Basketball (M)

Braves Picked Second In MVC Men's Basketball Poll
Release: Saturday 10/30/2007 
by Bradley University

ST. LOUIS (Courtesy of the MVC) -- For the first time in four years, Southern Illinois’ men’s basketball team is favored to win the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball crown.

Southern Illinois, which has been to a league record-tying six-straight NCAA Tournaments (Cincinnati), is a slam-dunk favorite in this year’s poll, receiving all 39 first-place tallies for 390 points to finish ahead of Bradley (311).  The league’s four post-season teams last year, in fact, occupy the top four spots in this year’s poll as SIU (NCAA Sweet 16), Bradley (NIT Second Round), Creighton (NCAA), and Missouri State (NIT) are atop the poll, conducted by league coaches, media, and sports information directors.


No.       School (First place votes)           Points

1          Southern Illinois (39)                   390

2          Bradley                                     311

3          Missouri State                           283

4          Creighton                                  266

5          Illinois State                              235

6          Wichita State                            210

7          Northern Iowa                            197

8          Indiana State                             110

9          Drake                                        80

10        Evansville                                   63


2007-08 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team

Name, School, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year, Hometown, High School

Eric Coleman, UNI, C, 6-6, 240, Sr., Maplewood (Minn.) Tartan High

PJ Couisnard, Wichita State, G/F, 6-4, 216, Sr., Houston (Texas) Yates High

Randal Falker, Southern Illinois, F, 6-7, 230, Sr., St. Louis (Mo.) Gateway Tech

Deven Mitchell, Missouri State, F, 6-5, 210, Sr., Springfield (Mo.) Kickapoo High

Daniel Ruffin, Bradley, G, 5-10, 162, Sr., Peoria (Ill.) Central High


Honorable Mention:  Jeremy Crouch, Bradley; Levi Dyer & Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State; Bryan Mullins & Matt Shaw, Southern Illinois


Preseason Player of the Year -- Randal Falker, Southern Illinois

Notably, it is the first time since the 1992-93 season that a school has been a unanimous pre-season pick as the Salukis received all 17 first-place tallies that year.  In 1993, SIU finished behind Illinois State in the regular-season race, but the Salukis won the MVC Tournament and lost to Duke in the first round of the NCAAs.

Pollsters have accurately predicted the league’s regular-season champ only 10 times out of 23 since 1985-86, but the pre-season favorite Salukis can take solace in that 20 of those 23 predicted champs have gone on to post-season play, with 15 of those 20 playing in the NCAAs.

Southern Illinois is led by pre-season MVC Player of the Year Randal Falker.  Falker is the league’s lone returning first-team all-MVC player from a year ago, and he is joined on the five-person pre-season unit by UNI’s Eric Coleman, Wichita State’s PJ Couisnard, Missouri State’s Deven Mitchell, and Bradley’s Daniel Ruffin.

Coleman and Ruffin were each second-team all-MVC picks a year ago.  Notably, Coleman is the league’s active leader with 1,128 career points and 716 career rebounds.  Ruffin, meanwhile, is the nation’s active leader with 475 assists.  He, along with teammate Jeremy Crouch, is the MVC’s top returning scorer -- both averaged 13.8 points per game in 2006-07.

Mitchell was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds for Barry Hinson’s Bears last year.

Three on the league’s pre-season were members of The Valley’s all-Defense Team last year, including Ruffin, Wichita State’s Couisnard, and Falker.  Falker, with 152 career blocks, is the league’s active leader in that category and was the MVC Defensive Player of the Year in 2006-07.

Falker and Southern Illinois will be looking to reach a seventh-straight NCAA Tournament, which would set a league record.  Cincinnati reached a league-record six-straight NCAA Tournaments from 1957-63.

Bradley, picked second in this year’s poll, is gunning for a third-straight post-season trip and boasts the league’s top two returning scorers (Crouch, Ruffin).  It’s not known whether the league has ever had teammates who were the top-two returning scorers, but it hasn’t happened since 1975-76 (records prior to that are not complete).

Missouri State is picked third in this year’s poll with 283 points.  The Bears have been in the league’s first division in seven of eight years under coach Hinson, which includes NIT trips in each of the past three seasons.

Creighton is picked fourth, with 266 points, and the Bluejays are looking to extend their league record of consecutive post-season tournaments to 11-straight years in 2007-08.

Illinois State, under new coach Tim Jankovich, gets its highest nod in the pre-season picks since being tabbed fourth for the 2002-03 season.  The Redbirds, with 235 points, are slated to finish fifth this year as four starters are back.  Jankovich, meanwhile, is one of five new head coaches in the league, marking the largest single-season overhaul in The Valley since the 1978-79 season when five head coaches (of nine total) took over the reigns at their respective schools.

Like ISU, Wichita State is another MVC school with a new head man, as Gregg Marshall and the Shockers are tabbed sixth in this year’s pre-season poll, with 210 points.

UNI is coming off an 18-win season and finished fifth in the league race last year.  The Panthers have three starters back and are picked seventh in this year’s poll, with 197 points.

Indiana State is slated for eighth as the Sycamores received 110 points.  Gabe Moore is one of four returning starters for new coach Kevin McKenna.  Drake, with 80 points, and Evansville, 63, round out the poll.

The Bulldogs have just one starter -- Josh Young -- returning from last year’s 17-win team, while the Aces, too, were hurt by graduation as only two starters are back from a year ago.  Drake (Keno Davis) and Evansville (Marty Simmons) have new head coaches as Davis takes over for Dr. Tom Davis, and Simmons returns to UE after spending the past five seasons as head man at SIU-Edwardsville.


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