurately predicted the league’s regular-season champ only 12 times out of 27 since 1985-86, but the pre-season favorite Bluejays can take solace in that 24 of those 27 predicted champs have gone on to post-season play, with 16 of those 24 playing in the NCAAs.
The Bluejays, meanwhile, have been picked to win the MVC seven previous times since 1989-90, and in those years, they won the league three times and finished second four times.