Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the Missouri Valley, click here.
The most important player for each team in the MVC ...
Bradley: Dyricus Simms-Edwards
Bradley finished 2-16 in Missouri Valley play and 7-25 overall. The Braves were ranked 306th (out of 345 teams) in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. They need help in many areas. But they'll finish at the bottom of the league again without an improved offense. That's why the program needs guard Simms-Edwards to play more efficient and consistent basketball. He took 333 shots last season, but made just 35 percent of those attempts. He scored 17 or more eight times, but also recorded single digits in 15 games.
Creighton: Grant Gibbs
Antoine Young was the facilitator for Creighton's potent offense. Now, Greg McDermott needs to find a replacement. Austin Chatman is just a sophomore, so it's Gibbs who will most likely man the point guard slot for the Bluejays. Doug McDermott is a great college player. One of the best in the country. But he's not a creator. He's the kind of talent who excels mostly within the flow of Creighton's offense. And Gibbs will be the catalyst of that group, one that shot better than any team in the country last season (51 percent).
Drake: Ben Simons
The Bulldogs finished 9-9 in the MVC, part of a five-way tie for third place. And they looked like a dark horse for this season before Rice's transfer changed expectations. Simons (16.0 ppg) was equally effective for Drake's offense, but that one-two punch of Rice and Simons would have been the league's best. Simons now anchors Drake's offense alone. He was ranked fifth in the league in offensive efficiency per Pomeroy among players who accounted for 20 percent of their team's possessions (113.6). Losing Rice hurts the entire program, but Simons' return is a boost.
Evansville: Colt Ryan
McDermott was the most recognizable player in the MVC last season, but Ryan nearly matched his offensive output. As a junior, he averaged 20.2 ppg, second behind McDermott. He scored 43 points in a one-point overtime loss to the Bluejays in February and scored 30 or more four times last season. He's an exciting player who's probably McDermott's greatest threat for MVC Player of the Year honors. Defense is key in any league. But with Creighton's high-potent offense controlling the conference right now, teams need offense to keep up with the Jays. Evansville, ranked 57th in Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency ratings last season, has it with Ryan returning.
Illinois State: Jackie Carmichael
The standout wowed during the LeBron James Skills Academy, a coming-out party to those who'd never heard of the Illinois State star. But MVC rivals know all about Carmichael, a 6-foot-9 forward who recorded 15 double-doubles last season. The Redbirds fell short of the conference tournament title, but the bulk of their significant players return. Carmichael has the skill set to help Illinois State challenge Creighton for the MVC title, especially if he cuts back on his turnovers (2.2 per game). This is a talented roster. New coach Dan Muller, however, needs Carmichael to lead the way.
Indiana State: Jake Odum
The junior guard is not just Indiana State's most important player because of his production (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.9 apg). Yes, he's one of the league's most versatile performers. But he has to play with more discipline next season to give the Sycamores an edge. He recorded five or more turnovers in six games and averaged 3.0 per game in 2011-12. The MVC should be a top-heavy conference again next season. But Indiana State could be in the mix, especially if Odum fulfills his potential. He's also healthy. He was hobbled by plantar fasciitis last season.
Missouri State: Anthony Downing
In a few weeks, Missouri State will take a trip to Costa Rica, marking the first international trip for the program. And it's good news for a team that hasn't received much of it in recent months. Top players Kyle Weems and Caleb Patterson have graduated. And Jarmar Gulley, a senior who averaged 10.4 ppg and shot 37 percent from the 3-point line last season, tore his ACL in a summer league game last week and is expected to miss the entire 2012-13 season. Downing is the top returning scorer on the roster. The departures and Gulley's injury make him an even more significant player for a program that hopes to stay relevant within the MVC.
Northern Iowa: Anthony James
James (12.9 ppg) went viral in February after he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to defeat nationally ranked Creighton. The Panthers will rely on James for more highlights next season, a promising one for the program, as they lost just one senior, Johnny Moran. Northern Iowa was the MVC's top scoring defense (61.9 ppg allowed), but it was seventh in scoring offense (65.2 ppg). The Panthers scored 41 points in a road loss to Saint Mary's last November and managed just 51 points in a road loss to Missouri State in January. So they'll definitely need James, the squad's leading scorer last season, to maintain his offensive prowess.
Southern Illinois: Dantiel Daniels
The sophomore led the MVC in blocks per game last season with 1.6. He also led the league in Pomeroy's block percentage ratings (7.90), a more accurate barometer of a rim protector's effect on a game. To climb out of the MVC's basement, the Salukis must enhance a defensive unit that allowed 69.2 ppg and finished No. 202 in Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. Daniels (8.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg) proved to be a talented defender in his first season of college basketball. If he continues to evolve, he might become a frontcourt star for the SIU.
Wichita State: Carl Hall
No player in the league faces a greater transition than Hall. He earned newcomer-of-the-year honors in the MVC last season. It was the perfect situation for the junior college transfer, who played with a group that was anchored by five seniors. But they've graduated, and now Hall is the new leader for a team that will add seven new players. This is definitely a rebuilding year for Marshall's program. Hall, who was second in the MVC in offensive rebounding percentage per Pomeroy, will be the key component in Wichita State's effort to avoid a major fall -- the Shockers won 27 games and earned a 5-seed in the Big Dance.