Men’s basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Midseason Awards

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

Saturday’s games in the Missouri Valley Conference marked the beginning of the second half of play in the league. Looking at the first half, who deserves honors?

The conference standings currently have Illinois State and Loyola tied for first at 7-3, Drake solely holding third place at 6-4, fourth place is currently a logjam with Southern Illinois, Valparaiso, Missouri State and UNI all sitting at 5-5, Evansville then sits alone in eighth with a 4-6 record and Indiana State and Bradley tied for last at 3-7.

It has been an interesting start to Valley play with two games separating the fourth place teams from either last or first.

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Most Surprising Team – Drake Bulldogs (6-4): Drake was picked to finish ninth in the conference in the preseason poll, and had a great non-conference finishing with an 11-2 record with senior guard Nick Norton being one of the leaders on the team averaging 14 points and 5.9 assists per game. In the double overtime loss to Evansville to open conference play, Norton suffered a season ending injury. After the injury the Bulldogs lost two out of their next three, but a win over Bradley started a four game winning streak, with it ending to a 69-55 loss to Illinois State, they then won their next game over Indiana State to pull it to third place. Since the Norton injury, senior forward Nick McGlynn is averaging 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Best Freshman: Last season sophomore Clayton Krutwig earned freshman of the year honors and through the first half freshman guard AJ Green of the UNI Panthers has been the best freshmen so far. Green is averaging 14.6 points per game on 39.5 percent shooting, to go along with his shooting he is averaging 2.1 assists per game for the 5-5 Panthers.

Sixth Man: Last year this award was given to former Saluki guard Tyler Smithpeters. While this award could go to several different players, while some may say senior forward Thik Bol of SIU is deserving, others might say sophomore guard Noah Thomas of Drake is deserving. Based solely off the first half, I have chosen sophomore guard Noah Frederking of Evansville who is averaging 6.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game for the young Purple Aces squad.

Best Defensive Player: This award was given to Ben Richardson of Loyola last year, and this season the point could be made to give this honor to senior center Kavion Pippen of Southern who is leading the league in blocks per game, but blocks alone are not the only aspect of the defensive end. Senior forward Phil Fayne of Illinois State is second in blocks per game behind Pippen averaging 1.4 blocks per game to go along with one steal per game.

Larry Bird Trophy Front Runner: Last season this award was given to now senior guard Clayton Custer when he averaged 13.2 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting to go along with 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. This season McGlynn of Drake has made the best case early for the best player in the Valley award. He is averaging 15.7 points per game on 54 percent shooting to go along with 8.3 rebounds per game, as he has stepped up into the leadership role after the season ending injury to Norton. If McGlynn is able to lead the Bulldogs to be a top five team and maintains the level he has played at expect him to earn this award.

It’s been an exciting first half for any fan whose team is a part of the Missouri Valley Conference, but as the calendar turns toward February and the second half of Valley play begins fans are looking forward to Arch Madness.

Sports editor Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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