8-7, not quite the Valley heyday, but a winning record against BCS-conference foes is a great step for a conference who expects an abundance of early-season success.
Once considered the hands-down top mid-major conference in the country, the MVC’s recent plight as a single-bid league in the NCAA tournament could finally end in 2011-2012.
Proving the conference’s worth has become the focus for MVC and league commissioner Doug Elgin (good interview in the Examiner from August)
“I think our people understand that they simply have to prove they are worthy of an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, and they cannot accomplish that without playing strong non-conference schedules. Our teams have to be better than teams from higher-profile leagues, and the best way to make that point it is to schedule strategically… early-season tournaments provide the best opportunity to play NCAA Tournament-caliber teams at neutral sites.”
Solid wins (WSU over UNLV, Evansville over Butler, etc) and a combined 46-23 non-conference clip (through Dec.4), may just push the Missouri Valley conference back toward mid-2000 prominence.
Creighton and Wichita State are carrying the torch, but look who is making an appearance in the top-five of CBS’s early season RPI Report (Sorry Panther fans, but I’m not sure it’s quite deserved).
Irrespective of your feelings on early-season ranks (please see BCS issues), there’s little question that the powers-that-be in the national media are starting to take notice.
Heck, Valley-friendly media like Joseph Book are already throwing out Doug McDermott’s name for All-American contention (Joseph Book’s MVC ranking at the Examiner).
And it’s hard to argue. Not only is Dougie McD in the top-5 in scoring, but his leadership and clutch play have Creighton in the national rankings.
Where the final record falls as conference season draws closer remains to be seen.
Most likely, Evansville will not be able to put-away fourth-ranked North Carolina on the road.
But I do expect UNI to take care of business at home against the lowly Hawkeye (5-3 against a very weak schedule).
Missouri State hosting an Oklahoma State team yet to garner a solid win deems this one a toss-up, slight edge going to MSU at home.
10-8. At worst. 9-9 (a vast improvement over last year’s 11-22 mark).
Give the commissioner and the league’s coaches some credit. This year’s MVC is playing at a higher level and certainly giving fans around the Midwest cause for excitement.
Now if only we can Jim Nantz on board…