The Belmont Bruins are headed to the Missouri Valley Conference, according to Matt Brown of Extra Points.
Brown reports that the Ohio Valley powerhouse might formally announce the move as early as next week. You can read Brown’s full report here.
There’s no timeline yet for Belmont’s move, but Austin Peay and Jacksonville State have already announced their intentions to leave the OVC for the ASUN in 2022. It would make sense for the Bruins’ departure to coincide.
On the men’s basketball side, Belmont is clearly stepping up a weight class. While the OVC has provided quality programs over the last few years for the Bruins to battle, including Murray State and, last year, Morehead State, the MVC is a different animal. It ranked as the 10th-best conference in college basketball in 2020-21, per KenPom, compared to the OVC, which was 22nd.
The Valley is also a perennial multi-bid contender. Loyola University Chicago and Drake both received bids in 2021, with Missouri State finishing behind them but still in the KenPom top 100.
From the MVC’s perspective, the conference has taken a step back since Wichita State left for the AAC in 2018. It needs a true powerhouse alongside Loyola, and Belmont is as good a candidate as any to take the mantle. The Bruins have transitioned seamlessly between the Rick Byrd and Casey Alexander eras and have won 20-or-more games every year since 2011. They were at-large contenders last year, would have made the tournament in 2020 if it hadn’t been canceled, and danced in five of Byrd’s final nine seasons.
Geographically, Belmont is a good fit as well. The MVC does not currently have any school in Tennessee, but Nashville is driving distance to Evansville, Southern Illinois, and Indiana State.
Belmont’s move leaves the Ohio Valley at a crossroads. It could have absorbed the Governors’ and Gamecocks’ departures, but Belmont is the main men’s basketball power in that league. Murray State would, presumably, take that title, but one has to think the Racers might be exploring their options as well.