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Missouri Valley Conference votes to add Valparaiso

The Crusaders will replace Wichita State, who left for the American Athletic Conference.

NCAA Basketball: Valparaiso at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The Missouri Valley Conference has voted to add Valparaiso as its 10th member, effective July 1, the league announced on Tuesday.

The Crusaders will replace Wichita State, which accepted an invitation to the American Athletic Conference in non-football sports shortly after the Final Four. Valparaiso is already located within the league’s footprint, providing a strong geographic fit in addition to a good match on-court with a league that prioritizes basketball.

In men’s basketball, Valparaiso brings a sustained tradition of on-court success.

The Crusaders have enjoyed seven consecutive winning seasons and have been to the NCAA Tournament nine times, all since 1996. In 2016-17, they went 24-9 and appeared to be on track for another tournament appearance before leader Alec Peters went down with a season-ending leg injury. Valparaiso then lost in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament and fell to Illinois in the first round of the NIT.

With the Valley perceived as a basketball-first conference, the Crusaders are a strong fit. Now, Valparaiso must continue to grow its program. The MVC took a huge hit when Wichita State left, leaving the conference without an annual NCAA Tournament contender. It will be on Valparaiso to help fill that void, along with Northern Iowa.

Murray State, Omaha, and others were also rumored contenders for an MVC invite before the league decided to expand only by one.

UPDATE: The league might not be done expanding. This from Missouri State president Cliff Smart: