Bears, Lady Bears picked fourth and fifth in MVC preseason



The Bears and Lady Bears are both picked to finish in the top five of the MVC basketball conference this season.

Bears picked fourth

With a host of returning personnel and a talented cast of newcomers, the Missouri State Bears have been selected fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, the league announced today (Oct. 30) prior to its Media Day event.

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Wichita State is a unanimous pick to win the league, as the Shockers collected all 40 first-place votes and 400 points from the conference head coaches, sports information directors and media. Indiana State (352), Northern Iowa (318), the Bears (258) and Bradley (244) round out the upper division, while Evansville (186), Illinois State (139), Southern Illinois (123), conference newcomer Loyola (95) and Drake (85) complete the predictions.

“We're excited about the upcoming season. Having 14 healthy bodies has allowed us to have some competitive practices and created some good competition,” said third-year MSU head coach Paul Lusk. “Preseason polls are great for discussion. But ultimately you have to prove it on the floor, and that's where the league will be decided.”

Wednesday’s announcement also included honors for Bears’ sophomore Marcus Marshall (G, St. Paul, Minn.) who was rewarded with a place on the MVC Preseason All-Conference squad.  The club’s top returning scorer (11.5 ppg) was the Valley Newcomer of the Year in 2012-13, making him just the second MSU player to receive that honor. As a rookie, Marshall led MSU in 3-pointers and, free throw percentage, earned a spot on the league’s exclusive All-Newcomer Team and broke the school’s freshman scoring mark with 368 points.

“Marcus continues to develop his game, and we look for him to have an outstanding season,” Lusk said.

Marshall is joined on the preseason all-league squad by the Valley's Preseason Player of the Year Cleanthony Early of Wichita State, Walt Lemon, Jr., of Bradley, Jake Odum of Indiana State, Desmar Jackson of Southern Illinois, Seth Tuttle of UNI and Ron Baker of Wichita State.

During his first two seasons at Missouri State, Lusk’s teams have finished higher than predicted both years. In 2011-12, the Bears were picked sixth in the league and tied for third, while last season, Missouri State was tabbed eighth in the preseason poll but finished in a tie for seventh place.  The last time MSU was picked fourth was 2006-07, and the club’s most-recent prediction in the upper division was second in 2010-11 when Missouri State claimed its first-ever Valley regulars-season title.

The Bears will open the regular season a week from Friday (Nov. 8) at Old Dominion (6 p.m., Central) in a BracketBusters return game.

Lady Bears picked fifth

The Missouri State Lady Bears of first-year head coach Kellie Harper have been voted to finish fifth in the 2013-14 Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball race by the league’s head coaches, media representatives and sports information directors, it was announced at MVC Media Day in Chicago Wednesday (Oct. 30).
 
Indiana State is the preseason favorite with 378 points and 26 first-place votes, while defending champion Wichita State came in second with 360 points and 13 first-place votes. The next six teams in the poll are bunched within 93 points of each other, which is closer than the 101-point gap between WSU and third-place UNI (259).
 
Drake finished fourth in the polling with 221 points, followed by Missouri State (216), Loyola (211), Bradley (194), Illinois State (166), Evansville (104) and Southern Illinois (91).
 
Wichita State’s Alex Harden is the Preseason MVC Player of the Year and is joined on the all-conference team by Drake’s Kyndal Clark, Loyola’s Simone Law, Cartaesha Macklin of Southern Illinois and Indiana State’s Anna Munn.
 
Missouri State returns three starters and nine letterwinners from last season’s club, while six players on the roster were part of MSU’s most recent MVC championship team of 2012.
 
The Lady Bears begin exhibition play Oct. 31 at 7:05 p.m. with Arkansas-Fort Smith and tip off the regular season Nov. 11 at Arkansas State.

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