- MVC Beat
Postseason Awards Preview- MVC Hoops
We are less than two weeks from Arch Madness which means we are less than two weeks from MVC awards. I thought I would take this opportunity to preview the different awards and take a stab at who I think might win. Some of these awards are no-brainers, and some are a little more difficult to predict. Here is my snapshot for how I see it at the moment.
NOTE: Other than when indicated, all stats are overall stats, not league-only stats. It was just WAY easier for me to compile.
Larry Bird Player of the Year
I’ll start this off with the big one. To me, there are three realistic candidates for this award. Of that group, one is the clear frontrunner. There are some other guys that deserve mention for their great seasons (and we’ll note them below), but most guys who are not on teams near the top of the standings won’t get a look. Other teams have ensemble groups that don’t have a clear star (looking at you, Drake). That leaves three guys that fit the bill. They are Isiaih Mosley of Missouri State, AJ Green of Northern Iowa and Lucas Williamson of Loyola. Here is my breakdown of the candidates.
-Isiaih Mosley, Missouri State CONFERENCE STATS: 21.2 PPG, 7 RPG, 49.6% Shooting, 2.8 APG, 1.1 SPG OVERALL STATS: 20 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 52.2% Shooting, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG
I feel like this award is probably Isiaih Mosley’s to lose. Not only did he go on an outstanding run during the middle of the league season, he simply has the best stats. In conference play, Mosley leads the league in scoring, is fourth in rebounding, is fifth (and first among guards) in field goal percentage and is tenth in assists. His numbers go down when you look at the entirety of the season, but they don’t go down that far. If Missouri State wins the league, Mosley will win this award going away. If they don’t, he will still probably win it. I think the only thing that could keep him from winning the award at this point would be if MSU really collapsed down the stretch and Loyola or UNI vaulted to an outright title led by a strong performance from Green or Williamson. Mosley is clearly the favorite, in this blogger’s opinion.
-Lucas Williamson, Loyola CONFERENCE STATS: 15.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 46.7% Shooting, 3 APG, 1.2 SPG OVERALL STATS: 13.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 46% Shooting, 3 APG, 1.2 SPG
Williamson’s inclusion is more of a combination of a “lifetime achievement award” and a “best player on the best team” situation. It is a longshot, especially as he is only seventh in scoring in league play and fourteenth when all games are considered. His rebounding, shooting, assists and steals stats are superior to AJ Green, but fall short of Mosley. He is also a stellar defender, easily outpacing both Mosley and Green in that statistic. His case becomes quite a bit better if Mosley is taken out of the equation by MSU falling off pace in the league. If Loyola ends up winning the league title outright ahead of Missouri State, Williamson could certainly win this. If he were to win this trophy, he would be the fourth player from the 2018 Final Four team to accomplish the feat.
-AJ Green, Northern Iowa CONFERENCE STATS: 20.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 44.7% Shooting, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG OVERALL STATS: 18.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 40.7% Shooting, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG
The 2020 Larry Bird Trophy winner and preseason player of the year this year, AJ Green is no doubt still one of the league’s best players. But he is behind Isiaih Mosley in nearly every single statistical category this season. That isn’t to say he has gotten worse, but Mosley has just been that good. Green has performed better in league games than he did in the nonconference (which follows his team’s performance). But he simply has not outperformed Mosley. Green can still win this award if he leads UNI to a 3-0 finish and captures an outright league title (that would require a separate loss by Loyola). He would need to have a very strong statistical finish as well. Anything short of that and he just isn’t quite there.
My Pick: I think when it is all said and done Isiaih Mosley will win this thing relatively easily.
All-MVC First Team, Second Team, Third Team
I expect the three players above to land on the first team, but who will claim the other two spots? Who will snag the second and third team spots? Let’s take a look at the candidates.
-Gaige Prim, Missouri State (15.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.7 APG): The Missouri State big man is fifth in the league in scoring and second in rebounding. If Isiaih Mosley wasn’t on his team he would be a Larry Bird candidate. As it is, I think he is a no-brainer for first team status.
