BRADLEY BRAVES

Coach: Brian Wardle (18-47 at BU, 113-112 overall)

2016-17: 13-20, 7-11 MVC (T6th)

Key returnees: PG Darrell Brown (12.6 ppg., 2.3 rpg., 87 assists, 37.1 3PT%), G/F JoJo McGlaston (8.1 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 22 blocks, 25 steals), F Donte Thomas (7.7 ppg., 6.6 rpg., 51.7 FG%, 25 steals), F Luuk van Bree (6.5 ppg., 3.3 rpg., 40 3s, 26 steals), C Koch Bar (6 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 41 blocks), G Nate Kennell (5.7 ppg., 1.9 rpg., 41.3 3PT%, 53 assists, 43 turnovers), G Antoine Pittman (5.6 ppg., 1.8 rpg.)

Key losses: None

Key additions: F Elijah Childs (6-7, 220, Lee's Summit West (Mo.) HS, 19 ppg., 14 rpg.), G/F Ryan Stipanovich (6-7, 210, DeSmet Jesuit (Mo.) HS, 16.3 ppg., 8.3 rpg., 3.4 apg.), G Luqman Lundy (6-3 200, Jr., Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa, 13.6 ppg., 4.9 rpg., 5.6 apg.)

Outlook: Bradley returns almost all of its players for the second straight year, and you have to wonder if this is the season the Braves get back into MVC contention. Brown scored 402 points last season, the third-most in school history for a freshman behind MVC Hall of Famers Mitchell Anderson and Hersey Hawkins, and freshman center Bar blocked 41 shots. Only NBA first-round draft picks Patrick O'Bryant and Danny Granger rejected more in their first years. Thomas, a 6-7, 225-pound forward, and McGlaston, a 6-5 guard, give Bradley two seniors. The Braves have eight upperclassmen, and should challenge for their first top-five finish since 2010, when they tied for fifth place.

DRAKE BULLDOGS

Coach: Nico Medved (0-0 at DU, 62-70 overall)

2016-17: 7-24, 5-13 MVC (T9th)

Key returnees: G Reed Timmer (15.3 ppg., 3.1 rpg., 41.6 FG%, 35.7 3PT%, preseason all-conference first team), G De'Antae McMurray (9.1 ppg., 2.5 rpg., 94 assists, 51 turnovers, 34 steals, 35.5 3PT%), G Ore Arogundade (7.8 ppg., 3.4 rpg., 31 steals, 40 3PT%), G Graham Woodward (7.2 ppg., 1.7 rpg., 35 3PT%), F Nick McGlynn (4.9 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 41.5 FG%)

Key losses: F Billy Wampler (9.6 ppg., 2.5 rpg.), F T.J. Thomas (6 ppg., 5.1 rpg., 18 blocks)

Key additions: F Antonio Pilipovic (6-7, 205, Fr., played two years in German Pro A League with Rhein Stars Koln), G Noah Thomas (6-2, 180, Fr., Sydney, Australia), G Jalen Gibbs (6-3, 180, Fr., Waldorf (My.) North Point HS, 28.4 ppg., 10.2 rpg., 3.3 apg.)

Outlook: Medved moves over to Drake from Furman University, where he was the Southern Conference coach of the year, and has one of the oldest teams in the Valley to start with. The Bulldogs return four senior guards, Timmer being the most decorated, but not much muscle inside with the departure of Wampler and Thomas. Redshirt junior Casey Schlatter, McGlynn, and redshirt junior Kory Kuenstling could help the interior. Medved also recruited three freshmen who could play this season, guard Noah Thomas from Australia, Gibbs from Maryland, and Pilipovic, who played two years professionally in Germany.

EVANSVILLE PURPLE ACES

Coach: Marty Simmons (167-160 at UE, 265-233 overall)

2016-17: 16-17, 6-12 MVC (8th)

Key returnees: G Ryan Taylor (14.1 ppg., 2.9 rpg., 43.7 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 84.8 FT%), G Duane Gibson (7.1 ppg., 4.2 rpg., 47.1 FG%, 114 assists, 68 turnovers, 30 steals), G Dru Smith (5.3 ppg., 2.6 rpg., 44.5 FG%, 81.8 FT%, 81 assists, 33 turnovers, MVC All-Freshman Team 2017), G/F Blake Simmons (missed 2016-17 with knee injury, three-year starter), C Dalen Traore (2.3 ppg., 2.7 rpg.)

