Loyola starts its first season in the MVC with a game at Indiana State. Its first home game is against Missouri State.
The MVC looked at a juicier home opponent in the early versions of its schedule – an in-state opponent or Wichita State. The scheduling wizard couldn’t make that work without hurting other factors such as balancing home and road games, home and road weekends and time between rematches.
Too bad. MSU came up as a random opponent. It would have been nice for the Ramblers to start conference play with an attention-grabber.
- No team plays three straight on the road this season, perhaps a function of Creighton’s departure. The Bluejays, due to booked dates at the CenturyLink Center, were the only team saddled with that burden last season. Northern Iowa and Indiana State get four two-game road swings. Illinois State and Evansville have two. Everybody else has three.
- Every MVC team, except one, plays a non-conference game Dec. 28 or 29 before starting conference play on Jan. 1 or 2. Illinois State will take a lengthy Christmas break, playing on Dec. 22 and not again until Jan. 2. Who knows what the Redbirds roster will look like after vacation?
A look around the MVC schedules:
- Drake – The Bulldogs will do well to rack up wins before the end of February. They end the regular season against Northern Iowa, at Wichita State, at Evansville and home against Bradley. They get WSU in the Knapp Center on a Saturday night, and Shocker coach Gregg Marshall knows Drake plays his team tougher with a crowd.
- UNI – The Panthers play four of their final five games on the road, ending at Indiana State for Jake Odum’s senior night. The Panthers can make noise early by opening against Bradley and at WSU.
- Indiana State – The Sycamore are set up for a strong start. They open with Loyola before traveling to Evansville and to Drake. They should be 3-0 coming home to face Bradley and Missouri State before things get tougher. Winning at Evansville won’t be easy, but I’d rather play the Aces early in the season and hope to catch them before their new starters figure things out.
- Evansville – Starting in late January, the Aces play at UNI, at WSU, home against Missouri State and at Bradley. That’s a season-defining stretch.
- Illinois State – The Redbirds play Wichita State and at Indiana State and Bradley during a late January stretch. It is hard to guess if it is better to play the Redbirds early (before its 10 new players get acclimated) or late (when its inexperienced roster might wear down).
- Loyola – Welcome to the MVC: at Evansville, vs. Indiana State and Northern Iowa and at WSU in January. We will know quickly how the Ramblers match up in the Valley.
- Bradley – The Braves start with a brutal five-game stretch that includes road trips to UNI, WSU and Indiana State.
- Missouri State – The Bears play four of their first six games on the road.
- Southern Illinois – The Salukis get a heavy dose of MVC favorites early, opening against the Shockers and facing UNI, Indiana State and Bradley by mid-January.
- Wichita State – An early February stretch that includes games at Indiana State, UNI and Evansville looks like a test. In a big change, there is no regular-season finale at Creighton, so the Shockers miss seeing Grant Gibbs celebrate senior day for a second time.