-Terry Roberts, Bradley (14.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.2 APG): The last spot on the first team is wide open, but this Bradley newcomer is certainly a candidate. Roberts leads the league in assists, is sixth in scoring, and is sixteenth in rebounding.
-Antonio Reeves, Illinois State (20.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.8 APG): At the time of this writing, Reeves is the league’s leading scorer in all games including the nonconference (although he trails Green and Mosley in MVC only games). He is a pure scorer and isn’t as well rounded of a player as some of the other candidates. But his scoring volume cannot be ignored.
-Cameron Henry, Indiana State (14.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.7 APG): A good all-around player for Indiana State after transferring from D2 Lincoln Memorial, Henry is 7th in the league in scoring. He is also 9th in rebounds and assists. He will find himself on one of these lists come season’s end.
-Marcus Domask, Southern Illinois (14.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.9 APG): A former MVC Freshman of the Year who has been a leader for the Salukis since the day he stepped on campus, Marcus Domask has put together another solid campaign. Domask currently sits 9th on the MVC leaderboard in scoring, 14th in rebounds and 4th in assists.
-Rienk Mast, Bradley (11.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.4 APG): Mast is a sophomore big who came on very strong in the league season. He sits 18th on the MVC scoring leaderboard but is first in rebounds by a wide margin.
-Tucker Devries, Drake (13.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.9 APG): The only freshman on this list, the Bulldogs’ young stud is 13th in the league in scoring and 18th in rebounding. He will certainly be all over these lists for the remainder of his career in Des Moines.
-Ben Krikke, Valpo (14.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.4 APG): The Valpo star is 8th in the league in scoring and 23rd in rebounding. There is a decent chance his leadership and scoring output will get him on the second team, but I would at least peg him for third.
-Cooper Neese, Indiana State (16.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG): A role player last year for Indiana State, Neese has stepped up to be a true leader for the Sycamores this season. He is the league’s 4th leading scorer, is 22nd in rebounds and 28th in assists.
-Shamar Givance, Evansville (13.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.7 APG): A star trapped on the league’s worst team, Givance can’t be blamed for his squad’s troubles. He is 12th in the league in scoring, 5th in assists and 25th in rebounding.
-Others: Some of the other folks that are worth mentioning for all-league consideration include: Lance Jones of SIU, Noah Carter of UNI, Jawaun Newton of Evansville, Kevion Taylor of Valpo, Josiah Strong of Illinois State, Sheldon Edwards of Valpo, Garrett Sturtz of Drake, DJ Wilkins of Drake, Tremell Murphy of Drake, Thomas Kithier of Valpo, Sy Chatman of Illinois State, Kobe King of Valpo and Braden Norris of Loyola.
My Picks (First Team): Isiaih Mosley (MSU), Lucas Williamson (LUC), AJ Green (UNI), Gaige Prim (MSU), Terry Roberts (Bradley)
My Picks (Second Team): Marcus Domask (SIU), Cameron Henry (InSU), Antonio Reeves (IlSU), Cooper Neese (InSU), Rienk Mast (BU)
My Picks (Third Team): Tucker Devries (DU), Ben Krikke (VU), Shamar Givance (UE), Garrett Sturtz (DU), Braden Norris (LUC)
Newcomer of the Year and All Newcomer Team
There are a handful of folks that should be considered for newcomer of the year, but like the Larry Bird Trophy, I think there are a few favorites. I have Terry Roberts as my front runner, but there are a couple others who could win it.
-Terry Roberts, Bradley (14.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.2 APG): A high-volume scorer and distributor playing for a winning team, Terry Roberts is the front runner for the Newcomer of the Year award IMO. A junior transfer from Florida Southwestern State College, Roberts leads the league in assists and is sixth in scoring while acting as a team leader for Bradley as they recovered from a down year and surged back up the standings.
