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Missouri Valley men's basketball preview 2021-22

Missouri Valley Men’s Basketball Preview 2021-22

The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) has traditionally been one of the most competitive and unpredictable conferences in college basketball, and this trend will undoubtedly continue in the 2021-2022 season. We are hopeful that things will be more back to normal this season after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged last season.

Loyola, Drake, Missouri State, and Indiana State were the top teams in the conference last season, with Loyola clinging to the MVC Tournament after staving off fierce competition from Drake. Will Loyola be the team to beat again in 2021-2022?

Let’s take a look at how the Missouri Valley men’s basketball teams stack up for this upcoming season!

Missouri Valley Men’s Basketball Preview 2021-22:

the Favorites: Loyola, Drake, Northern Iowa

Loyola

Head coach: Drew Valentine (1st season)

2020-2021 record: 26-5 (16-2 in MVC)

Conference finish: 1st

The Loyola Ramblers are coached by Drew Valentine, who was elevated from assistant coach after the departure of Porter Moser. The Ramblers were exceptional offensively and also ranked as the second-best defensive team in the country.

The Ramblers will have every key player returning except the outstanding Cameron Krutwig, who has gone pro. Seniors Keith Clemons, Lucas Williamson, Tate Hall, and Aher Uguak will be in the squad, along with Marquise Kennedy and Braden Norris. These players played key roles in the Ramblers’ run to the Sweet 16 last season and will be rearing to go even further this year with the experience they’ve gained.

Loyola has bolstered its frontcourt with the addition of sharpshooters Ben Schwieger and Saint Thomas. Schwieger is a 48% three-point shooter who averaged 17 points per game in his senior year, while Thomas averaged over 21 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. The experience in the Ramblers squad, along with the elite talent that they have added, will definitely make them one of the favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference for a second consecutive year!

Drake

Head coach: Darian DeVries (4th season)

2020-2021 record:  26-5 (15-3 in MVC)

Conference finish: 2nd

The Bulldogs were right in the thick of things throughout the season and ended with a comparable record to winners Loyola. The Bulldogs will have superstar shooter Tank Hemphill, dynamic ball-handler Roman Penn, D.J Wilkins, Garrett Sturtz, and Tremell Murphy returning from last season. Also, top recruit Tucker DeVries will join the team along with talented guard Ayo Akinwole, who has transferred from Omaha to be a contended for the Missouri Valley men’s basketball crown.

Drake has the nucleus of its team from last season, and with the talent it has added to its roster, it will be one of the teams to beat in the Missouri Valley Conference this season if everyone remains fit.

Northern Iowa

Head coach: Ben Jacobson (15th season)

2020-2021 record:  10-15 (7-11 in MVC)

Conference finish: 5th

The Panthers suffered a massive performance dip in 2020-2021 resulting from an injury to 2019 MVC Player of the Year AJ Green; Green played only the first three games of the season. Green will return for the 2021-2022 campaign, along with almost everyone else on the roster from last season, including key players Trae Berhow, Austin Phyfe, Bowen Born, Noah Carter, and Antwan Kimmons.

There will be hardly any new faces to fit into the team, so the Panthers should hit the ground running, and I anticipate that they will be one of the top teams in Missouri Valley men’s basketball.

the contenders: Missouri State, Bradley

Missouri State

Head coach: Dana Ford (4th season)

2020-2021 record: 17-7 (12-6 in MVC)

Conference finish: 3rd

The Bears will have six out of seven of their leading players from last season, including their best player, Gaige Prim, who averaged an impressive 16.7/9.1/3.1 throughout the season. Prim will have the impressive Isiaih Mosley, who averaged almost 20 points per game last season, supporting him in the frontcourt.

The frontcourt will also be bolstered by Demarcus Sharpe, Keaton Henry, and Ja’Monta Black, along with the additions of Jaylen Minnett from IUPUI and Donovan Clay from Valparaiso. The Bears will have one of the most stacked frontcourts in the Missouri Valley Conference, which surely makes them one of the contenders in the conference.

Bradley

Head coach: Brian Wardle (7th season)

2020-2021 record: 12-16 (6-12 in MVC)

Conference finish: 8th

The Braves have lost their two-best offensive players, Elijah Childs and Sean East II, to graduation and transfer. They do have some good offensive players in La’Shon Henry, Ville Tahvanainen, Rienk Mast, and Ari Boya. The Braves’ already-potent defense will be further strengthened with the additions of Connor Hickman, Terry Roberts, and Mikey Howell.

Bradley will have one of the best defenses in the Missouri Valley Conference, and if its frontcourt players play well as a unit, it can surprise some of the top teams in the league.

