The saga is all over.
After over a month of public debate, it appears the Missouri Valley Conference has found its replacement for Wichita State.
According to multiple media reports, Valparaiso will be added to the MVC immediately for the 2017-18 season. They will be the only addition to the conference. Murray State, Omaha, and UW-Milwaukee were also seriously considered for addition to the conference. By just adding Valparaiso, the conference will now have an even split between public and private schools, a topic that was discussed ad nauseam throughout the process.
This move comes at perhaps the most important time in the history of the conference. With the departure of Wichita State, the league has been weakened to the point of no longer being considered a 2-bid league on a regular basis. With that, it became essential to add at least one quality mid-major to re-solidify itself as the top mid-major conference in the Midwest and a perennial contender to be a 2-bid league. The league could have added both Murray State and Valparaiso to further strengthen the league, but it seems that the league has elected to stay at 10 teams at this time.
While simply adding one team won’t set off quite the ripple effect that adding 2 or 3 teams would have, it still leaves the Horizon League in a position needed to add at least one team. I expect the Horizon League and Commissioner Jon LeCrone to be very aggressive in the process of adding teams, perhaps up to 3 additions. I’m sure the Horizon League will at least contact Murray State, though I doubt that the Racers would make that move. More realistic candidates include Omaha, UMKC, Fort Wayne, IUPUI, and Robert Morris.
Valparaiso projects as a mid-pack Missouri Valley program in its first season. While they lose star forward Alec Peters and wing Shane Hammink, Matt Lottich’s team brings back talented guard Tevonn Walker, who averaged almost 12 points per game this season. In addition, promising center Jaume Sorolla returns after a solid freshman campaign. High-major transfers Bakari Evelyn (Nebraska) and Joe Burton (Oklahoma State) will also be expected to play a major role.