Key losses: G Jaylon Brown (20.9 ppg. led MVC, 46.3 FG%, 42.7 3PT%, 85.8 FT%, 101 assists, 34 steals, second team all-conference), F David Howard (6.9 ppg., 5.2 rpg.), G Christian Benzon 6 ppg., 4.5 rpg.)

Key additions: G Marty Hill (6-5, 180, Jr., Northeast Community College (Neb.), 14.8 ppg., 4 rpg., 42.7 3PT%), C Dainius Chatkevicius (6-9, 240, Jr., Vincennes (Ind.) University, 4.4 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 53.9 FG%), F John Hall (6-7, 215, redshirted 2016-17 season), G Noah Frederking (6-4, 210, Fr., Okawville HS, helped Rockets to Class 1A state title game, 22.3 ppg., 8.8 rpg., 1.9 apg.)

Outlook: Taylor, a shifty 6-6 guard who averaged 14.1 points per game last season is Evansville’s best option to continue their streak of four straight years with the Valley’s top scorer. Gibson is a nice two-way player, and with Hill and Simmons back, gives the Purple Aces a menacing backcourt. The Aces are largely unproven up front and don’t have much of a rim protector. In a deeper Valley than last season, Evansville will struggle to reverse last season’s first losing season in three years.

ILLINOIS STATE REDBIRDS

Coach: Dan Muller (104-65 at ISU, 104-65 overall)

2016-17: 28-7, 17-1 MVC (T1st)

Key returnees: F Phil Fayne (9.1 ppg., 6.3 rpg., 40 blocks, 59 FG%, MVC All-Newcomer Team), G Keyshawn Evans (5.8 ppg., 1.5 rpg.), C Dauoda “David” Ndiaye (1.8 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 42 blocks in 26 games)

Key losses: F Deontae “Teddy” Hawkins (14 ppg., 6.5 rpg., 25 blocks, second team all-conference), G Paris Lee (13 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 176 assists, 86 turnovers, 65 steals, MVC player of the year, MVC defensive player of the year), F MiKyle McIntosh (12.5 ppg., 5.6 rpg., 26 blocks, 41 FG%, 34.8 3PT%, second team all-conference), G D.J. Clayton (6.5 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 31 steals), G Tony Wills (6.3 ppg., 2.7 rpg., 42 steals, started 32 of 35 games)

Key additions: G Elijah Clarence (6-4, 190, Fr., St. Maria Goretti (Md.) HS, 18.7 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 3.2 apg.), G William Tinsley (6-6, 195, Jr., Lake Land College, 13.7 ppg., 6.3 rpg., 44.3 FG%, 39.5 3PT%, 89.7 FT%), G/F Milik Yarbrough (6-6, 230, Jr., Saint Louis transfer who sat out 2016-17, 7.7 ppg., 4.6 rpg. 2015-16, Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team in 2015), F/C Christian Romine (6-9, 220, So., UTEP transfer who sat out 2016-17), G Jerron Martin (6-0, 175, Sr., Texas Southern transfer who played in four games last season)

Outlook: The Redbirds, like the Salukis, took an early hit with stress fractures to Ndiaye and Clarence that will keep them out until at least December. Fayne was a monster last season as the team’s third or fourth scoring option, and now becomes No. 1 on the scouting report. Tinsley, a high-scoring guard from Lake Land College, and Yarbrough, a sleek wing that can play inside and out, should help offset some of the losses Illinois State incurred after last season’s record 28 victories. Illinois State knew they’d lose MVC player of the year Paris Lee and Tony Wills, but did not plan on losing Hawkins and McIntosh, who transferred to Boston College and Oregon, respectively.

INDIANA STATE SYCAMORES

Coach: Greg Lansing (120-108 at ISU, 120-108 overall)

2016-17: 11-20, 5-13 MVC (T9th)

Key returnees: G Brenton Scott (15.9 ppg., 4.9 rpg., 74 assists, 57 turnovers, 50 steals, 37.4 FG%, 35.6 3PT%, preseason all-conference first team), G Jordan Barnes (6.5 ppg., 65 assists, 34 turnovers, 90.5 FT%), C Brandon Murphy (4.2 ppg., 3.5 rpg.), C Emondre Rickman (3.3 ppg., 2.7 rpg., 36 blocks, 51.8 FG%)