-Cameron Henry, Indiana State (14.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.7 APG): This junior transfer from D2 Lincoln Memorial has improved his stats (or at least maintained them) in most categories from his production levels at LMU. He has become a leader at ISU along with veteran Cooper Neese. He sits 7th in the league in scoring, 9th in rebounds, and 9th in assists. If Roberts doesn’t win the award, Henry likely will.
-Tucker Devries, Drake (13.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.9 APG): Devries (and his Bulldogs) would probably need to go on a tear to finish the season for him to win this award, as his stats fall just a bit short of Roberts and Henry. But he is the only freshman on the list and has an extremely bright future.
-Kobe King, Valparaiso (13.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.3 APG): King was out of basketball for a year before he was convinced to return to the game and join the Valpo squad. A former Wisconsin starter, King has made his impact this season with Valpo but probably falls a bit short relative to Roberts and Henry.
-Others: Some other guys that should be mentioned include: Kevion Taylor of Valpo, Ben Coupet Jr of SIU, Micah Thomas of Indiana State, Kendall Lewis of Illinois State, Xavier Bledson of Indiana State, Thomas Kithier of Valpo, and Malevy Leons of Bradley.
My Pick (Newcomer of the Year): I think that Terry Roberts will win, and the performance of his team will be the difference maker. All the other options besides Devries play for bottom half teams. Devries will not win because he is a freshman, and his stats are a bit short of Roberts’ stats anyway. I’ll go with Roberts.
My Picks (All Newcomer Team): Terry Roberts (BU), Cameron Henry (InSU), Tucker Devries (DU), Kobe King (VU), Kevion Taylor (VU)
Freshman of the Year and All-Freshman Team
I am not going to bother trying to create drama with this one. It is the biggest no-brainer of the bunch, and perhaps the biggest no-brainer of an MVC award for some time. Drake’s Tucker Devries (13.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.9 APG) will win this award. No one else comes close in terms of stats and impact on his team. Devries is the only freshman in the league that is already a star. I would bet the farm that he will be the Freshman of the Year.
Beyond Devries, contributions from freshmen have been a little sparse this year. That makes sense since they are competing with more veteran players than they would normally. Picking out five players for this honor may be more difficult than usual. Luckily, I already ranked the ten best freshman at midseason, so I have a handy cheat sheet ready to go. Here are the candidates.
-Connor Hickman, Bradley (6.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1 APG): Hickman has been, for the most part, getting 20-30 minutes a night as Bradley has made their run. He has been inconsistent, scoring a high of 15 points against Drake and getting shut out twice.
-Simon Wilbar, Indiana State (4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, .2 APG): Wilbar’s contributions have petered off as of late. He has only played single-digit minutes in three of ISU’s late five games and have been shut out in either points or rebounds in three of those games too. Still, his overall body of work and this weak freshman class has him on the list.
-Isaac Haney, Missouri State (4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, .9 APG): Haney has been playing a decent sized role on this Missouri State team that is still pushing for a league title. He typically plays 15-25 minutes per night and contributes a basket or two a game. He also has demonstrated a bit of a knack for getting rebounds which is a plus coming from a 6’ 2’’ guard.
-Preston Phillips, Evansville (2.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 APG): While his team may be struggling, Phillips’ role has grown. He is playing 30+ minutes per night for the Purple Aces. Not much of a scorer, Phillips has become a high-volume rebounder and is 21st in the league in MVC play. He is also a premier defender, which is what really gets him minutes.
-Preston Ruedinger, Valparaiso (3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.8 APG): Ruedinger was not on my original list because he had his redshirt pulled midseason. At this point, however, he has become a starter and key part of the Valpo rotation. Ruedinger will play 20-30 minutes a night and contributes both offensively and defensively.
