College Basketball Insider

Conference Catchup: With McDermott back, MVC bears watching

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Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead should help keep Wichita State relevant. (US Presswire)  
Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead should help keep Wichita State relevant. (US Presswire)  

Doug McDermott is the only Associated Press First Team All-American back in college, which ensures he'll be a preseason All-American and candidate to become the first National Player of the Year from the Missouri Valley Conference since Hersey Hawkins was the AP Player of the Year in 1988. So that alone makes the MVC worth following this season. But there are other reasons, too. And they are documented below.

Offseason headlines

1. SMU's hire cost Illinois State its coach: SMU's decision to hire a 71-year-old coach with a past that suggests he won't be there long created an opportunity for Illinois State's Tim Jankovich to move to Dallas and be the Mustangs' designated coach-in-waiting. So he took it. On April 26th. And Illinois State responded by hiring Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller, an alum who was earlier this offseason a finalist to fill the vacancy at Mississippi State.

2. Drake star moved home/to the Big Ten: Drake's Rayvonte Rice averaged 14 points as a freshman, 17 as a sophomore and then promoted himself from the MVC to the Big Ten. The shooting guard from Champaign, Ill., is now enrolled at the University of Illinois in Champaign. He'll sit out this year and then play for the Illini in 2013-14.

3. Barry's back in the MVC: Barry Hinson spent nine seasons as the head coach at Missouri State and came close to making the NCAA tournament several times without ever actually doing it. He was fired after the 2007-08 season because that's what happens sans tournament appearances in this sport. But Hinson always seemed like the type who deserved another chance to lead another program, and he got that chance when Southern Illinois hired him in March. It's a nice story worth following over the next few years.

4. Doug McDermott is back, too: I'm not sure where Doug McDermott would've been picked in the 2012 NBA Draft, but somebody would've taken him somewhere because he's tall and because he can shoot and because he projects as a nice stretch-four at the next level. But McDermott never seriously considered leaving after his stellar sophomore season in which he was a CBSSports.com Second Team All-American, and for that, I'm certain, his father/coach is thankful.

Big question that remains

Will Malcolm Armstead ease the loss of Wichita State's top five scorers?

Gregg Marshall had a team built to advance deep into March last season. But the Shockers lost their final two games -- including a Round of 64 defeat to VCU -- to finish on a sour note, and now the top five scorers from that team are gone. That'll be tough to overcome, no doubt. But Malcolm Armstead is good enough to keep Wichita State relevant. He averaged 8.6 points and 4.4 assists two years ago at Oregon. So he's a proven commodity at the high-major level.

NBA Draft report

Could've gone and did: None

Could've gone but stayed: Doug McDermott (Creighton)

Transfers

Coming: Chris Hines (from Utah to Drake), Wes Washpun (from Tennessee to Northern Iowa)

Going: James Anacreon (Wichita State), Trey Blue (Illinois State), Corey Copeland (Missouri State), Jevon Lyle (Northern Iowa), Nic Moore (Illinois State), Rayvonte Rice (from Drake to Illinois), Treg Setty (Southern Illinois), David Smith (Rice), Donivine Stewart (Bradley to SIU)-Edwardsville), Corbin Thomas (Missouri State), Judd Welfringer (Drake)

Team commentary in 140 characters or less

Scoring machine Colt Ryan could lift Evansville above .500. (US Presswire)  
Scoring machine Colt Ryan could lift Evansville above .500. (US Presswire)  
Bradley: The Braves will be better because it's hard to be worse than 2-16 in the league. But Patrick O'Bryant isn't walking through that door.

Creighton: The return of Doug McDermott ensures the Missouri Valley Conference will remain on the national radar even without a great national TV deal.

Drake: The loss of Rayvonte Rice to Illinois is a tough pill for the Bulldogs to swallow. He's an all-league player now in another league.

Evansville: Colt Ryan averaged 20.5 points last season, which ranked 14th nationally. His return could help Evansville get above .500 in the MVC.

Illinois State: ISU was smart to tab Vanderbilt assistant and former Redbirds standout Dan Muller to replace Tim Jankovich. Muller will win immediately.

Indiana State: Jake Odum was the only MVC player to average at least 11 points, six boards and five assists last year. Those are solid all-around numbers.

Missouri State: The departure of Kyle Weems will be tough to overcome. MSU will likely finish below .500 in the MVC for the first time in three years.

Northern Iowa: Greg McDermott never leaves Iowa State for Creighton if Dana Altman never leaves CU for Oregon. So Altman cost UNI Doug McDermott, in a way.

Southern Illinois: It really is nice to see Barry Hinson back as a head coach in this league. He's one of the good guys who handled his brief drop with grace.

Wichita State: The Shockers lost a lot from last year's MVC title team. But they didn't lose their coach. So they should transition OK and start to reload.

Early guess at the top five in the league

1. Creighton
2. Illinois State
3. Northern Iowa
4. Wichita State
5. Evansville

Early guess at the all-conference team

G: Jake Odum (Indiana State)
G: Ben Simons (Drake)
G: Colt Ryan (Evansville)
F: Doug McDermott (Creighton)
F: Jackie Carmichael (Illinois State)

Final thought

Creighton is the obvious favorite in the MVC thanks to an established coach and established star who happen to be related, and it'll be nice for the league if the Bluejays meet expectations because that's the only real way to remain in the national conversation when you operate outside of the power structure. You have to have a team with a pro who starts strong and stays that way. So here's hoping Doug McDermott drops 30 on somebody inside the first month and leads the nation in scoring. It'll force casual fans to pay attention to the MVC, and the MVC deserves that because it's a fine basketball league with some nice programs and a tremendous tradition.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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