Busting Brackets

Missouri Valley Basketball: 2024 Conference Tournament preview and predictions

Is Indiana State the team to beat in this season's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament? And who are the key players to watch? 

2023 Indy Classic - Indiana State v Ball State
2023 Indy Classic - Indiana State v Ball State / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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Indiana State has enjoyed its best season since the 1979 Larry Bird national runner-up finishing team. This season’s 26 wins is the second-best Bird’s team’s 33. Josh Schertz’s team claimed its first Missouri Valley Conference regular season title since 2000 and posted its first back-to-back twenty-win seasons in twenty-three campaigns.

The Sycamores lead the Valley in virtually every offensive category. They lead the nation in effective field goal percentage, (.600), are third nationally in field goal percentage and seventh in free throw percentage. Oh, and they’re fourth nationally, making eleven three-pointers per game. 

Indiana State’s fast-paced (fifteenth in pace of play) and free-flowing offense confuses opponents and thrills the Sycamore fans. 

The Sycamores have been a top forty team in the national-evaluation-tool rankings for most of the season and are currently ranked twenty-ninth. 

Indiana State is the Valley’s most complete team with great star power. Sophomore sensation Robbie Avila is the league’s best big man and is virtually unstoppable. The 6’10 Avila has outstanding footwork in the post, is one of the nation’s top passing post players and he is consistent form long range. 

Schertz’s three-guard offense is the Valley’s quickest trio. Newcomers Ryan Conwell and Isaiah Swope and veteran Julian Larry can blow by defenders and make it rain from deep. Swope (16.6 ppg ), Conwell (16.0) and Avila (17.6) all rank in the top ten Valley scorers and Larry is the league’s fourth leading assist man and is deadly from deep.  

Every team needs a thumper and forward Jayson Kent is that Sycamore player. The 6’9 Kent, like all of his starting teammates averages double digits in scoring, and he is the league’s third leading rebounder and its most electric dunker. 

ISU went 17-3 during league play and two of those losses occurred when Kent was out with a head injury. He is healthy now. 

The Sycamores are the team to beat in St. Louis.