| ||Thursday, November 4|
|Pay attention to the mid-majors. The Missouri Valley Conference is the latest
to join the multiple-bid leagues.
The MVC put in three teams in last year's tourney: Creighton, Evansville and Southwest Missouri State. The Aces were bounced out in round one, the Bluejays in round two and the Bears got to the Sweet 16.
Throughout the spring, Evansville coach Jim Crews was mentioned for a few jobs, Creighton's Dana Altman had his name on a list, Bradley's Jim Molinari consistently was mentioned and Southwest Missouri State's Steve Alford left for Iowa.
Got the picture? This league is deep with talent on the court and on the bench. It might take a slight hit this season, but we're only guessing here. No one thought the MVC would land three teams in the NCAA at this time a year ago.
So, we'll still predict only one -- Bradley -- and probably get burned again in March.All-conference team
Jason Perez, senior, G, Wichita State,16.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Sean Stackhouse, senior, G, Northern Iowa, 16.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Rob Dye, senior, G, Bradley, 17.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Nate Green, senior, F, Indiana State, 10.7 ppg, 4.6 apg
Craig Snow, junior, F, Evansville, 13.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg Player of the year: Rob Dye
Dye averaged 17.4 points a game last season, shot 81.3 percent from the line and made 35.6 percent of his 3-pointers. He's the Braves' best creator and scorer, not to mention the league's top go-to player. He should be the reason the Braves are back in the tourney for the first time since '96. All-newcomer team
Angelo Flanders, junior, F, Bradley
Jeff Rabey, junior, C, Bradley
Faruk Mujenzinovic, freshman, F, Evansville
Terence Avery, junior, F, Indiana State
Kent Williams, freshman, G, Southern Illinois Newcomer of the year: Kent Williams
Williams is the one of the most heralded freshman recruits the Salukis have landed. He can score from the perimeter or take his defender inside for a layup. The Salukis have a chance to move up from the middle of the conference with him in the lineup. Best backcourt: Bradley
Rob Dye and Eric Roberson combined for nearly 27 points a game last season. They both shoot in the mid 40s and can create off the dribble. The Braves will be tough to press with these two on the court. Best frontcourt: Evansville
Bullish 6-8, 255-pound center Kwame James (9.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and 6-7 forward Craig Snow (13.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) pose the toughest tandem in the MVC. The unit should get deeper and stronger with the additions of freshmen Dan Lytle and Faruk Mujenzinovic.
Team on the rise: Indiana State
Alford is gone, but more importantly for first-year coach Barry Hinson, so too are productive scorers Danny Moore and Ryan Bettenhausen. The Bears will likely take at least a one-year hiatus from the NCAAs. Unsung player: William Fontleroy, SW Missouri State
Fontleroy is one of the most explosive guards in the Midwest, able to get by defenders for jams, drives and dishes. He's a superb defender with a low stance and quick hands. Toughest road game: Bradley
The Braves are the main attraction in Peoria and the fans fill the 10,875-seat Carver Arena. What makes it even tougher is the Braves' defense. Bradley finished in the top 24 in team defense in seven of the last eight seasons. Postseason teams
NIT: Indiana State, Evansville