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Conference realignment: Rumors swirl amid Missouri Valley upheaval

As the Shockers leave, will the MVC choose replacement or expansion?

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NCAA Basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Tournament-Wichita State Shockers vs Illinois State Redbirds
They’ll be a new MVC champion next season.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Wichita State will get the headlines as it enters the AAC with a likely top-10 ranking attached to it. But let’s not forget about the MVC, which will need to carry on without its most valuable basketball draw over the past decade.

So where will it turn?

Last week, our own Jordan Burton did a great job laying out several options. It was a must-read then, and is especially a must-read now. The first question for Doug Elgin and the remaining administrations is whether to simply replace the Shockers, or increase the league to 12 schools.

Drake coach Niko Medved told the Des Moines Register that he prefers a leaner conference.

“I hope they don’t go out and try to add too many teams,” Medved said. “I love these conferences … where you can play a true round robin schedule. We get a true regular-season conference champion, where you play everybody home and away.

But so far, the rumors seem to suggest expansion is on the MVC’s mind. The Des Moines Register summarized the schools that have been floated since WSU’s AAC announcement, and they square with our list from last week:

A list of possibilities has been reported, including Valparaiso, Belmont, UMKC, Omaha, the four Dakota schools and more. The decision will likely come down to numerous factors, such as geographical fit, financial stability and basketball relevance.

FanRag’s Jon Rothstein reported yesterday that Valparaiso and Murray State are the league’s targets. And given that it’s Rothstein, it might be safe to assume that those two schools are at the top of the MVC’s wish list.

If that were the case, it would suggest that the MVC values recent basketball success above all else. Still, there would be some risk if that’s what the league is after even though both programs have had success under multiple coaches in the past few decades. Matt Lottich and Matt McMahon seem like strong coaches but both are not yet proven commodities.

Belmont fits that bill as well, and has the most proven of commodities in Rick Byrd and his 12 20+ win seasons.

Then there’s the market play. That would weigh in favor of schools like UMKC and Omaha, and the Kansas City Star confirmed that the Kangaroos are interested.

“Obviously we would love to be considered,” UMKC athletic director Carla Wilson said. “If we could be more regional with our conference affiliation that would create some geographic rivalries, help our travel and be a benefit to us.”

The Star also noted that UMKC, UIC and Valpo were considered when the MVC ultimately chose Loyola Chicago as Creighton’s replacement in 2013. That could mean that the Flames will be in the mix again.

League presidents and athletic directors will reportedly hold an emergency meeting Sunday in St. Louis, and it seems the schools they’ll discuss are pretty clear.