Key losses: G Everett Clemons (9.8 ppg., 6.2 rpg., 140 assists, 64 turnovers, 50 steals), F Matt Van Scyoc (8.9 ppg., 2.7 rpg., 39.5 3PT%), C T.J. Bell (7.2 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 24 blocks), G Laquarious Paige (6.4 ppg., 2.4 rpg., 46.7 FG%, 36.4 3PT%)

Key additions: G Tyreke Key (6-2, 180, Fr., Clay County (Tenn.) HS, 37.3 ppg. led state of Tennessee, finished with over 3,000 career points, 10th all-time in state history), G Clayton Hughes (6-6, 180, Fr., Hargrave Military Academy), F/C Daniel Huenermann (6-11, 210, Fr., Switzerland, 25 ppg., 14 rpg. In 2016), F Devin Thomas (6-8, 205, Jr., Mineral Area Community College, 12.1 ppg., 6.7 rpg.), G Qiydar Davis (6-5, 215, graduate, Louisiana Tech, started five games before season-ending knee injury last season)

Outlook: Indiana State had the MVC’s only win over a top 25 team last season when it beat 15th-ranked Butler in Terre Haute, but fizzled in the league race. The Sycamores dropped nine of 10 games at one point and four of their last five to end their third straight losing season. Scott has some nice players around him, including one of the deepest frontcourts in the league, but not a lot of great individual players. Murphy and Rickman give Indiana State two good bigs, and the addition of Thomas adds to its frontline. Key and Barnes, a member of the MVC All-Freshman Team last season, should inject some much-needed scoring. If the Sycamores can improve their defense and rebounding they may surprise some teams.

LOYOLA RAMBLERS

Coach: Porter Moser (89-105 at LU, 194-206 overall)

2016-17: 18-14, 8-10 MVC (5th)

Key returnees: F Aundre Jackson (14.1 ppg., 4.2 rpg., 66.9 FG%, 45.2 3PT%, MVC sixth man of the year), G/F Donte Ingram (13.6 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 52.9 FG%, 45.8 3PT%, preseason first team all-conference), G Clayton Custer 11.6 ppg., 2.4 rpg., 96 assists, 56 turnovers, 33 steals, 46.4 FG%, 42 3PT%), G Ben Richardson 8.3 ppg., 2.9 rpg., 94 assists, 39 turnovers, 40 steals, 44.3 FG%, 42.3 3PT%), G Bruno Skokna (3.4 ppg., 1.7 rpg.),

Key losses: G Milton Doyle (15.2 ppg., 5 rpg., 142 assists, 91 turnovers, 55 steals, 22 blocks, first team all-conference), F Maurice Kirby (1.6 ppg., 2.1 rpg., 26 starts in 31 games)

Key additions: G Marques Townes (6-4, 210, Jr., transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson that sat out 2016-17, 11.5 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 2.7 apg. in 2015-16), C Cameron Krutwig (6-9, 260, Fr., Jacobs HS, 15.6 ppg., 14 rpg., 2.8 bpg., Northwest Herald boys player of the year), G Lucas Williamson (6-4, 190, Fr., Whitney Young HS, 17.5 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 2.1 apg., 1.8 spg, state champs in 2017), F Christian Negron (6-7, 215, Fr., Larkin HS, missed senior year with knee injury), C Carson Shanks (7-0, 245, graduate, North Dakota transfer, 5.3 ppg., 2.2 rpg., 54.2 FG% in 2016-17)

Outlook: Despite losing an NBA talent in Doyle, the prognosticators are high on the Ramblers, and for good reason. Ingram is a matchup problem at 6-6, 225 pounds, with his ability to drive and shoot the 3-pointer. Jackson is not a dominant player, but shot over 60 percent from the field and could move from the All-Bench Team to the MVC all-conference team his senior year. Loyola also features two tough, experienced guards in Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer, and added four big pieces in Townes, Negron, Krutwig and Shanks. Negron didn’t play in the exhibition game against Lewis University. Loyola finished fifth in the league last season, its third straight move up, and should challenge for the MVC title.

