YCS College Basketball Preview-Four Bids Wow

>> Saturday

To the casual college hoops fan who starts paying attention in March(ahem, Jim Nantz), the Missouri Valley Conference shocked people by receiving four bids to the NCAA Tournament. For me, the only shocking part was the exclusion of Missouri State, who had an RPI of 21 and no bad losses. Once again, the MVC should receive multiple at large bids. The MVC has established itself a top non-BCS conference over the last few seasons.

1. Southern Illinois: Last season's MVC Tournament winner returns all five starters. The Salukis have the tools to be a top 25 team all season long and make a long run in March. Their strength will once again be on the perimeter with Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum. The 6'0 Young, a tenacious defender, had a break-out season offensively a year ago. He averaged 11.6 points per game, and led the Salukis in 3 point percentage at 38%. The 6'2 Tatum averaged 15 points a game last season, and should again be among the MVC leaders in scoring. Tatum does a nice job of driving to the basket. This allows him to get to the line often, where he hits at a 78% clip. If he can more consistently hit his perimeter shot, he will be much more dangerous. 6'1 guard Bryan Mullins should do a nice job running the point this season. He averaged 5.5 points and 3 assists a game last season as a freshman, but should greatly improve those numbers with a season of experience. Sharpshooting freshman Josh Bone should be a nice weapon off the bench. The 6'3 Bone was not heavily recruited, but a breakout performance in a nationally televised game last season showed his vast potential. Upfront, Randal Falker and Matt Shaw have developed into a very solid frontcourt. Falker, an athletic 6'7 post player, disrupts opposing offenses and has emerged as a solid scorer in the post. He averaged 9 points and 8 rebounds a game last season, and has the potential to a double-double guy this season. The 6'7 Shaw is a prototypical four man in today's game. He can hit the perimeter shot and has become tougher down low. A potential contributor upfront is athletic 6'6 redshirt freshman Jordan Armstrong. Armstrong, who added needed bulk in his redshirt season, compares favorably to Falker. Adding a pair of talented newcomers to an outstanding starting five makes the Salukis favorites in the extremely competitive MVC. Like conference brethren Wichita State and Bradley, the Salukis should make a signifcant run in March. Chris Lowery has done a phenomenal job building on Bruce Weber's success and will soon be a candidate for higher profile openings.

2. Creighton: The Bluejays just fell short of earning an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament season. The return of a healthy Nate Funk will change that this year. Funk, a crafty 6'3 senoir guard, will lead a very talented Bluejays backourt. He averaged 18 points a game two seasons ago, and will be the go to guy this season. He has a deadly perimeter shot, and has improved his ability to drive to the basket. 6'3 Nick Porter joins Funk on the wing. A strong guard at 215 pounds, he averaged 9.6 points and 5 rebounds a game and nicely complements Funk. Sophomore Josh Dotzler will be back to run the offense. The 6'1 point guard had a respectable freshman season, averaging 6.4 points and 4 rebounds a game. Once again, his role will be to set up his teamamates and hit the occasional open shot. Milwaukee native, 6'0 guard D'Angalo Jackson, will provide solid mintes off the bench. The Bluejays have a strong frontline, with 6'9 Anthony Tolliver and 6'8 Dane Watts. The 245 pound Tolliver will be a tough match-up for the smaller MVC teams. He averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds a game last season, and will avoid facing double teams because of Funk's presence on the perimeter. Watts has a similar game to SIU's Shaw. He can hit the three, shooting 37% from behind the arc last season, and has improved his rebounding. Heralded JuCo transfer, 6'8 Ty Morrison, should capably fill in for Watts and Tolliver. Funk and Tolliver will be a strong inside-outside duo, and the Bluejays should return to the NCAA Tournament again this season. Dana Altman has made the Bluejays the best program in Nebraska, and will continually watch the Cornhuskers revolving door of coaches from the penthouse of Creighton's beautiful new Qwest Center.

