Is Valpo A Good Fit? (Part Two)
Editor: Paul Oren has covered Valparaiso athletics since 1999 and currently writes for The Northwest Indiana Times and hosts a podcast entitled ‘Union Street Hoops. He has been kind enough to introduce us to Valpo basketball on the chance that the Crusaders could be joining the Missouri Valley Conference. Follow Paul on Twitter (@NWIOren).
(Valparaiso, IN) – Greetings from the Vale of Paradise! Now, to the question at hand.
Is Valparaiso a fit for the Missouri Valley Conference?
Detractors will point to the facilities as being an issue, but come to the ARC for a Saturday night game with ESPN in the house and you’ll find one of the best mid-major environments in the country. The Crusaders hosted Missouri State for a BracketBuster game in 2011 and Homer Drew drove to the Valparaiso airport (there’s an airport!) to personally pickup Dick Vitale and bring him to the arena.
Detractors will say Alec Peters and the Drew Family are gone and that the program will once again become irrelevant. How did Wichita State do without Cleanthony Early and Fred VanVleet? How did Northern Iowa do without Ali Farokhmanesh, Adam Koch and Seth Tuttle? How did Drake do without Josh Young and Leonard Houston? Ok, bad example. The point is, programs survive and to think that Valparaiso will fade into obscurity just because there isn’t a Drew walking the sideline or Alec Peters knocking down shots is lazy thinking at best.
Valparaiso’s pre-Division I history is littered with losses to Valley teams, but the Crusaders have been competitive in recent memory. Despite going 31-50 against Indiana State, Valparaiso has won five of its last six games against the Sycamores dating back to 2001. There’s no doubt that Valparaiso would fit in and be competitive with the rest of the programs in the Valley.
Is Valparaiso a worthy replacement for Wichita State? In a word, no. I don’t think any single program can replace Wichita State, just as it was clear that no single program could replace Butler when it left the Horizon League in 2012 and to a lesser extent, no single program could replace Valparaiso when it left the Mid-Continent Conference in 2007.
To judge Valparaiso singularly against Wichita State would be unfair to both programs just as it would be unfair to do the same to Murray State, Omaha and Milwaukee. Wichita State is gone and the Shockers aren’t walking back through the door anytime soon. The Valley is doing its due diligence in scouting potential programs and whether Valparaiso ends up getting a call or not, fans of the Valley need to recognize that change is imminent.
I’ve read plenty of the MVC Fans board in the last several weeks and I’ve come away convinced of two certainties. The first it that the Valley has some incredibly passionate fans (and Valparaiso’s fan base would only add to that) and the second is that even if Kentucky got an invite to the Valley, some of those fans would find a way to complain about it.
Programs like Valparaiso, Murray State, Omaha and Milwaukee can’t speak to what life was like in the Valley when Creighton and Wichita State ruled the roost. They can only put their best foot forward to the selection committee, accept an invitation if offered and then go to work in raising the collective profile of their new conference to a place where hopefully the Valley can once again become a multi-bid league.
Sounds like a vale of paradise to me.