The biggest offseason news for MVC: Belmont has decided to leave the Ohio Valley and join the Missouri Valley.
This is massive. Belmont is a top-notch mid-major program, one that has won 20 or more games in five straight seasons. The addition legitimately makes the Missouri Valley an annual two-bid threat.
But that step will not come until the fall of 2022.
Instead of talking about MVC at the national level, I would rather praise the conference for how entertaining it is.
For this season, the league still features 2021 NCAA Tournament participants Loyola Chicago and Drake, 17-7 Missouri State and an extremely experienced Northern Iowa team.
So what are we looking for in the Missouri Valley this season?
The cream of the crop
Drake achieved some gambling reputation last season, covering in his first 15 games en route to a record 18-0 on February 6th.
The Bulldogs finished as one of the most profitable teams in the country last season against the spread (ATS).
However, the Bulldogs staggered down the stretch, and their unimaginative display in the NCAA Tournament (53-52 win vs. Wichita State, 72-56 loss vs. USC) raised some questions as to whether they should have been there at all.
The Bulldogs have reloaded and are locked in for the upcoming season. They return all five starters from last year’s squad, including three superseniors.
Because of his experience, Drake is my best choice to win the MVC this season.
However, the Bulldogs didn’t just bring the band back. They added it significantly.
Roman Penn is back after an injury last season and he’s ready to orchestrate one of the country’s most deadly pick-and-roll offenses.
In addition, the reigning MVC coach of the Year, Darian DeVries, used the free season to compliment his talent at the surface level with depth. It includes his son, upcoming freshman and 2021 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year, Tucker DeVries, as well as Omaha degree transfer and 45% 3-point shooter Ayo Akinwole.
The only major loss is Joseph Yesufu, who was last year’s team’s solid offensive hand. But by bringing Penn back as the main ball dealer, they have swapped a bit of offensive explosiveness for a more reliable full-back defender.
Given that the Bulldogs finished in 33rd place in KenPom offensive efficiency and just 101st in defensive efficiency, this is a trade DeVries is willing to make.
Watch for Drake to play his second row in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Loyola is perhaps the biggest question mark heading into this season. The losses of Porter Moser and Cameron Krutwig are immeasurable.
However, Ramblers should not be overlooked. They replaced Moser with longtime assistant Drew Valentine, and Loyola also returns four starters from last year’s historic squad.
This team will be the biggest threat to Drake’s MVC title hopes (although Loyola is favored to win the conference). They could also turn MVC into a league with two bids for the second season in a row.
While Drake is an offensive powerhouse, Loyola’s team is built around its defensive prowess. At the end of their tournament run, the Ramblers finished in second place in the nation in KenPom defensive efficiency, allowing only 0.794 points per game. possession, which is in the 98th percentile, per. Synergy.
The Ramblers also return their biggest defensive piece in Lucas Williamson. The supersenior was the defender of the year in MVC last season, and he gives Valentine a lot of versatility with his 6-foot-4 frame.
The question is: Can Williamson go up on the offensive end to make up for Krutwig’s lost offense?
Probably not, but Loyola has no shortage of shooters. I would keep an eye on Ryan Schwieger – who had a double-digit average with Princeton – but I’m more fascinated by former Dartmouth’s Chris Knight.
Knight owned Ivy League paint during his two-year period as a starter. He can score in the post (.952 PPP posting up, 76th percentile) and as a roll man (1,263 PPP as a P&R roll man, 85th percentile). He also blocked 72 shots in his 59 games over that stretch.
Ramblers are experienced, well-trained and defenders at a high level. If an MVC team is ready to shock the college basketball world, it’s Valentine’s Ramblers.
On the road:
Missouri State has made great strides in the last few years.
Although they have completed between 16 and 18 victories over the past five seasons, the Bears were a KenPom top-100 team in 2020-21. The last time the Bears achieved that feat was in 2012 under Paul Lusk.
When Dana Ford took the job at Missouri State, the Bears ranked No. 200 in KenPom offensive efficiency. Last year, this team finished in a 90th place in that statistic and had the Valley’s leading goal scorer on their team.
Isiaih Mosley finished with 19.8 points per. match while shooting over 50% from the field. He was captain of the Bears, but was backed by Gaige Prim, who averaged nearly a double-double (16.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG) in the Bears’ 12-6 conference season.
Ford not only returns both of its top scorers, he returns all five starters from last year’s squad. This team could have the highest ceiling in the MVC, especially after finishing 17th in the country in 2-point shooting last season (55.2%).
Bears also have a very low floor.
Missouri State added depth, but there are questions about additions like Jaylen Minnett (IUPUI) and Donovan Clay (Valparaiso). Specifically, the questions revolve around how crowded the backcourt becomes, along with their potentially inconsistent perimeter shooting and questionable defense.
But you could turn it around and instead point to the team’s high level of experience and depth as nothing more than a strength.
Again: High ceilings, low floor. However, I would not mind taking an 8-to-1 shot at the Bears to win the MVC title.
UNI is similar to Missouri State. Ben Jacobson returns almost his entire roster, including all five starters from last season, and has an explosive offensive weapon at the head of his team.
AJ Green only reached three games last season before being knocked out the rest of the year due to a hip injury. He is the best pure goal scorer in the conference when he is healthy, after winning the award for player of the year 2019-20 thanks to his 19.7 points per game. match.
Green’s injury last season has its mark, especially that other players on the list moved up and gained valuable experience in return.
The then novice Bowen Born drove the attack from the point guard position, leading the team to 3-points and achieving MVC Freshman Player of the Year honors.
UNI only ran pick-and-roll 14% of the time, per. Synergy, but Bowen posted 0.925 points per game. possession as a ball dealer in these sets, which is ranked in the 84th percentile among Division I players.
Upper-class men Austin Phyfe and Trae Berhow took more of the scoring load on their shoulders with Green hurting. Phyfe was particularly effective from an efficiency point of view, taking almost 60% of his shots on the edge and making almost 70% of them per. Hoop-Math.
Both of these guys are returning with more experience and less defensive pressure now that Green is becoming the No. 1 opportunity.
The Panthers won four of their last five games, including an MVC Tournament, before the COVID-19 Protocols knocked them out of the postseason tournament.
Jacobson’s team is hungry, experienced and has a huge upside, especially if Green can score just as fatally as he did before the injury.
I would take a good look at Southern Illinois, which returns all five starters and gets a fully healthy Marcus Domask back.
Domask was MVC Freshman of the Year in 2020-21 and averaged over 16 points per game before losing the rest of his year to injury.
They are experienced and dynamic in the offensive with Domask back.
Valpo is a very exciting team.
They were penalized by the transfer portal, but Matt Lottich managed to recruit four Big Ten players to his team, including three from Wisconsin (Kobe King, Trevor Anderson and Joe Hedstrom).
In addition, the university has made a significant (and controversial) re-brand. The newly formed Beacons can become dangerous already this season.