CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – UNI men’s basketball’s AJ Green is tabbed as this year’s Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, and the team is picked third in the conference’s preseason poll.
The Panthers have landed in the top half of the league standings in 17 out of the last 18 years and received six first-place votes and 354 total points. This year’s squad returns nearly the entire roster from the previous season, including 2020 Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year honoree Green, who comes back from a season-ending injury.
In addition to Green’s first team preseason honors, teammate Austin Phyfe earned a spot on the MVC’s second team.
The Panthers won four of their final five games overall – including a 65-60 triumph over the Illinois State Redbirds in the opening round of Arch Madness – before their conference quarterfinal contest with the Drake Bulldogs was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Phyfe and Trae Berhow are among the league’s active scoring leaders, and Tywhon Pickford is the top active MVC player in rebounding.
MVC teams have combined to post a nonconference home record of 89-8 (.918) over the past two years, including a 34-2 record at home in non-league play last year. It’s believed to be the best two-year stretch in conference history.
For the first time on record, Drake has been picked as the preseason favorite in the MVC. Drake’s previous high ranking in a league preseason poll was in 1988-89, when the Bulldogs were picked to finish third that season.
MVC preseason poll:
4. Missouri State
5. Southern Illinois
9. Indiana State
10. Illinois State