• Hunter Phillips

Breaking Down the MVC Preseason Poll

The Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll is out!

This upcoming Valley season is shaping up to be extremely competitive. Eight programs recorded winning seasons in 2019-20, and the conference as a whole ranked eighth nationally in RPI. Below is a breakdown of how each team look's heading into the season.

On Friday, October 20, Laura Leonard joins the Be Blue Podcast to discuss Valley Women's Hoops.

1. Missouri State

  • 2019-20 Record: 26-4 (16-2 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Brice Calip, Jasmine Franklin, Emily Gartner

The defending Valley champs return four starters and 10 total players for this upcoming season. The Lady Bears will be led by two Preseason All-MVC selections, Brice Calip and Jasmine Franklin. Calip is the reigning MVC Defensive Player of the Year, and ranked second on the team in scoring (12.6 PPG) in 2019-20. Franklin averaged 10.9 points per game and led the Lady Bears in rebounding (8.7 RPG). Pocahontas, Iowa native Elle Ruffridge is one-of-six seniors that will offer a wealth of experience for second year head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton. Missouri State also added Auburn transfer, Abi Jackson, during the offseason. Iowa City native, Paige Rocca, joins Jackson as one-of-three newcomers for the Lady Bears. Drake will travel to Springfield on January 24, 2021 to face Missouri State.

2. Bradley

  • 2019-20 Record: 22-7 MVC (13-5 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Gabi Haack, Lasha Petree, Tatum Koenig

Bradley is fresh off their best season as a program, setting a new single season record for wins (22). The Braves return four starters from last season's team, including a pair of Preseason All-MVC selections. Lasha Petree, the MVC Preseason Player of the Year, ranked fourth in the Valley in scoring (16.4 PPG). Senior Gabi Haack averaged 13.3 points per game and led the Braves in three-pointers (69). West Branch, Iowa native, Tatum Koenig, led Bradley in assists (108) and ranked fifth on the squad in scoring. Bradley added transfers, Uche Ufochukwa (Winthrop) and Chloe Rice (Saint Louis/Marion). Ufochukwa will look to fill the void left by the program's all-time leader in rebounding, Chelsea Brackmann. Bradley hosts Drake to begin Valley play on December 31, 2020.

3. UNI

  • 2019-20 Record: 18-11 (10-8 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Karli Rucker, Kam Finley, Megan Maahs

UNI returns four starters and brings in a talented freshman class for this upcoming season. The Panthers' top-five scorers are back in Cedar Falls, including Preseason All-MVC selection, Karli Rucker, who led the team in scoring (13.7 PPG) and assists (3.7 APG) in 2019-20. Junior Kam Finley ranked second in scoring, averaging 9.9 points per game. Former First Team All-MVC selection, Megan Maahs, also returns for her senior season. Six incoming freshmen, all from the state of Iowa, look to add depth for head coach Tanya Warren. UNI will host Drake in the McLeod Center on January 15, 2021.

4. Drake

Drake returns two starters and nine total players from last season's team that finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bulldogs certainly have the firepower to overcome the loss of a historic senior class. Drake has won 20-or-more games in six-straight seasons, which is tied for the longest streak in Valley history. The Bulldogs will begin conference play at Bradley on December 31, 2020.

5. Illinois State

  • 2019-20 Record: 19-10 (11-7 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Paige Saylor, Juliunn Redmond, Mary Crompton

Illinois State brings back two starters from last season's team that compiled an impressive 19-10 overall record. Head coach Kristen Gillespie will rely on seniors Paige Saylor and Juliunn Redmond to fill the void left by TeTe Maggett and Lexi Wallen, two of the top scorers in the Valley in 2019-20. Redmond was named MVC Newcomer of the Year and MVC Sixth Player of the Year last season. Iowa City native Mary Crompton averaged 9.0 points per game and led the Redbirds in three-pointers (68). Fellow Iowan, Lexy Koudelka played in all 29 games last season. Drake's first game of 2021 will be in Normal on January 2, 2021.

