There is a lot of talk about the increased talent in the Missouri Valley Conference this year, highlighted by the AP Pre-season All-American selection, Doug McDermott. But there is one team that many people have overlooked.
After finishing last in the Missouri Valley last season, it is not a surprise that the Bradley Braves have not received much attention in the pre-season discussions. However, it is a new season and Bradley is an entirely different team.
Head coach, Geno Ford, now in his second year at Bradley has changed the dynamics of this program. Ford has visibly implemented a new system offensively and defensively, built to the strengths of his roster.
After seeing the Braves play twice now, it is obvious that defense has been a major emphasis for them. Defensively, they have the guards to give ball pressure and great inside presence from their big guys. I specifically noticed that with the personnel of the Braves and their defensive mindset, they were able to move as a unit, execute help defense, hedge and recovered screens and secure rebounds.
The heightened defensive intensity from Bradley is something that many teams in the Missouri Valley may not be expecting.
Ford has also offensively fine-tuned the system he wants his team to execute. The athleticism of the team allows them to run in transition, but they have also become discipline in knowing when to pull it out and slow it down. There is much more offensive control and better-shot selection. Most notable was the great ball movement and unselfish attitude displayed by Bradley in their second exhibition game where they had five players in double figures.
The Braves are lead by point guard, Walter Lemon, a quick, athletic guard that can handle the ball, see the court, drive and has now added a consistent three point shot. Dyricus Simms-Edwards and Jake Eastman give them experience, strength and a scoring threat at the off guard position. Junior college transfer, Tyshon Pickett, is an athletic post that can score and rebound. Pickett will definitely make an impact for the Braves this year. Will Egolf, a sixth year senior, returns for the Braves this year which will also give them a great inside out presence on both sides of the floor. Also returning is Jordan Prosser, another solid post that can score, rebound and plays great defense.
Overall, Bradley is deep in talent this year and will look to have balanced, consistent scoring. Pre-season rankings might not account for the potential of this team, but there is no doubt the Braves are much improved and have a chance to surprise people this season.