In this segment, I outline the emerging prospects for the 2011-2012 Missouri Valley Conference season.
Doug McDermott, Creighton- After validating his rank as one of the most highly touted freshman in conference history, McDermott looks to improve on where he left off a year ago. While he has already attained the highest conference honors, McDermott should challenge for conference player of the year this season. In his trip with team USA's Under 19 squad, he competed valiantly against some of the most formidable competition in the world for his age group. He responded to this challenge by ranking third on the team in scoring and rebounding. It is clear that McDermott can rebound at any level and is one of the more efficient returning offensive players in the Missouri Valley Conference. Last season, he posted a true shooting percentage of over 60%, ranking him as the top MVC player for this metric according to kenpom.com. With the graduation of Kenny Lawson, Creighton will rely on his offensive prowess even more often. Look for McDermott to solidify himself nationally as one of the nation's top sophomores over the course of this season.
Mamadou Seck, Southern Illinois- Look for this aggressive post presence to have a big year for the Salukis. He is physical combo forward with an ability to go after the ball with reckless abandon. Last season, Seck had the 29th best Defensive Rebound % in the country according to kenpom.com. He should again lead the MVC in rebounding. And, because of the transfer of Gene Teague and the graduation of Carlton Fay, Seck should play a much more important role as a scoring presence inside. In terms of his long run potential, Seck is a bit of a tweener and must develop some semblance of an outside shooting game. If he can do this, he will receive more mentions in professional basketball circles.
Ben Smith/Joe Ragland, Wichita St.- The Shockers are the favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference despite losing their top scorer JT Durley. Ragland should take over the fulltime starter's duties in his second season with this squad. Look for him to stand out with more playing time and extended duties as a floor general. Ben Smith, on the other hand, received fairly limited minutes last season and was not given an opportunity to score the ball all that often. Despite this, Smith ranked first in the MVC and 11th in the country in kenpom's Offensive Rating. This means that he was one of the most efficient players in the country despite being used on less than 20% of his team's possessions. For reference, Ragland ranked 4th in the MVC in this category. Due to some of the Shockers' losses, look for Ragland and Smith to receive a lot more touches and therein realize an increase in their scoring output.
Kenneth Harris, Evansville- While Harris did not demonstrate remarkable offensive efficiency in his first season with the Purple Aces, he contributed in other ways to his team's success. On the defensive side, in spite of his average size for a forward at 6'6, Harris was able to rebound the ball fairly well. According to kenpom.com, he ranked in the top 150 in the nation in Defensive Rebounding %. Further, he was aggressive going after the ball on this end and thus was one of the MVC's most valuable defensive weapons. On the offensive end, Harris was able to draw fouls fairly effectively. If he can increase his free throw percentage and continue to get to the line at the same rate, he should realize a tremendous increase in offensive production. In terms of his long run potential, Harris must develop a three point shot in order to keep defenses honest. At the next level, he will have to play on the wing and thus, his transition to the perimeter will be a pivotal part of his long term development.