*My Eagle colleague, Paul Suellentrop, and I just finished a 15-minute chat with Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin. We talked about a myriad of subjects – as much of a myriad as 15 minutes allows – but the most important, of course, was about the future of the MVC should Creighton, as expected, depart for the new Big East.
* First of all, Elgin isn’t conceding that Creighton is leaving. That said, he’s like everyone else. He knows that if the Bluejays receive an offer to join the Big East, chances are they’re gone.
* Of course, Elgin puts a positive spin on the potential of a departure. He still thinks the Valley is the place to be, but understands this offer might be too good for Creighton to refuse. If it happens, though, Elgin will have a plan in place. He probably already has the outline of a plan in place. He said he and his staff have already done some initial research into possibly replacing Creighton, but wouldn’t elaborate on those inner workings.
* “The Valley is bigger than any one – or two – schools,” Elgin said. I asked him if that meant that there’s a possibility of a second school departing the conference soon. He said he believes the nine schools other than Creighton are definitely going to stick around, dispelling rumors that Evansville, which has by far the smallest enrollment of any MVC institution, might join the geographically-friendly Horizon League.
* I don’t get the sense Elgin is interested in a nine-team conference. Or a 12-team conference. I think he and the league presidents are together on 10 teams. And that, of course, means that one school ultimately will be in the Valley’s bullseye as a replacement for Creighton, should it come to that.
* Who will that school be? It’s a total guessing game at this point. You have your favorite, I have mine. And my favorite is Belmont. I love that the whole Nashville thing. And no one can argue against Belmont’s viability as a basketball school. However, can Belmont continue to be strong in hoops? Is there enough of an athletic budget to fund all of the other sports as a member of the Missouri Valley? Bringing aboard a new school is a complex, difficult process. Let’s see how all of this plays out.
* I love being in St. Louis for this Valley tournament. It’s one of the best weekends of they year. It helps that I know this city, which I consider my home away from home. Great restaurants, great people, great baseball team. I haven’t been able to get over to Busch Stadium yet; that’s on the agenda for tomorrow morning if the weather cooperates. I want to take a moment by the Stan Musial statue.
* Shockers vs. Illinois State here in a couple of hours. This could be special. There’s some bad blood here and a couple of really talented team.s Illinois State is one of the few Valley teams that can match the Shockers’ size. But the Redbirds, fory whatever reason, don’t always come ready to play. I have a feeling that won’t be an issue for Illinois State today. They want the Shockers. Can they beat them? Definitely.
* I do not have a gut feeling about today’s game. Illinois State is a tough match-up for the Shockers, even though WSU defeated the Redbirds in both regular-season games. The return of Ron Baker is a big X factor in favor of Wichita State. He was simply outstanding last night during a 10-point win (it was closer than the score indicates) over Missouri State. In fact, I don’t think WSU pulls that one out without Baker’s 15-point contribution, which included three big three-pointers during a short stretch in the second half. Baker is one of the most intriguing players to come along for the Shockers in a while. I love the fact that he’s from Scott City, a 3A high school in Kansas. He’s a throwback in many ways, but with outstanding all-around abilities as a shooter, passer and defender.
* With Baker, Tekele Cotton, Cleananthony Early, Nick Wiggins, Evan Wessel, Jake White and others returning next season, plus a recruiting class Gregg Marshall likes, the Shockers will be one of the teams to beat in the Valley next season, too. Count on that being an annual refrain as long as Marshall is coaching. And even if he leaves someday, Wichita State is in a position to be a strong basketball school in the years ahead. The Shockers have the budget, the resources, the fan base and the commitment to remain strong. Let go of the Mike Cohen, Scott Thompson and Randy Smithson years, Shocker fans. There’s no reason or excuse for backpedaling. And certainly no excuse for ever becoming a lower-tier MVC team again.
* As I work on the blog, I’m following the Kansas State-Oklahoma State game online. This will be something if the Wildcats can pull off winning at OSU on the final day of the Big 12 season to preserve at least a tie for the conference title. KSU is up four as I type these words.
* I’m working in the media room and can hear the sounds from the Creighton-Indiana State game out in the Scottrade Center. There are a bunch of Creighton fans here and they’re making a lot of noise. I’m with Elgin, in that any conference is bigger than one school. That’s certainly the case with the Valley. But losing Creighton – and this isn’t earth-shattering news – would be a blow.
* Five quick thoughts on the St. Louis Cardinals. 1. Glad they signed first baseman-outfielder Allen Craig to a long-term deal, and at a bargain price. Craig will have a big offensive season in 2013; 2. I’m optimistic the Cardinals will get a deal done with starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. They have to. He’s so important to the rotation; 3) Matt Carpenter should start most of the games at second base, even if he’s not the defender Daniel Descalso is. Carpenter is a good hitter. The Cardinals potentially have the best lineup in the National League; 4) I’m glad Shelby Miller seems to be on the verge of nailing down the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation; 5) Pete Kozma deserves a chance at shortstop before the Cardinals look for an alternative. He has some tools, just not a great minor-league track record. But his performance in September of last season and in the postseason warrants some optimism.
* Thanks for reading. K-State continues to lead at OSU. Bruce Weber has done such a good job in his first season. Better than I anticipated. Have a great rest of your weekend.