Murray State and University of Illinois-Chicago join the Missouri Valley in conference expansion

University of Illinois at Chicago will be joining the Missouri Valley Conference at the end of the current collegiate season, expanding the conference to 12 just three weeks after Murray State University came on board.

Murray State has been the home of two NBA lottery picks in the past seven seasons (Cameron Payne in 2015; Ja Morant in 2019). SIU Junior guard Ben Harvey said the Salukis are ready for that level of competition.

“They always have a great team, a great coaching staff. Obviously coming from Eastern Illinois, I experienced that first hand,” Harvey said, “But we know we’re ready for it because we’ve shown we can compete with anybody in the country.”


Murray State is coming from the Ohio Valley Conference, a league comparable in skill level to the MVC. The Racers won multiple OVC championships in the past couple of years.

SIU sophomore center Kyler Filewich said there is a lot of respect for the status of Murray State’s program.

“We usually play them in our non-conference schedule. Having them come in will definitely be great for the conference,” Filewich said.

The Racers aren’t the only team coming from the OVC. Belmont is also one of the teams mentioned in joining the Missouri Valley. Coincidentally. Both were considered “top dogs” in their previous conference.

“They just win games at a high level, whether that be in the OVC or NCAA tournament,” Harvey said, “It could be tough for Belmont coming in and they are probably going to have to adjust, but they’ve established a great program.”

Belmont won multiple women’s basketball Ohio Valley championships too. Its Women’s program has been even more successful than the men’s.

“We play in a very competitive conference. With their addition it’ll push our conference that much further skill-wise and next year it (conference championship) may be up in the air,” Freshman forward Tyranny Brown said.


The latest team to join the Missouri Valley would be the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames. Unlike both Belmont and Murray State, UIC hasn’t been as fortunate with its success on the court.

The Flames currently sit at 7-12 for men’s basketball, while the women’s team holds a 2-16 record. It’s safe to say both programs could use a change of scenery.

“They know what they’re coming into when you talk about the competitiveness of this conference,” Brown said, “I think mentally they understand that they’re going to have to work very hard, but that’s no different than any other team.”

UIC competes in the Horizon League for this season, which is viewed as lower-level competition. However, with a move-up to the MVC, it could open new opportunities for the Flames in its pursuit of athletic excellence.

“Obviously being up in Chicago and having that recruiting base is a big tool. Plus, now that they’re coming to the Missouri Valley, that could help them get more recruits,” Filewich said.

With so many new schools joining the conference, these moves could put the Missouri Valley ahead of the curve and be the beginning of a bright future for the league.

“Both athletically and academically it’s such a great conference. There’s so many great fanbases, facilities and teams across the MVC,” Filewich said, “It really speaks to the level of talent in the athletics being played here.”

While the expansion could bring many great moments for the future of the Missouri Valley, there certainly will be an adjustment period. Harvey said for teams joining the conference, and the teams already in it.

“The new teams coming in are definitely the odd ones out, because every game in the Missouri Valley is a ‘grind it out’ type of game,” Harvey said, “but it could certainly go the other way with the teams already here where they have to adjust to new playstyles and gameplans of certain teams.”

The move has the potential to have a major impact on recruiting. Harvey said the expansion is sure to have a butterfly effect.

“All three of the teams are located in great spots with Chicago and Nashville (Murray State is roughly two hours from Nashville),” Harvey said, “Plus all three places have loyal and strong fan bases which can attract any recruit.”

The Missouri Valley isn’t the only conference to be welcoming new members. In the past year, 22 college football teams (FBS and FCS combined) have announced they will be changing conference affiliation.

In college basketball, 18 of the 32 conferences have announced they will have conference realignment before the 2022-2023 season.

Whether it’s Texas and Oklahoma joining the Southeastern Conference, or Loyola-Chicago to the Atlantic-10, it’s going to take some getting used to.

“It’s certainly very different with the number of changes that have happened,” Filewich said, “It’s tough playing different teams than you’re used to and adjusting to that. But I think it’s good we change it up.”

Until then, all three players (Filewich, Brown, and Harvey) agree SIU can compete with any team in the country, so they welcome any new competition to the Missouri Valley. No matter where they lie on a map.

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at cdaily_de. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter