What The MVC Should Do

Hot Beef Take

The Missouri Valley Conference was spurned this last week or so amid rumors of Wichita State’s defection to the American Athletic Conference.  Well, the old saying goes, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.’  Consider the MVC burned, as the Shockers program is leaving its home from 1945.  But that’s okay.  There were a lot of doubters when a similar situation happened just a few years ago, when Creighton left our humble abode for greener pastures in the Big East Conference.

The Valley added Loyola(Chicago), which is a school with a pretty good history, despite marginal success recently.  But it did get the MVC directly into the Chicago market, which is what every conference’s goal is nowadays when considering expansion, replacement or replenishment.  And with Wichita State’s defection, the opportunity arises again.

How many teams should they target?  And who should they be?  What should their objective be for potential candidates?

The answer to the first question really depends.  Traditionalists within the MVC would almost assuredly say one team is all they need.  This would allow for the true round-robin format they use for their regular season.  There’s been a few who have mentioned that the conference could even add two teams, moving to 11, and keep the round-robin format, creating a 20 game regular season.  This isn’t unprecedented as the Metro Atlantic Conference already plays a 20-game conference schedule.  And this would help the MVC with scheduling difficulties, since many of the power conference refuse to play them.  Then there’s some who would like to see the MVC add three teams, which would eliminate the round-robin but could also give the conference more shots at multiple teams qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

Now who?  Early polls coming in are saying that Belmont(Nashville, Tennessee) is the early front-runner.  And when you see what Belmont has done the last decade or so, there’s little disputing the pedigree.  On top of that, it would expand the conference’s geographic footprint into a new larger television market.  Which is good for exposure, recruiting and potential television money.  Second on the list is Valparaiso(Valparaiso, Indiana).  Just like Belmont, the national cache that Valpo brings is undeniable.  What Belmont and Valpo also bring are a couple of decent baseball programs, which will help fill the void left by Wichita State.  It would solidify the Chicago market, as much as one can with all the star-craving Hoosier fans in that state.  The third team on the radar is Murray State(Murray, Kentucky).  There’s no real geographic expansion here.  In fact, Murray State is no more than a skipped rock from Southern Illinois and Evansville.  But, before Belmont sunk their talons into the Ohio Valley Conference, many times that conference belonged to Murray State.

One, two or three?  Answer…all three.  If you look at the mid-major landscape, the most successful ones at getting multiple NCAA Tournament bids all have 12 or more teams.  The American is going to 12, with Wichita State.  The Atlantic Ten has 14 teams.  Each of those conferences are almost locks for two or three bids come March.  The Mountain West has 11 after Hawaii’s departure a few seasons back.  But the MWC has been a multi-bid entity numerous times.  Sure, you have a mid-major conference like the West Coast who secures multiple bids with only ten teams, but one of those is Gonzaga.  And two of the others are St. Mary’s and Brigham Young, which have become borderline national programs on their own.

So we add three.  How do we do the schedule?  There’s not going to be a 22-game regular season, so there’s going to be some unbalanced scheduling.  How about breaking the conference’s twelve teams into three pods?  Each pod will be separated geographically.  Maybe it would look something like this…

Screenshot (20)

  • Pod #1
  1. Illinois State
  2. Northern Iowa
  3. Bradley
  4. Drake
  • Pod #2
  1. Valparaiso
  2. Indiana State
  3. Loyola(Chicago)
  4. Evansville
  • Pod #3
  1. Belmont
  2. Southern Illinois
  3. Missouri State
  4. Murray State

These would NOT be official divisions, just a way of separating teams for scheduling purposes.  This would allow to schedule the better teams from each pod against each other and allow the lower teams to play each other.  A true strength of schedule parity system.

  • Each team would play the others in their pod home and away, which would be six games.
  • Each team would play two teams from each of the other pods(four teams) home and away, which is another eight games.
  • Each team would play the other two teams from each of the other pods(four teams) once – two at home and two away, which is another four games.
  • This would leave the schedule at 18 conference games.

The teams, depending on the position in their pod, would have their opponents determined by a placing formula, very similar to what the NFL used back in the days of their 28-team configuration.  The #1 team in each pod would play both of the other #1’s, a #2 and a #3 for their home and away opponents.  The #2 team would play both of the other #2’s, a #1 and a #4.  The #3 team would play both of the other #3’s, a #1 and a #4.  Lastly, the #4 team would play both of the other #4’s, a #2 and a #3.  All other opponents would be single game match-ups and could be set-up on a rotational basis to keep teams from always playing at one team’s home venue.

So using the pod system and the format described above, Illinois State, for example, would play Northern Iowa, Drake and Bradley home and away, within their pod.  They would also play home and away against Valparaiso(#1), Indiana State(#2), Belmont(#1) and Missouri State(#3).  The remaining four teams would be played only once.

This would be a fair system to distribute games and encourage parity, because more games would be played among the top versus the top and the bottom versus the bottom.

The standings would still be counted as a total, there would be no reference towards pods or divisions because they are only used to create schedules.  The conference tournament could use the standard 12-team format, with eight first round teams playing to advance against the top four teams who receive a bye into the quarterfinals.