a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Missouri Valley Conference has responded to its first membership change in almost two decades.
After Creighton's announcement that it would leave for the new-look Big East, the MVC was down to nine members from the optimum 10 that it rode with since Tulsa left in 1996. The Valley will not, however, play a game as a nine-school league with the addition of Loyola University of Chicago, late of the Horizon League.
Loyola sources confirmed the report to the Sun-Times Saturday, adding that the details would be worked out this week with an eye toward immediate admission on July 1.
Two other Horizon schools—Illinois-Chicago and Valparaiso—were approached by the Valley as well as Summit League (for now) member Missouri-Kansas City. UMKC is set to begin play in the Western Athletic Conference this season as that league tries to stave off the reaper.
Expanding into the Chicago market is a tremendous boon for the MVC's media presence, if not an earth-shattering basketball move. The Valley's top television market was Wichita, ranked 69th in a listing compiled by StationIndex.com. Des Moines, home of Drake University, follows closely at No. 71.
Now for a total "duh" statement: Chicago is slightly higher on the list.
Losing Omaha with Creighton's departure means the Valley parts with the No. 76 TV market. Replacing that with No. 3 is a trade that nearly any league would make.
On the court, Loyola is coming off a 15-16 season marred by a 5-11 conference slate. A January 2 upset of Valparaiso was the Ramblers' only victory over a team in the RPI top 180, according to StatSheet.com's rankings.
Loyola will also need to replace journeyman point guard Cully Payne, who asked for his release from the program last month. Payne led Loyola with 4.2 assists and one steal per game last season, his first after two years at Iowa.
Payne's brother Quinten, an incoming freshman, also received a release from his commitment.
Loyola has averaged 13.4 wins and an RPI rank in the 230 range over the past five seasons, and is in no way a quality replacement for a nascent power like Creighton. Still, if the potential battles with a Final Four participant like Wichita State can get Chicago recruits interested in Loyola again, the school would stand a better chance at an NCAA at-large bid in the MVC than in the Horizon.
After all, that last Big Dance in 1985 is literally two lifetimes ago to today's high school baller.