My Pick (Freshman of the Year): Tucker Devries, Drake
My Picks (All Freshman Team): Tucker Devries (DU), Connor Hickman (BU), Isaac Haney (MSU), Preston Ruedinger (VU), Preston Phillips (UE)
Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive Team
I am not gonna lie, I have a tough time judging this one. More than any other award I will be more-or-less guessing here. So, bear with me if you think I am wrong. I admit I probably am. I’ll take a look at who I suspect may be candidates for DPOY, and list my picks for the POY and the All Defensive Team. I won’t spend a ton of time on this, though, because I am going up the river without a paddle.
-Lucas Williamson, Loyola (1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG): When you are blindly picking a defensive POY, a good place to start would be with the guy who won it last year. Indeed, Williamson is seventh in the league in steals and anchors one of the conference’s best defensive units. I don’t see why he shouldn’t have a shot to win it again, right?
-Lance Jones, Southern Illinois (2.08 SPG): I don’t know how much stats play into this award, but Jones leads the league in steals by, like, a lot. If you look at league-only stats, the difference is even more dramatic. He has 50% more steals per game in league play than anyone else. That number puts him 32nd in the nation in the statistic.
-Gaige Prim, Missouri State (.75 SPG, 1.32 BPG): The league leader in blocks is also among the top 40 in steals. But he is a distant second in blocks in league play.
-Chris Knight, Loyola (1 BPG): The Loyola forward is just sixth in the league in blocks and not on the list in steals, but when only league play is considered, he is nearly 50% ahead of the pack with 1.6 per game. That should warrant serious consideration.
-Terry Roberts, Bradley (1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG): Second in the league in steals, Roberts is also in the top 20 in blocks despite being very much a guard. He has been stellar defensively.
-Tremell Murphy, Drake (1 SPG, .9 BPG): Overall, Murphy is 20th in the league in steals and 8th in blocks. In league play, he is third in steals and tenth in blocks. Long thought of as one of the league’s better defenders, Murphy has made it happen all over the court this year.
-Garrett Sturtz, Drake (1.3 SPG, .4 BPG): Known as a hard-nosed player who spends about as much time diving on the floor as he does standing on it, Sturtz has become a tenacious defender and a great rebounder to boot.
-Others: Other names whose stats or reputations warrant consideration include: Shamar Givance (UE), Julian Larry (InSU), Tywhon Pickford (UNI), Braden Norris (LUC), Sheldon Edwards (VU), Donovan Clay (MSU), and Rienk Mast (BU)
My Pick (Defensive Player of the Year): I think this probably comes down to Lance Jones and Lucas Williamson. I think it is hard to ignore Jones’ dominant steals stats. Plus, it feels like this award should go to a Saluki. I’ll pick Lance Jones. I am probably way off.
My Picks (All Defensive Team): Lance Jones (SIU), Lucas Williamson (LUC), Chris Knight (LUC), Terry Roberts (BU), Tremell Murphy (DU)
Sixth Man of the Year and All-Bench Team
According to my research, a player is eligible for sixth man of the year and the all-bench team if they started fewer than 25% of their team’s games OR fewer than 25% of their team’s conference games. According to my research, the player below either fit that mold ore are trending that way. I did all the legwork on eligibility myself, so it is in no way official. And it is possible I missed someone. That said, here are the candidates that I found.
-Sheldon Edwards, Valpo (11.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 APG): Edwards has started nine games for Valpo, and is averaging 25 minutes per game, but he has not crossed the threshold of more than four games started in league play and he remains eligible for this award….I think. The Beacon guard retains three more years of eligibility after this season and is a star in the making for VU.
-Xavier Bledson, Indiana State (9.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4 APG): Bledson has also started nine games for ISU but hasn’t crossed the threshold in league play. His minutes have been inconsistent, but he has averaged nearly double-figures in scoring and factors in with both rebounds and assists. In fact, Bledson is third in the entire Missouri Valley in assists.
-Chris Knight, Loyola (8.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, .6 APG): Knight’s role has grown as the season has continued. He busted out for 20 points and seven rebounds in the Rambers’ recent win over Valpo. Knight leads the league in blocks during league play and has become a competent scorer, hitting double figures in five of his last seven games. He has also averaged six boards per game in that time.
