Drake will face some new faces on a yearly basis, the Missouri Valley Conference announced last week. The conference announced that Belmont University will join the now 11 school conference, and early reports state that Murray State will even the number at 12.
Why the disruption to an already functional system? The simple answer: conference realignment. The longer answer: the Missouri Valley is making moves that it should’ve made years ago, and they aren’t the only ones doing it.
This year’s realignment cycle began with news that shook the college sports world: Oklahoma and Texas were invited to join the Southeastern Conference, a coalition of some of the most competitive schools in collegiate athletics. For reference, since college football went to a four-team playoff format in the 2014-15 season, four of seven national champions have come from the conference. In baseball, five of the last 10 national champions were SEC schools. So, it is kind of a big deal when that conference expands.
But that decision did more than add a couple teams to the SEC. It opened a gateway for things to shift around in all of Division I, and the Missouri Valley Conference is taking full advantage.
The conference voted unanimously in favor of adding Belmont, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, but it’s a move that should’ve happened years ago. In 2013, when Creighton left for the reincarnation of the Big East, and 2017, when Wichita State left for the American Athletic Conference, Belmont was at the head of conversations for expansion, but never agreed to a deal.
This year, though, the conference they’re currently in—the Ohio Valley—is bleeding members. Three members have already left the OVC, leaving the door wide open for the Bruins. They’ve won 20 games in each of their OVC men’s basketball seasons with the OVC, and they’ll be able to compete in a “higher” mid-major conference like the MVC. It puts the conference in a spot to consistently earn two bids to the NCAA tournament, which it did last year when Drake was one of the last four teams into the selected 68.
Although not official yet as of Friday, Oct. 1, reports state that the conference is looking to even its numbers with Murray State, another refugee of the sinking ship that is the Ohio Valley conference.
The school has produced a lot of talent in recent years, including NBA star Ja Morant, who I think is probably going to end up being one of the best players of his generation by the time he retires. The program is ready to make the jump to the “higher” mid-major level, and the addition would be a great move for the MVC.
The NCAA is in a state of realignment, and the Missouri Valley Conference is taking full advantage.