As you awaken to read this story about Wichita State University leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the American Athletic Conference, you are probably reading a lot of conventional wisdom pieces in the local and national news that say the Valley must pick up this or that school for this or that reason.
The remaining Valley presidents and ADs will meet in the Valley headquarters Sunday in St. Louis to plan their strategy to respond to another supposed “hit” on the viability of the league — given the two losses (Creighton in 2013 and now the Shockers) of highly-ranked basketball teams.
That aforementioned conventional wisdom says the Valley will pick a replacement (or replacements) with the following criteria: get someone who has shown they can play high-level mid-major basketball and/or get some school located in a large media area.
There has been lots of speculation about Belmont University, located in Nashville Tennessee. The Bruins — a consistent postseason tournament participant — were 23-7 this season and went to the second round of the NIT. Also mentioned is Valparaiso, which has had an RPI of 85-plus the last five seasons (24-9 record last season).
Valparaiso is also located only one hour east of Chicago, and so could (supposedly) draw fans and media attention from a big metropolitan area. But just being near or even in a large city does not guarantee prosperity.
The Valley let in Loyola a few years ago under said criteria and the Rambler’s attendance average a miniscule 1,800 per game. When the Salukis played Loyola at Gentile Arena, there were more Chicago-area Saluki fans in attendance than Rambler ones.
I’m almost certain that most Valley presidents and ADs don’t read my column, but if by some chance they do, I have a suggestion. Start unifying the MVC basketball and football (MVFC) halves of the Valley by inviting in at least one of the powerhouse MVFC’s football-playing members in to also play basketball.
North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University, at least, have upgraded their hoops programs and participated in the NCAA Tournament in the past few years. I’d start by letting one or both in as basketball-playing members too.
I personally wouldn’t mind seeing University of South Dakota and University of North Dakota (who starts MVFC play in a few years) enter the league and the eventual culling of non-football schools like Evansville, Bradley, Drake and yes, even Loyola.
But I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Look for conventional wisdom to win out again after Sunday’s meeting. Realistically, I’d predict a big push for the aforementioned Belmont and Valparaiso---with perhaps a team like the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos too, because of the big city location.