-Ryan Schweiger, Loyola (9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 APG): The Ramblers’ bench mob is making itself known. Schwieger’s overall stats are respectable, but his role has lessened a bit recently. Still, he remains Loyola’s #3 scorer overall on the year.
-Jaylen Minnett, Missouri State (9.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.1 APG): Minnett has only started one game this season, but he is the Bears’ third leading scorer behind Isiaih Mosley and Gaige Prim. He averages 2.5 made threes a game.
-Bowen Born, Northern Iowa (6.4 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.8 APG): Last year’s MVC Freshman of the Year got off to a slow start due to multiple injuries but has found his form in the second half of the season and is a big reason why the Panthers have performed much better in league play.
-Austin Phyfe, Northern Iowa (5.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.3 APG): This probably wasn’t the list this former first-team all-league player was hoping he would be on. But the big man has been battling long COVID all season and has only been able to play in spurts. While he has only been able to manage about ten minutes a game, he has impacted the score sheet in nearly every game he has played.
-Blaise Beauchamp, Evansville (7.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG, .6 APG): Originating from the pure waters of Lake Minnetonka, Blaise Beauchamp has been a sparkplug off the bench for UE. But maybe not quite enough to get on the all-bench team. I just wanted to make a “Purple Rain” joke.
My Pick (Sixth Man of the Year): I give Sheldon Edwards a slight edge over Bledson and Knight.
My Picks (All Bench Team): Sheldon Edwards (VU), Xavier Bledson (InSU), Chris Knight (LUC), Ryan Schweiger (LUC), Jaylen Minnett (MSU)
Most Improved Team (and Their Captain)
For this one I just went through the statistical leaders and clicked on guys I thought might be greatly improved. Then I checked if I was right. The ones that remained are the ones listed here as candidates for the most improved team. I couldn’t really think of a better way to do it. There is a pretty good chance my very unscientific method missed someone, so I apologize in advance.
-Antonio Reeves, Illinois State (20.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.8 APG): Reeves has improved significantly in each of his three years in a Redbird uniform. He averaged seven points per game as a freshman, 12 per game as a sophomore, and is challenging for the league scoring title this year with a 20.1 points-per-game average. If he continues at this pace, he’ll be breaking records by year five.
-Cooper Neese, Indiana State (16.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG): Neese was a steady role player in each of his first three seasons in a Sycamore uniform. Forced into a leadership role by graduations, injuries, transfers and his own inescapable awesomeness, Neese improved his scoring from 9.5 PPG last year to a fourth-best-in-the-league 16.2 PPG this year. His rebounding and assist numbers are up as well.
-Lucas Williamson, Loyola (13.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3 APG): Williamson has always been a defensive star, but after the graduation of Cameron Krutwig he has emerged as Loyola’s leading scorer. His scoring average has improved from 8.8 PPG to 13.4 PPG. He is also snagging more rebounds, dishing out more assists, and shooting at a higher percentage.
-Sy Chatman, Illinois State (13.6 PPG, 6 RPG, .6 APG): An injury has robbed Chatman of about a third of his season. If it weren’t for that, he might be the runaway favorite for this award. His progress has been so dramatic he may still get some consideration despite his injury. Chatman played just 11 games total over the previous two seasons, and didn’t make much of an impact when he did see the floor. This year he emerged as one of the better bigs in the conference before his injury.
-Rienk Mast, Bradley (11.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.4 APG): Mast was a contributor for the Braves as a freshman but has developed into one of the two best big men in the league this season. The league’s leading rebounder (averaging 2.5 more per game than last year), he has also become a competent scorer. He has improved his scoring average by 2.6 points per game.
-Noah Carter, Northern Iowa (14.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.5 APG): Carter was a decent player last year, but he has grown into a dependable number 2 for AJ Green at UNI and looks to be a great candidate to be the team leader once AJ departs. The change has been most dramatic in league play, where Carter is sixth in the league with 16.5 points per game. He has done all this while playing out of position at the 5 due to Austin Phyfe’s injury.