Stuck in Purgatory: Valparaiso, Indiana State, Southern Illinois

Valparaiso

Head coach: Matt Lottich (6th season)

2020-2021 record: 10-18 (7-11 in MVC)

Conference finish: 7th

The Beacons had one of the worst offensive records in the MVC last season, averaging just 65 points per game. They have also lost some experience with the departures of Donavan Clay, Nick Robinson, Jacob Ognacevic, and Daniel Sackey. However, head coach Matt Lottich has retained the services of Ben Krikke, the leading scorer from last season, and has brought in Kobe King, Joe Hedstrom, Trevor Anderson, and Thomas Kithier, which should help the Beacons on the offensive end.

The team’s defensive game is good; it conceded only 68 points per game last season. With the boost to their frontcourt, the Beacons should at least be competitive in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2021-22. 

Indiana State

Head coach: Josh Schertz (1st season)

2020-2021 record: 15-10 (11-7 in MVC)

Conference finish: 4th

The Sycamores have lost eight of the 12 players that were on their roster last season, which means that new head coach Josh Schertz will have to rebuild a competitive team. He will have the team’s leading scorer from last season, Tyreke Key, along with Cooper Neese and Julian Larry.

The Sycamore roster is comprised of only one senior, two freshmen, and the rest are transfers. It will take a little while for this new team to play well as a unit and challenge the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Southern Illinois

Head coach: Bryan Mullings (3rd season)

2020-2021 record: 12-14 (5-13 in MVC)

Conference finish: 9th

The Salukis has retained all eight players who played most of the minutes last season and added Ben Coupet, Jr. from Little Rock. The Salukis were dismal defensively last season and have done nothing much to bolster this weakness in the team. I don’t see the Southern Illinois having any realistic chance at a great season with such a poor defense.

The Basement: Evansville, Illinois State

Evansville

Head coach: Todd Lickliter (2nd season)

2020-2021 record: 9-16 (7-11 in MVC)

Conference finish: 6th

Last season, Evansville churned out a middling performance, which resulted in a bottom-half finish in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Purple Aces have retained five of their top players from last season, including Shamar Givance, Jawaun Newton, and Noah Frederking.

They averaged just 64.8 points per game and conceded almost 70 points per game last season; with no significant boost to their roster, the Purple Aces will probably struggle throughout the season.

Illinois State

Head coach: Dan Muller (10th season)

2020-2021 record: 7-18 (4-14 in MVC)

Conference finish: 10th

The Redbirds are expected to remain close to the bottom of the MVC due to their sloppy defending; they conceded 74.8 points per game and averaged 13 turnovers per outing in 2020-21. The Redbirds have added forward Liam McChesney (Utah State) and Kendall Lewis (Appalachian State), who averaged a commendable 9.9 points per game last season, to their roster.

These players should give them a boost offensively, but they have not done much to bolster their defense, which should keep them in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley Conference for the 2021-2022 season.

2021-22 missouri valley men’s Basketball Players to Watch

gaige Prim – Forward – senior – missouri state

Gaige Prim is probably the best all-around player in the MVC. He was the engine of the Bears team that went 17-7 last season, dominating all over the court. Prim averaged 16.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per night a season ago. I expect him to continue this exemplary performance in 2021-2022 and could be in the running for conference MVP if he remains fit. His link-up play with Isiaih Mosley will be one of the highlights of the 2021-2022 Missouri Valley men’s basketball season.

AJ Green – Guard – junior – northern iowa

AJ Green is expected to be fully fit for the 2021-2022 season, and if this happens, he will be one of the dominant forces in the league. Green only managed to play three games for the Panthers last season, averaging better than 22 points per game before picking up a season-ending injury.

If Green had been available for the entire season, the Panthers would have seriously challenged Loyola for the Missouri Valley Conference championship. The MVC will definitely be more exciting with Green playing, and he is undoubtedly one of the players you should watch for in the MVC.

Tucker DeVries – guard – freshman – drake

Tucker DeVries is one of the most exciting talents entering the MVC in the 2021-2022 season. He is a three-star recruit who dominated as a senior at Waukee High School. He has developed a reputation of scoring from anywhere on the court and has been compared to Luka Doncic. His addition to the roster will make for interesting viewing, and he is a player to watch for the coming season. 

2021-22 Men’s & Women’s College Basketball Conference Previews

Learn more about the upcoming 2021-22 men’s and women’s college basketball seasons with Nothing But Nylon’s extensive conference previews, with a new conference covered every week before the campaign tips off in November.

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