Missouri State tabbed Valley favorites for first time

ST. LOUIS — For the first time since joining the league (1990-91), Missouri State has been tabbed the favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball title.

The Bears return four starters from last year’s 17-win team that tied for sixth in the MVC race.  Alize Johnson earned Newcomer of the Year honors in his junior year last season and has been selected as the pre-season MVC Player of the Year for 2017-18.  He averaged a team-best 14.8 points and a league-best 10.6 rebounds in 2016-17.

Place School (First-Place Votes) Total
1 Missouri State (30) 381
2 UNI (8) 337
3 Loyola (1) 321
4 Illinois State (1) 256
5 Southern Illinois 226
6 Valparaiso 214
7 Bradley 182
8 Indiana State 116
9 Evansville   88
10 Drake   79

The Bears received 30 first-place votes and 381 points to outdistance UNI, which earned 337 points and eight first-place tallies to finish second.  Loyola and Illinois State also received a first-place vote and finished third with 321 points and 256 points, respectively.

Kyle Weems was the last Missouri State player to earn pre-season Player of the Year designation (for the 2011-12 season).  Doug McDermott of Creighton earned the Larry Bird Trophy that year, although Weems earned first-team all-league plaudits.

This year’s six-player first-team unit features a pair of Loyola Ramblers:  Aundre Jackson (14.1 ppg, 66.9 FG pct.) and Donte Ingram (13.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg).  Notably, the league’s top four active scorers are represented on the first-team squad, including Ingram (816 career points), Reed Timmer of Drake (1,348), Brenton Scott of Indiana State (1,311) and Bennett Koch of UNI (633).

Johnson, meanwhile, is the only returning first-team selection from last year.  Ingram, Scott and Timmer earned third-team all-MVC honors in 2016-17, while Jackson was a member of the league’s All-Newcomer Team.

Pollsters have accurately predicted the league’s regular-season champ five-straight years, but only 17 times out of 32 total since 1985-86, but the pre-season favorite Bears can take solace in that 29 of those 32 predicted champs have gone on to post-season play, with 21 of those 29 playing in the NCAAs.

The 2017-18 season begins a new chapter in the 111-year history of the Missouri Valley Conference as Valparaiso became the league’s 34th member on July 1.  With the addition of Valparaiso, the league’s new 10-member configuration spans four Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri).

FIRST TEAM Pos  Ht.  Yr. Hometown (High School)
*Alize Johnson, MSU F 6-9 Sr. Williamsport (Pa.) St. John Neumann High
Donte Ingram, LUC G/F 6-6 Sr. Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
Brenton Scott, INS G 6-1 Sr. Fort Wayne (Ind.) Northrup High
Bennett Koch, UNI F 6-10 Sr. Ashwaubenon (Wis.) High
Reed Timmer, DU G 6-1 Sr. New Berlin (Wis.) Eisenhower
Aundre Jackson, LUC F 6-5 Sr. Kennedale (Texas) High
Thik Bol, SIU F 6-8 Sr. Omaha (Neb.) Iowa Western CC
Darrell Brown, BRAD G 5-10 So. Memphis (Tenn.) Germantown
Klint Carlson, UNI F 6-7 Sr. Waverly (Iowa) Waverly-Shell Rock
Phil Fayne, ILS F 6-9 Jr. Elk Grove (Calif.) Franklin High
Ryan Taylor, UE G 6-6 Jr. Gary (Ind.) St. John’s Northwestern Military
Tevonn Walker, VALPO G 6-2 Sr. Montreal (Quebec) Vanier College

*pre-season MVC Player of the Year
Voting by coaches, sports information directors and a media panel

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