The league's 90-game conference slate begins on Thursday, Dec. 29, as defending regular-season and State Farm MVC Tournament champion UNI hosts Wichita State, while preseason favorite Missouri State takes on Bradley, the team with the league's best non-conference record this season. At least two Valley contests on Friday, Saturday and Sunday round out the league's opening week schedule as the chase for the MVC title gets underway.
QUICK STARTS CRUCIAL
Since 1983-83, just three teams (Missouri State, champions in 1998-99, 1994-95 and 1990-91; Drake, champions in 1996-97 and co-champions in 1987-88; and Evansville, a 2007-08 co-champion) have won at least a share of the regular-season title without winning its regular-season opener. In fact, nine of the last 12 regular-season champs (or co-champs) have opened 2-0 or better in MVC play, with Evansville in 2007-08, Missouri State in 2004-05 and UNI in 2010-11 serving as the only three exceptions.
REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPS VS. TITLE CHAMPS
In just the first week of Missouri Valley Conference action, last season’s regular-season champion (Illinois State) will square off with the 2009-10 State Farm MVC Tournament champion (UNI). The Redbirds were picked fourth in this year’s preseaon poll and currently sit in second place in the league standings (6-3), while the Panthers were picked third in the preseason poll and are currently tied for third in the standings (7-4).
The league has had eight different regular-season champions in the past nine seasons (CU/ILS-2003, MSU-2004, MSU-2005, INS-2006, SIU-2007, DU/UE/ILS-2008, ILS-2009, ILS-2010 and UNI-2011).
THE RPI REPORT
The Missouri Valley Conference holds steady at the No. 10 position in the latest (Dec. 26) Collegiate Basketball News RPI Report. As a league, The Valley has the 12th-best strength of schedule, its best of the season, up three spots from the previous report.
THREE REMAIN IN THE TOP 100
Three Valley teams rank in the RPI’s Top 100, led by Creighton (48). Missouri State (63) and Bradley (79) also represent the MVC among the nation’s top teams in the RPI.
Seven Valley teams - 70-percent of the league’s squads - have registered five or fewer losses so far this season. Only six other conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Colonial, Pac-12 and SEC) can make the claim that at least 70-percent of their teams have five or fewer losses. Five of the other six conferences, all BCS leagues, are also in the RPI’s top six ranking conferences.
The Missouri Valley Conferece currently sits at 58-52 (.527) in non-conference action (through games of Monday, Dec. 26). With just one contest remaining in non-MVC action, the Valley has already secured yet another above .500 season. The Valley has posted non-conference records above .500 in 16 of the last 20 seasons, and have not recorded back-to-back below .500 seasons since 1992.
LET'S TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
The Valley’s 58-52 non-conference record is a bit deceiving with 23 of those defeats (44 percent) coming at the hands of the six BCS conferences - the ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC - leagues with composite winning percentages above .729.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Of the MVC’s 52 losses in non-conference action, 31 (.596) have come against teams in the RPI’s Top-100.
AGAINST THE FIELD
The MVC holds a winning record against 13 leagues in non-conference play (ACC, Atlantic-10, Big Sky, Big South, Great West, Horizon, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Mountain West, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt and WAC) and at least a .500 mark against another three (Big West, Conference USA and Metro Atlantic).
The MVC holds an unblemished record in non-conference action against nine other leagues, including ACC (1-0), Atlantic-10 (1-0), Big Sky (1-0), Big South (2-0), Mid-Eastern (1-0), Mountain West (3-0), Southland (4-0), Sun Belt (5-0) and the WAC (1-0).
TOPPING POSTSEASON TEAMS
To date, MVC teams have 18 wins against teams that participated in either the NCAA, WNIT or WBI postseason events last season. The 18 wins over postseason teams tops the league total of 17 postseason wins last season.