In a poll conducted by Missouri Valley Conference coaches, media and sports information directors, Creighton was selected as the preseason conference champion. Drake earned the seventh slot in the 10-team league.
Sophomore Doug McDermott leads a loaded Bluejays squad. Last season, McDermott became the first freshman since 1951-52 to earn All-MVC first-team honors. He set the freshman league scoring record with 581 points and was one of two sophomores selected for the preseason All-MVC team.
Creighton earned 29 of the possible 40 first-place votes and 389 out of the possible 400 points for the top spot. Wichita State (350 points) was picked to finish second, while last year’s State Farm MVC Championship winner Indiana State (331) was chosen to finish third.
The Bluejays received enough votes to be considered No. 33 in the country in the season’s first USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll.
The Bulldogs garnered 159 points and are expected to finish right behind last year’s regular-season MVC champion Missouri State. Drake is expected to finish ahead of Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Bradley, who were picked eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively.
“We’re excited about our group,” Drake head coach Mark Phelps said at the 2011 MVC Media Day in St. Louis. “It’s the first time since we’ve been there that we have more upperclassmen than underclassmen … Overall, this is a league that has success with upperclassmen.”
Sophomore Rayvonte Rice received an honorable mention for the preseason All-MVC team. Rice set the Drake freshman scoring record last season and was sixth in the MVC in the same category.
“Certainly a focus for us this year is going to be on the defensive end,” Phelps said. “We’ve dug up some stats from last year that aren’t too pretty, and it’s been a big focus of our team, and they (the players) have embraced that.”
Missouri State’s Kyle Weems was selected as the preseason MVC player of the year. Weems captured the Larry Bird Trophy last season as the league’s top player during his junior season. The Bears lost four starters and their head coach Cuonzo Martin after a 26-9 season.
Indiana State made a memorable run to capture the MVC tournament title last season to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Sycamores received the No. 14 seed in the East Region and gave No. 3 seed Syracuse a pretty good battle before waning in the game’s final minutes to lose 77-60. The team is led by sophomore Jake Odum, who was also chosen as a member of the preseason All-MVC team. Odum represented Indiana State on the 2011 State Farm All-MVC Tournament team as a freshman.
Toure’ Murray of Wichita State and Colt Ryan of Evansville round out the preseason All-MVC team. In addition to Rice, Gregory Echenique and Antoine Young of Creighton, Anthony James of Northern Iowa and Mamadou Seck of SIU earned honorable mentions.
Northern Iowa was chosen to finish fourth while Evansville was selected to finish fifth to complete to preseason conference poll.
Last season, Creighton won 23 games and represented the MVC in the postseason CBI tournament. The Bluejays made it to the best-of-three finals, and they lost to Oregon in three games. Creighton is one of nine schools in the nation to compete in 14 straight postseason tournaments.
The Bulldogs will improve, but won’t crack the MVC elite. With the right seeding, the Bulldogs might have what it takes to make a run to the finals.
Predicted record : 17-14