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Gregg Marshall and Wichita State remain kings of the Missouri Valley

The season of previewing is not upon us just yet, but the season of reviewing the state of each conference most certainly is. We continue with the Missouri Valley, where Wichita State again appears poised to be a big-time player on the national scene.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

We have officially reached that awkward point in the college hoops offseason where the dust has mostly settled from all the transfer/coaching carousel madness, but it's still far too early to start any serious previewing of the 2015-16 campaign.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, it's time to begin our series of brief rundowns of what each conference looks like after all the moving and shaking that has happened since Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis. We started things off with looks at the West CoastMountain WestAtlantic 10Big East and American conferences, and continue now with the Missouri Valley.


1. The King Stay the King

Wichita State is likely still in the midst of one of the greatest runs in Missouri Valley history thanks to the return of head coach Gregg Marshall, which played a large part in the returns of stars Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. The dynamic backcourt duo (along with the graduated Tekele Cotton) have been at the center of a three-year run that has seen the Shockers go 90-15, crash a Final Four, take out regional ruler Kansas on their way to the Sweet 16, and become the first team in 23 years to enter the NCAA Tournament with an unblemished record.

Now, with Marshall spurning hefty offers from both Texas and Alabama and VanVleet and Baker delaying their professional careers for a year, the Shockers appear poised to snatch their third straight Missouri Valley title and remain a major player on the national scene.

After averaging 23 points and 4.3 assists per game during Wichita State's 2015 NCAA Tournament run, VanVleet, the 2014 MVC Player of the Year, was a surprise cut from the Team USA roster for this summer's Pan American Games. Baker, an Associated Press honorable mention All-American last season, may have been the best player on that Pan American Games team, starting all five games for an American squad that captured the bronze medal at the event.

Rockstar Grandmas, your thoughts?

Agreed, the Shockers are going to be nasty once again.

2. Who will be Wichita State's primary challenger?

Given their heightened national profile and their success in the NCAA Tournament, it's understandable that Wichita State has become the unquestioned face of the Missouri Valley Conference. At the same time, this phenomenon has also led to a perception that the Shockers have "dominated" the league for the past three years, which isn't exactly accurate.

For starters, Wichita State finished second in the conference in 2012-13 (behind Big East-bound Creighton) before ripping off four surprising wins in the big dance to crash the Final Four and scare the hell out of eventual national champion Louisville. After running the table in 2013-14, the Shockers were then involved in a thoroughly entertaining two-horse conference race with Northern Iowa, which wasn't decided until the final game of the regular season.

The main challenger this season isn't likely to be the Panthers, which lost All-American Seth Tuttle to graduation, as well as every other contributor from that team who stood taller than 6'6. The more imposing threats to the crown are likely Illinois State, which upset Wichita State in the semifinals of the conference tournament last season, and Evansville, which ended its 2014-15 season by winning the CIT. Neither squad has the star power to match the Shockers, but both return the bulk of teams which hit their strides and experienced some high-level success near the end of last season.

3. Bradley hits the reset button

There is just one new head coach in the Missouri Valley for the 2014-15 season: Brian Wardle, who was hired by Bradley after he led Green Bay to back-to-back 24 win seasons. Apparently the holdovers from the Braves' 9-24 team last season weren't all that impressed with Keifer Sykes' former head coach, as eight players -- including MVC All-Freshman Team forward Josh Cunningham and starting guard Tramique Sutherland -- opted to transfer out of the program.

Wardle had just three months to scrape together a roster, and so he did the only thing he could: land a transfer from Texas Tech (6'8 forward Alex Foster) and sign a 9-man 2015 recruiting class. The newcomers will have four seniors to learn from, led by guard Warren Jones, who led the team in scoring last season at 11.9 ppg. Still, Wardle -- who was once a standout guard at Marquette -- knows what's in store for him in year one of this new gig.

"The old coaching cliche, embrace the process, not the results, that's going to be very key for us this year, is that we just build our identity, and we stick to it day by day by day, and not get ahead of ourselves," Wardle said earlier this month. "Leadership will kind of define itself a little bit."


Alex Foster (Texas Tech)

Illinois State
Quintin Brewer (Bethune Cookman)

Loyola (Chi)
Clayton Custer (Iowa State)

Wichita State
Anton Grady (Cleveland State)


Kendahl Amerson
Josh Cunningham (Dayton)
Anthony Fields (Liberty)
Omari Grier (Rutgers)
Jermaine Morgan
Tramique Sutherland
Xzavier Taylor
Nate Wells (Ball State)

Blake Danielak (Indiana, Pa.)
Jordan Daniels

Taylor Stafford

Illinois State
Mark Hall (St. Cloud State)
Reggie Lynch (Minnesota)

Indiana State
Tre' Bennett
Alex Etherington (Indianapolis)

Missouri State
Ron Mvouika (St. John's)
Gavin Thurman (Newman)

Southern Illinois
Jordan Caroline (Nevada) 
Chaz Glotta (Northern Colorado)
KC Goodwin (Union)
Deion Lavender (UAB)
Jalen Pendleton (Minnesota State)

Wichita State
Tevin Glass
Corey Henderson Jr. (Blinn JC)
Ria'n Holland (Indian Hills CC)


1. Wichita State - There are questions inside, but this team has its head coach and its two brightest stars back from the squads that went 35-1 in this conference over the past two seasons.

2. Illinois State - The Redbirds should still contend for an at-large bid even with big man Reggie Lynch's transfer.

3. Evansville - If a non-Shocker brings home MVC Player of the Year this season, it's more than likely going to be D.J. Balentine, who has averaged better than 20.0 ppg in each of his last two seasons.

4. Northern Iowa - There's no replacement for your program's first All-American in more than 30 years, but Ben Jacobson has more than enough backcourt talent to keep the Panthers near the top of the conference.

5. Indiana State - The Sycamores are going to be tiny, but they do have reigning Freshman of the Year Brenton Scott, who should be a star in this league for the next three seasons.

6. Loyola (Chi) - The good news is they bring back all but two contributors from a deep team that won 24 games last season. The bad news is that they went just 8-10 in league play and lost prized recruit Roosevelt Smart.

7. Drake - There's a massive drop-off on the conference food chain that begins here.

8. Southern Illinois - The rebuilding effort continues for Barry Hinson.

9. Missouri State - Marcus Marshall averaged over 10 points more per game than the next highest scorer for the Bears last season, and now he'll be playing his final season of college ball at Nevada.

10. Bradley -- As mentioned earlier, season one doesn't figure to be particularly kind to Brian Wardle.