Valparaiso makes it official, accepts Missouri Valley Conference invitation

In 2016, the Valparaiso men’s basketball team went 16-2 in the Horizon League to win the regular-season title by three games, set a program record for wins at 30-7 and went a program-best 17-1 at home.

But their NCAA tournament plans were derailed with an overtime loss to Green Bay in the league tournament semifinals. The Crusaders made the NIT championship game, but missing the NCAA tourney still stung.

Valparaiso hopes joining the Missouri Valley Conference will help prevent any such scenarios in the future.

The school on Thursday officially accepted an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference, effective July 1. The St. Louis-based league announced the offer on May 9.

“The opportunity to be in a conference with the history and tradition of the Missouri Valley was one we needed to pursue,” Valparaiso athletic director Mark LaBarbera said. “Being in a conference with a higher basketball profile will help achieve the goals of our basketball program. We feel like we have a chance to get into the NCAA tournament if we don’t win the conference.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for our program and student-athletes and it’s good for the university as a whole to elevate our national reputation a bit.”

The Crusaders are scheduled to compete in all 17 sports sponsored by the Missouri Valley. The conference after 2016-17 is dropping men’s tennis, a sport in which Valparaiso made the NCAA tournament the last two seasons, and does not offer men’s swimming.

LaBarbera said Valparaiso has been exploring its options in those two sports and should have a resolution within the next two weeks.

More than two weeks after officially receiving the Missouri Valley’s invitation, Valparaiso announced its acceptance. It came a day after the baseball team was eliminated from the Horizon League Tournament.

“We wanted all our student-athletes to participate in the postseason because they earned that opportunity,”…

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