MISSOURI STATE BEARS

Coach: Paul Lusk (88-106 at MSU, 90-129 overall)

2016-17: 17-16, 7-11 MVC (T6th)

Key returnees: F Alize Johnson (14.8 ppg., 10.6 rpg., 48.8 FG%, 38.8 3PT%, MVC preseason player of the year), G Ronnie Rousseau III (11.6 ppg., 2.1 rpg., 48.3 FG%, 38.9 3PT%, 80.5 FT%), G Jarred Dixon (8.6 ppg., 2.5 rpg., 67 assists, 42 turnovers, 26 steals, 40.4 FG%, 84.5 FT%, MVC All-Bench Team), G/F Jarrid Rhodes (7 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 27 starts in 33 games), F Obediah Church (6.6 ppg., 5.8 rpg., 74 blocks, 64.3 FG%, 48.8 FT%), G Ryan Kreklow (6.3 ppg., 1.8 rpg., 44.9 FG%, 41.6 3PT%, 87.1 FT%)

Key losses: G Dequon Miller (12.7 ppg., 3 rpg., 124 assists, 73 turnovers, 36 steals

Key additions: G J.T. Miller (6-2, 190, graduate transfer from Howard, 14.7 ppg.), C Tanveer Bhullar (7-2, 278, graduate transfer from New Mexico State, played in 22 games last season, 52.2 FG%), F Reggie Scurry (6-5, 213, Jr., Northern Oklahoma Tonkawa College, 15.7 ppg., 10.2 rpg., 86 blocks), F Abdul-Hakim Fofana (6-7, 207, So., Dakota College, 15.4 ppg., 11.8 rpg., 56.6 FG%, school-record 21 double-doubles last season), C Darian Scott (6-11, 200, Fr., Centennial (Nev.) HS, 7.2 ppg., 5.3 rpg.), G James Byrd (6-1, 185, Jr., Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley, 19.4 ppg., 142 assists, 42.3 3PT%)

Outlook: Even without Johnson, who is nursing a knee injury, Missouri State is the most loaded team in the Valley. Junior college forwards Scurry and Fofana form a menacing frontcourt with Johnson and junior Obediah Church, one of the best pure athletes in the league. Church blocked 74 shots last season and was on the MVC All-Defensive team, but must prove he’s above last season’s 48.8 percent at the free-throw line. Miller and Byrd are nice additions, but the Bears’ fortunes rest on their core players the last few years: Johnson, Church, Rhodes and Dixon. Missouri State’s depth, defensive length and experience should carry it to its first MVC championship since 2011, and, possibly, a top 25 ranking by the end of the season.

NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS

Coach: Ben Jacobson (234-134 at UNI, 234-134 overall)

2016-17: 14-16, 9-9 MVC (T3rd)

Key returnees: F Bennett Koch (11 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 21 blocks, 57 FG%, preseason first team all-conference), G Jordan Ashton (8.5 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 28 steals, 40.8 FG%, 43 3PT%), F Klint Carlson (8.3 ppg., 4.9 rpg., 64 assists, 44 turnovers, 22 steals), G Spencer Haldeman (7.6 ppg., 2.2 rpg., 25 steals, 86 FT%, MVC All-Freshman Team), G Wyatt Lohaus (played in only six games with ankle injury), G Juwan McCloud (started 28 of 30 games, 32 steals), C Ted Friedman (four starts in 29 games)

Key losses: G Jeremy Morgan (14.8 ppg., 5.8 rpg., 79 assists, 63 turnovers, 33 blocks, 51 steals, second team all-conference)

Key additions: G Tywhon Pickford (6-3, 200, Fr., Maple Grove (Minn.) HS, 20.9 ppg., 8.3 rpg., 2.4 apg.), F Austin Phyfe (6-9, 235, Fr., Waverly-Shell Rock (Iowa) HS, 19.1 ppg., led state with 337 rebounds last season)

Outlook: Northern Iowa has finished in the top four of the Valley standings for nine straight years, and should make it 10. The Panthers lost an NBA-caliber guard in Morgan, the league’s preseason player of the year in 2016-17, but return one of the league’s top big men in Koch and two others that played in the NCAA Tournament, Carlson and Friedman. Ashton, Haldeman and Lohaus give Northern Iowa some legit 3-point threats, but, like other Valley teams this season, the Panthers have major hurdles to the championship. They averaged just over 61 points per game last season, worst in the league, with Morgan, and were crushed off the boards. Carlson and Friedman disappeared during the season, and after overcoming an ankle problem last season, a toe injury kept Lohaus out of the Panthers’ exhibition game against UNC-Pembroke. Northern Iowa may need him back to avoid another 5-11 start.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS SALUKIS

Coach: Barry Hinson (79-83 at SIU, 284-223 overall)