3. Wichita State: Four starters return, but the loss of big man Paul Miller will be a big one. Look for Shockers head coach Mark Turgeon to play a smaller line-up this season, with four perimeter players to go along with Kyle Wilson upfront. Wilson, a 6'8 senior forward, also spends plenty of time away from the basket. He connected on 43% of his threes last season, and averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds a game last season. He will have to increase his rebounding numbers this season, but should provide a solid presence upfront. P.J. Couisinard, a 6'4 swingman, will also battle down low. Couisinard averaged 6 rebounds a game last season and will fight with bigger players down low. An effective slasher, he also averaged 10 points per game and looks poised to have a breakout junior season. Junior Sean Ogirri, one of the MVC's best shooters, is the Shockers leading returning scorer. The 6'2 guard averaged 12 points per game last season, shooting 44% from behind the arc. 5'11 Matt Brauer returns to run the Shockers. The junior point guard averaged 5.4 points and just under 3 assists a game last season, but will have a challenge fending off minutes from freshman Gal Mekel. Mekel, a 6'3 Israeli guard, comes to the Shockers with a strong reputation as a bigtime playmaker. The favorite to take Miller's vacated spot is 6'5 forward Ryan Martin. Martin averaged 5.5 points and just 5 rebounds a game off the bench last season. Like Couisinard, he will battle down low against bigger opponents. Former Marquette guard Karon Bradley returns to give the Shockers an offensive spark off the bench. The 5'10 senior averaged 8 points a game last season, and can score points in the bunches. 6'7 Colorado State transfer Phillip Thommason and 6'10 redshirt freshman David King will have an opportunity to earn playing time upfront. Should one of them emerge as a solid option, the Shockers will have a great encore to last season's magical run in March.

4. Missouri State: Blake Ahearn returns to lead a talented Bears squad with a large chip on the shoulder. The 6'2 guard had some uncharacteristic struggles with his normally automatic shot last season, hitting at just 38% from behind the arc. That number should climb back into the mid 40's this season, and Ahearn could easily average 20+ points per game. Adjusting to becoming the Bears primary offensive weapon, he still averaged 16 points per game and hit 94% of his free throws. 6'5 senior guard Tyler Chaney joins Ahearn in the backcourt. A consistently solid player, he averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds per game last season. The Laurie brothers, Spencer and Shane, will compete will for the other backcourt spot. Spencer, a 6'1 junior, started his college career at only 2 assists per contest. They will have to look up to set up their teammates, and sacrifice their offensive games. 6'0 redshirt freshman guard Justin Fuehrmeyer also has the chance to earn minutes at the point. Talented 6'6 senior forward Nathan Bilyeu leads the Bears frontcourt. Bilyeu averaged 9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season. He should improve his scoring average this season as he possesses a nice inside-outside game, hitting 37% of his threes last year. 6'10 Sky Frazier and 6'9 Drew Richards will rotate in the post again this season. Frazier averaged 7 points and 4 rebounds a game last season, Richards 4 points and 4 rebounds a game. 6'5 forward Dale Lamberth is a nice frontcourt option off the bench. Lamberth has an excellent perimeter game, shooting 53% from the field and 48% from three. If the Bears can get solid point guard play and more consistency upfront, Barry Hinson's squad should make the NCAA Tournament this season.

Northern Iowa will struggle replacing talented guards Ben Jacobson and Erik Crawford, but still has the MVC's best frontcourt with Grant Stout and Erik Coleman. If new coach Ben Jacobson(no relation to former UNI player) can capably replace former coach Greg McDermott, the Panthers should play in the postseason. Bradley will take a major step back with the loss of forward Marcellus Sommerville and 7'0 center Patrick O'Bryant, chosen by Golden State 9th in the 2006 NBA Draft. Also, talented big man Xavier Crawford failing to qualify will leave the Braves woefully think in the frontcourt. Talented freshman Osiris Eldridge may finally get Illinois State back on the right track. Once again, the MVC should be good for multiple NCAA Tournament bids and will knock off many big boys again.

All-Conference Team:
G Nate Funk, Creighton
G Jamaal Tatum, Southern Illinois
G Blake Ahearn, Missouri State
F Kyle Wilson, Wichita State
F/C Eric Coleman, Northern Iowa

Player of the Year: Funk
Newcomer of the Year: Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State


Nathan 3:40 AM  

You son of a bitch Zuch, quit writing such long posts that knock me about 20-30 inches down the website, and makes everyone lose interest in reading my articles.


Matt Zuchowski 3:56 PM  

Hey, you may learn a few things from my posts, which could earn you some needed diaper money this March.

Vinnie 10:17 PM  

Just for that Nate, next time you post, I'll write another mile-long critique of Bill Simmons and bump you to kingdom come.

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