The expectations for Amaka Agugua-Hamilton will be even higher heading into her second season.
The Missouri Valley Conference announced Tuesday that the Lady Bears have been tabbed as the favorites to win the league.
Both Brice Calip and Jasmine Franklin were selected as Preseason All-Conference players. The Lady Bears received 33 of the 40 first-place votes.
MVC PRESEASON POLL – Votes (first-place votes)
- Missouri State 360 (33)
- Bradley 328 (7)
- Northern Iowa 288
- Drake 282
- Illinois State 223
- Southern Illinois 201
- Valparaiso 176
- Loyola 133
- Indiana State 129
- Evansville 80
Missouri State is coming off a 26-4 season in which it won the conference regular-season title with a 16-2 record. The conference tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lady Bears finished the season ranked No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches Poll along with a No. 23 ranking by the Associated Press.
Heading into 2020-21, the Lady Bears will have to fill the void left by leading-scorer Alexa Willard — who graduated after averaging 16.1 points per game. The Lady Bears also graduated Shameka Ealy who averaged 3.3 points and 9.2 minutes a game.
MVC PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
- Brice Calip – G – Missouri State – Sr.
- Jasmine Franklin – F – Missouri State – Jr.
- Gabi Haack – G – Bradley – Sr.
- ***Lasha Petree – G – Bradley – Jr.
- Karli Rucker – G – Northern Iowa – Sr.
- *** — Preseason Player of the Year
In addition to Calip and Franklin, experienced players in Elle Ruffridge, Abby Hipp, Emily Gartner, Sydney Wilson, Mya Bhinhar and Sydney Manning all return.
A notable newcomer for the Lady Bears in 2020-21 will be the addition of Auburn transfer Abi Jackson. It is unknown if she will be eligible immediately or when the fall semester ends, but she figures to be an impact player.
Sydney Manning hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lead the Lady Bears to a 69-67 win over Drake
Missouri State will feature an overhauled assistant coaching staff with the exception of Tori Jankoska. The Lady Bears hired former Texas Tech assistant Alysiah Bond along with Temple assistant C.J. Jones.
“Coach Mox” is coming off a season that earned her the league’s coach of the year honor along with being named the nation’s top rookie head coach by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
The Lady Bears previously announced they will open their 2020-21 season on Nov. 27 at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. A non-conference schedule has yet to be released.
MVC play begins Jan. 1 at Evansville with the first conference home game Jan. 8 against Illinois State.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at email@example.com or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. You can subscribe to his free “Bears Beat” newsletter on News-Leader.com. He’s also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.