It’s hard to believe, but Arch Madness begins just three weeks from Thursday.
That week is when the Missouri Valley Conference will announce its season awards and all conference team, so here is a look at how those are shaping up with a few weeks left in the season.
Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
- Everyone knows VanVleet. He can score, he can pass, and he can defend. He needed only 24 minutes to reach a triple-double against Missouri State last week.
Daishon Knight, Illinois State
- I really didn’t want this all-conference team to be all Northern Iowa and Wichita State, and I have Knight to thank for allowing me to avoid that. Everything about his game has improved since last season. His scoring is up a bit to 14.4 points per game, and his shooting percentages have rocketed upwards. He also went from having more turnovers than assists to having a 1.33 assist to turnover ratio.
Ron Baker, Wichita State
- Baker is another familiar face. He is one of the Valley’s leading scorers at 15.9 points per game, and he’s doing it with 46.8 percent field-goal shooting.
Darius Carter, Wichita State
- Wichita State has a weak interior, but 6-foot-7 Carter is holding his own down there. He was under-appreciated last year, but now Shockers fans are seeing how great he is. Carter is one of the MVC’s better rebounders and interior defenders, and he is also scoring the ball better this year with 11.7 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting. Carter may be the least known of Wichita State’s big players, but he actually has the highest usage rate of anyone on the Shockers roster.
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa (Player of the Year)
- As good as VanVleet and Baker are, I would be shocked if Tuttle doesn’t win MVC Player of the Year at this point. He’s been a dominant scorer with 15.8 points per game on 61 percent shooting. He can post up, he can put the ball on the floor, and he has range out to the 3-point line. It’s also a luxury when you’re 6-foot-8 power forward has a top-five assist rate in the conference.
Sixth Man of the Year
1. Wes Washpun, Northern Iowa
- Washpun is one of the best players in the MVC, even though he comes off the bench. He’s good enough that I nearly put him on my All-MVC team. Washpun’s turnover rate is still a bit high, but he makes up for that my distributing and scoring well. He’s also one heck of a perimeter defender.
2. DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Illinois State
- Akoon-Purcell is averaging 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 22.8 minutes per game. However, he has poor shooting percentages and more turnovers than assists this season.
3. Bobby Hunter, Illinois State
- Hunter is Illinois State’s second key bench player. In MVC competition, he ranks No. 5 in offensive rating with a 119.1 mark.
4. Tre Bennett, Indiana State
- Bennett still has work to do in order to be a true contender in this race. He’s not a great scorer, although he’s been doing better in that regard recently. However, he is one of the best distributors in the Valley with a 31.0 assist rate in conference games.
Newcomer of the Year
1. DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Illinois State
- You read about him above.
2. Montel James, Loyola
- James is Loyola’s only true post threat, and he has delivered despite being just 6-foot-7. In 20.2 minutes per game, the junior college transfer is averaging 8.9 point and 4.2 rebounds. He has done a great job getting to the foul line this season, but he is converting just 53 percent of his free throws.
3. Brenton Scott, Indiana State
- For the second straight season, we could see a freshman win both Freshman and Newcomer of the Year. Scott has been a phenomenal scorer out of the gate for Indiana State. He is averaging 11.3 points per game and has reached the 20-point mark three times in MVC play. Scott is also No. 4 in the Valley in true shooting percentage in league competition at 64 percent.
4. Earl Peterson, Loyola
- Peterson is a step behind the first three players, but he has needed to take on a much larger role for Loyola since Milton Doyle went out with an ankle injury. His scoring has taken a step up recently, as he is averaging 10.6 points over his last five games. He’s also getting the job done pretty efficiently with 48.5 percent shooting from the field.
5. Mislav Brzoja, Evansville
- Brzoja missed a handful of games with a hand injury and has struggled in his two games since returning. However, he had been on a tear before getting hurt. In the four games prior to injuring his hand Jan. 17 against Wichita State, he was averaging 14.3 points.
Freshman of the Year
1. Brenton Scott, Indiana State
- You read about him above.
2. Jordan Caroline, Southern Illinois
- Caroline has been a rebounding machine for Southern Illinois with 6.3 boards per game. He ranks No. 4 in defensive rebounding percentage during MVC competition. He’s also been a fine scorer with 9.4 points per game on 48.1 percent shooting.
3. Josh Cunningham, Bradley
- The top-100 recruit has not been perfect, but he’s made a big impact for Bradley. The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 7.8 points and 7.4 rebounds, and he has been a monster on the defensive glass as well.
Coach of the Year
1. Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
- Northern Iowa was supposed to be good this year and a challenger to Wichita State in the MVC title race, but a top-15 national ranking is exceeding expectations so far. Jacobson has a team that can legitimately make a NCAA tournament run.
2. Greg Lansing, Indiana State
- Lansing lost one of the best players in Indiana State history with Jake Odum graduating, as well as another key player in Manny Arop. The Sycamores were supposed to be fighting in order to avoid Thursday night’s MVC Tournament play-in round. Instead, they are in line for the No. 3 seed at Arch Madness with an 8-4 conference record.
3. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
- Wichita State may not be undefeated, but Marshall is sustaining success with another team that has been ranked in the top 20 all season. The Shockers may win another conference title, and even if they don’t, they have the pieces for another NCAA Tournament run.