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Five reasons why the men will win the Missouri Valley Conference

Photo: Joey Gale

Health
Before Drake can even think about contending in the Missouri Valley Conference, it must get healthy. Juniors Seth VanDeest and Reece Uhlenhopp are still seven or eight weeks away from seeing action. Other players have suffered nagging injuries in the first few weeks of practice. For the first time in head coach Mark Phelps’ tenure, he returns more than two of the team’s top four scorers and rebounders from the year before. Drake has talent, but it needs to be on the floor to win and not in the training room.

Rayvonte Rice
Forget the offseason mistakes. Rice and the team have moved on. We do know one thing after a stellar freshman season; this guy can play. With Rice, Drake has a go-to scorer that has the potential to be one the top five best players in the conference. He led Drake in nearly every statistical category and broke the school’s freshman scoring record last season. If VanDeest heals and becomes a solid No. 2 option on offense, it will only open things up for Rice. Drake fans can only hope that Rice takes another giant step in his development as a player heading into his sophomore season.

Home, sweet home
Last season, Drake went 1-8 on the road in MVC play. That must change if the team wants to contend for the league’s top spot. The Bulldogs went 6-3 at home in the Valley. If Drake can improve by one game at home and improve its road record to 5-4, then the Bulldogs will be 12-6 in MVC play. This will assure Drake one of the top seeds heading into the State Farm MVC Championship, and the Bulldogs will have their best chance to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

Ben Simons
After struggling with his shot for his first year and a half at Drake, Simons hit his stride in the second half of last season and had some big games. He is a hot pick to have a breakout year. He ended up as the team’s top 3-point shooter (42 percent) last season, and if he can improve, it will spread the floor and open up the lane for Rice and redshirt point guard Karl Madison. Simons is Drake’s only returning player to shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc last season.

The defense will improve
Phelps has emphasized defense and rebounding heading into the season. Drake cannot contend unless it makes drastic improvements. The Bulldogs allowed an average of 67.7 points per game and were outrebounded by 5.5 boards per game. Opponents shot 45 percent combined against Drake, and the Bulldogs had games where they surrendered 90 points (at Bradley), 91 points (at Iowa State) and 82 points (vs. St. John’s, vs. Weber State and at Wichita State). Championship defenses play better than this, and if Drake has title aspirations it must improve on the defensive end of the floor.

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2 Comments

  1. Really? November 3, 2011

    3/5 of these points sound like reasons while Drake will still be bad. This is an awful article, every point starts off with something negative and none of these problems seem to be resolved.

  2. JM November 7, 2011

    Yeah, this really shouldn’t be called “Five reasons why the men will win the Missouri Valley Conference.” It should be called “Five keys to the upcoming Drake Basketball season.” None of these points really show me that we could win the MVC, a lot of it is things that need to happen or things needing improvement in order to have a “successful” season.

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