2016-17: 17-16, 9-9 MVC (T3rd)

Key returnees: G Armon Fletcher (11.1 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 40 steals, 42.3 FG%, 32.9 3PT%), F Thik Bol (9.1 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 76 blocks, 53.3 FG%, MVC All-Defensive Team), G Sean Lloyd (7.6 ppg., 2.8 rpg., 33 steals), G Aaron Cook (30 assists, 27 turnovers, 31 steals), F Jonathan Wiley (2.6 ppg., 2 rpg., 44.1 FG%), G Tyler Smithpeters (missed all but one game in 2016-17 season with knee injury, one of top 3-point shooters)

Key losses: F Sean O’Brien (11.8 ppg., 8.5 rpg., 30 steals, 49.6 FG%, second team all-conference), PG Mike Rodriguez (12.9 ppg., 2.3 rpg., 132 assists, 70 turnovers, 45 steals), G Leo Vincent (8 ppg., 1.9 rpg., 49 3s, 33.6 3PT%)

Key additions: C Kavion Pippen (6-10, 220, Jr., Three Rivers (Mo.) Community College, 10.5 ppg., 7.3 rpg., 53 blocks, 54.9 FG%), G Eric McGill (6-3, 185, Jr., 11.6 ppg., 3.4 rpg., 5.6 apg., 85 steals), G/F Brendon Gooch (6-5, 201, Fr., Belleville Althoff HS, redshirted last season), G Marcus Bartley (6-4, 176, Jr., Saint Louis transfer, one of top 3-point shooters in the Atlantic 10)

Outlook: Injuries to Bol and Bartley will hurt early, but once the Salukis get the Dirty Dozen (as Hinson calls them) back together next month (hopefully), they could be pretty formidable. Pippen has great hands and feet, and is one of SIU’s first true back-to-the-basket scoring threats in the last 5-10 years. Unfortunately, the Salukis don’t have much behind him in the frontcourt. Wiley will likely have to play the power forward/hybrid spot along with Fletcher, Gooch, Weiher and, maybe, Lloyd until Bol returns. Smithpeters’ return bolsters a better 3-point attack for the worst 3-point shooting team in the league last season. If Fletcher becomes the all-conference player the Salukis have been dreaming about, they could challenge for the league title. If not, they could finish anywhere from third to seventh.

VALPARAISO CRUSADERS

Coach: Matt Lottich (24-9 at VU, 24-9 overall)

2016-17: 24-9, 14-4 Horizon League (T1st)

Key returnees: G Tevonn Walker (11.9 ppg., 5.6 rpg., 41 steals, 42.6 FG%, Horizon League All-Defensive Team), G Max Joseph (5.7 ppg., 2.9 rpg., 27 steals, 41.4 FG%, 33.3 3PT%), C Jaume Sorolla (5.2 ppg., 4.4 rpg., 30 blocks, 47.8 FG%), C Derrik Smits (3.4 ppg., 2.2 rpg., 17 blocks)

Key losses: F Alec Peters (23 ppg., 10.1 rpg., Horizon League player of the year, NBA draft pick), G Shane Hammink (15.1 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 34 steals, 50 FG%), F Jubril Adekoya (8.6 ppg., 5.1 rpg., played in only nine games because of suspension)

Key additions: G/F Joe Burton (6-6, 210, Jr., Oklahoma State transfer who sat out 2016-17 season, played in 30 games in 2015-16, 39.7 3PT%), G/F Markus Golder (6-6, 195, So., North Idaho College, 18.9 ppg., 6.9 rpg., 55 FG%, 39 3PT%), G Bakari Evelyn (6-2, 180, So., transfer from Nebraska that sat out 2016-17, played in 18 games as a freshman), F Parker Hazen (6-7, 210, Fr., Columbia City (Ind.) HS)

Outlook: Life without Peters will be a bit of a transition for the Crusaders, but Valparaiso has made the postseason seven straight years for a reason. The Crusaders’ only seniors, Walker and Joseph, are the kind of physical guards Valley legends are made of. Golder and Burton add immediate scoring punch and experience to a group that has 10 underclassmen. Sorolla and Smits give Valparaiso the league’s only twin 7-footers, but they’ll have to take big steps forward to be dominating players inside. Hazen, one of the top recruits in Indiana, could play right away for this young team. Another NIT bid may be out of reach in Valparaiso’s first season in the Valley.

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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