Wichita State, Evansville land 2 each on conference 1st team
ST. LOUIS (AP) Wichita State senior guard Fred VanVleet has been selected Missouri Valley Conference player of the year for the second time in three seasons.
VanVleet and fellow guard Ron Baker both were first-team all-conference picks for the third consecutive season from the regular-season champions. Both rank in the top 25 all-time in conference scoring.
VanVleet is among three players in conference history with 600 career assists and 200 steals and is among nine players in conference history to be named Larry Bird player of the year twice. He also won in 2014 and was third last year, and the Shockers have had two of the top three in voting three straight seasons.
Evansville also landed two players on the first team including Egidijus Mockevicius, who was second in player of year balloting. Baker finished third.
VanVleet and Baker are the first pair of guards from the same school to win all-conference honors three straight seasons. VanVleet has 617 career assists, fifth-most in conference history.
All five players on the first team are seniors, and there's only one underclassman on the second team.
''The guys at Wichita State, gee whiz, you could probably write a book with all they've done,'' Evansville coach Marty Simmons said.
''It's been a while since all of most of the top guys in the league have been seniors,'' Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. ''There hasn't been as deep a senior class to make an impact like they have.''
D.J. Balentine, the nation's active leading scorer averaging 20.7 points this season, also plays for Evansville. Anthony Beane of Southern Illinois rounded out the first team. Mockevicius leads the nation in rebounding, averaging 14 boards, along with 26 double doubles. He leads the conference in shooting percentage at 65.7 percent.
Beane, second in the conference with a 19.4-point average, sustained an apparent concussion in the final game of the regular season but has been improving and passed initial tests. Beane has scored 1,900 career points, third most in school history.
''I don't play possum,'' coach Barry Hinson said. ''We anticipate he's going to play.''
The Valley was set to announce its specialty awards later Tuesday and will announce its coach of the year on Thursday. Wichita State opens the tournament Friday against the winner of the first of two play-in games.
Evansville is the second seed.
Indiana State had two players on the second team, Devonte Brown and sophomore Brenton Scott. Also honored were DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell of Illinois State, Montel James of Loyola and Wes Washpun of Northern Iowa.
Baker, VanVleet and Mockevicius are also on the all-defensive team along with Jeremy Morgan of Northern Iowa and Paris Lee of Illinois State.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said if he needed a stop to win the game, Baker would be his choice.
''He knows what is a foul and what is not,'' Marshall said. ''He knows the scouting report better than we do.''