6. Southern Illinois

  • 2019-20 Record: 16-13 (8-10 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Makenzie Silvey, Abby Brockmeyer, Gabby Walker

Southern Illinois returns two starters and nine total players from last season's team that finished 16-13. The Salukis premier victory came against a ranked Missouri State team at home, marking the program's first win over a ranked opponent since 1991. Senior Makenzie Silvey headlines the Salukis, leading the team in scoring a year ago (14.8 PPG). Former MVC Freshman of the Year, Abby Brockmeyer, ranked third on the team in scoring (10.0 PPG) and first in rebounding (7.6 RPG). Five newcomers will look to make an early impact for veteran head coach Cindy Stein, including Urbana, Iowa native Adrianna Katcher, a former high school teammate of current Drake Bulldog, Allie Wooldridge. SIU will host Drake on January 22, 2021.

7. Valparaiso

  • 2019-20 Record: 17-12 (9-9 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Shay Frederick, Carie Weinman, Caitlin Morrison

2019-20 marked a turnaround season for second year head coach Mary Evans. Finishing 8-24 in 2018-19, Valparaiso saw an impressive 10.5-game improvement in 2019-20. It was the Crusaders' first winning season in over 10 years. Junior Shay Frederick is one-of-three starters to return to Valpo. Frederick is the top returning scorer (10.0 PPG) and finished second in the Valley behind Drake's Brenni Rose in assists (4.3 APG) last season. Carie Weinman led the Crusaders in steals (65), while Caitlin Morrison ranked second on the team in rebounding (4.2 RPG). Valpo will search for more scoring options this year, with the graduation(s) of Grace Hales and Addison Stoller. Valparaiso will travel to Des Moines on January 9, 2021.

8. Loyola

  • 2019-20 Record: 15-14 (6-12 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Ellie Rice, Allison Day, Janae Gonzales

Loyola got off to a historic start last season, winning their first nine games and nearly knocking off a top-25 ranked DePaul team at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers posted their first winning season since 2012-13, a big step forward for head coach Kate Achter. Loyola returns three starters, with junior Allison Day coming back to Rogers Park as the top returning scorer (10.7 PPG). Ellie Rice started in all 29 games last season, while Janae Gonzales remained one of the top three-point threats in the Valley (57 3FGM). Waukee native, Anna Brown, returns for her sophomore season after averaging 3.2 points per game in 2019-20. The Ramblers will have to overcome the loss of All-MVC selection Abby O'Connor, who transferred to Gonzaga this offseason. Loyola will face Drake in the Knapp Center on January 7, 2021.

9. Indiana State

  • 2019-20 Record: 5-25 (3-15 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Jamyra McChristine, Del'Janae Williams, CeCe Mayo

Indiana State fielded the least experienced team in the nation last season with 14 total newcomers. There will be plenty of experience in Terre Haute this time around for third year head coach Vicki Hall. Among the notable returners for Indiana State is senior forward Jamyra McChristine. The Chicago native led the Trees in scoring (11.0 PPG) and recorded four double-doubles last season. Del'Janae Williams, an MVC All-Freshman Team selection, averaged 8.0 points per game and ranked sixth in the Valley in steals. The Sycamores are one-of-two squads in the Valley that will return all five of their starters, and aim for bigger goals in 2020-21. Indiana State travels to Drake on January 31, 2021.

10. Evansville

  • 2019-20 Record: 3-26 (0-18 MVC)

  • Notable Players: Abby Feit, Lola Bracy, Jada Poland

Evansville returns the bulk of their roster from a year ago, and look to be more competitive this upcoming season. All five starters are back for head coach Matt Ruffing, including last year's Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, Abby Feit. The 6'1" combo guard led Evansville in scoring (13.7 PPG), rebounding (8.4) and several other categories last season. Lola Bracy finished second in scoring, averaging just under 11 points per contest. In fact, almost 90 percent of the Purple Aces' scoring from the 2019-20 campaign will suit up this season. Evansville will travel to Des Moines on January 29, 2021 to face Drake.