-Sheldon Edwards, Valpo (11.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 APG): Edwards has made the improvement you like to see from year one to year two. A good role player last year, Edwards has become one of the more dependable players on Valpo’s roster this season. He looks to be on the path to becoming one of the best players in the Valley by the time he is done.
-Garrett Sturtz, Drake (11 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.4 APG): Sturtz has emerged as one of the league’s better players in his fourth year. The former walk-on’s scoring is up from 8.2 to 11.0 points per game. He has become one of the league’s best rebounders (and its best rebounding guard) by picking up an extra two boards per game relative to last year. His leadership, it seems, has emerged as well.
My Pick (Most Improved Team Captain): This is about as wide open of an award as there is this season. You could make a very good argument for as many as five people, I think. I really debated between Reeves, Neese and Williamson. At the end of the day, I am going with Cooper Neese as my pick.
My Picks (Most Improved Team): Cooper Neese (InSU), Antonio Reeves (IlSU), Lucas Williamson (LUC), Rienk Mast (BU), Noah Carter (UNI)
On this one, it came down to whether you think Sy Chatman should be on this list after he has missed about half the league season. I decided that he has missed too many MVC games, so I did not include him and included Noah Carter instead. It could have just as easily been Sturtz or Edwards. Carter got the edge in my book because of his very good in-conference scoring stats.
Coach of the Year
I think you could make an argument for the coaches of all the top five teams for this award. Ultimately, how the final standings shake out will probably have a big impact on who wins this thing. The arguments for each coach, as I see them, are below. I put them in reverse order for how I would have them right now, with the caveat that it could change dramatically based on how the final week goes.
-Darian Devries, Drake: Drake was supposed to be pretty good, but their overall form has disappointed a bit. They are still one of the better teams in the league but are not in the mix for an at-large. Coach Devries has had to deal with a lot of adversity, including several injuries, but he has kept this team afloat. I think Drake would need to have a big final week for him to be seriously considered, as Drake has fallen a touch short of expectations this year.
-Brian Wardle, Bradley: The Braves were not expected to be particularly good this year after their previous season became completely unraveled. Wardle put together a brand new team and overcame an injury to a key player to have BU right in the mix with a chance to win Arch Madness. However, the noncon wasn’t great and they aren’t in the mix for the league title, so he would have to win it over some coaches that had more success. If you want the best rags-to-riches story, Wardle is probably your guy.
-Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa: The Panthers have returned to the upper half of the standings after finishing seventh last season, although the return of AJ Green obviously made a difference there. They have overcome their key post player, Austin Phyfe, not being able to contribute much. UNI didn’t perform well in the noncon, though, so they would probably need to win the league title for Jacobson to have a chance.
-Dana Ford, Missouri State: Missouri State was supposed to be good, and they have been. It seems pretty simple, but in the recent history of this program Missouri State has not been able to live up to high expectations. This year they are doing it. If MSU wins the Valley, Ford could certainly win this award.
-Drew Valentine, Loyola: The Ramblers were the favorite and they have been the best team. Loyola has a shot at an at-large bid if they fail to win the tournament, and they are one of the best mids in the nation. Usually, the favorite winning the title doesn’t warrant a COY nod unless the team utterly dominates, but Drew Valentine is in his first year in charge so that changes the calculus a bit. I think an outright league title wins it for him. A share of the title makes it a bit murkier.
My Pick: I’ll go with Valentine. I think Loyola will win the league and Coach V will get this award by winning the title in his rookie season.
And that is it. Do you think I’m wrong? Yeah, you’re probably right! If you want to send your constructive criticisms my way I can be found @BeatMVC on Twitter. I hope to have an updated power ranking before the Monday games tipoff, so if I can find the time that will be the next thing you see from me. Until then, GO VALLEY!