Missouri State’s men’s basketball team was picked fourth, and last year’s conference Newcomer of the Year Dequon Miller was named to the Preseason All-MVC second team today, the Missouri Valley Conference announced early Tuesday at its annual Basketball Tip-Off event.
The Bears, who return four starters and 70 percent of their scoring from last season, were tabbed to finish among the MVC’s top four teams for the third time in five seasons. A preseason poll of league coaches, media representatives and athletics communications staffs has the Bears behind just preseason league favorite Wichita State (413 points), Illinois State (356) and Northern Iowa (348) among The Valley’s 10 teams.
Rounding out the poll are Southern Illinois (228), Indiana State (219), Loyola (179), Bradley (110), Evansville (106) and Drake (73). Wichita State collected 37 of a possible 42 first-place votes with Illinois State (4) and UNI (1) collecting the other five.
“You have to earn it each and every day in this league, no matter where you’re picked,” said Bears’ head coach Paul Lusk. “No matter where you’re picked, everyone’s goal is to win the conference title, and that’s what we strive to do every day in our program.”
Missouri State’s preseason poll ranking is its best since being tabbed third in 2014-15. The Bears were also picked fourth in 2013-14 under Lusk who enters his sixth season at the helm of the MSU program.
The Missouri State Lady Bears are predicted to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference this season in a vote of the league’s head coaches, media representatives and sports information directors.
The defending MVC Tournament champion Lady Bears collected a pair of first-place votes and 313 total points, while Drake is the preseason favorite with 392 points and 34 first-place votes. Defending regular-season champ UNI earned 317 points and four first-place votes for the No. 2 spot, and Southern Illinois (306) came in fourth.
Wichita State finished fifth in the polling with 248 points, followed by Indiana State (199), Bradley (141), Illinois State (123), Evansville (109) and Loyola (52).
Missouri State finished 24-10 last season and advanced to the 14th NCAA Tournament in school history. The Lady Bears return eight players from that squad, including three that started at least 11 games, for head coach Kellie Harper’s fourth season in Springfield. MSU has posted a top-three league finish in each of the last two seasons, combining for a 27-9 conference record over that time.