The Mountain West Conference and Missouri Valley Conference have announced next season’s pairings for the inaugural Challenge Series between the two leagues. The agreement between the Mountain West and Missouri Valley conferences is a four-year term. Nine Challenge Series games will be played each year, and each conference will host a total of 18 games in the four-year period.
The Challenge will feature head-to-head competition between nine Mountain West and nine Missouri Valley teams annually. Evansville, by virtue of finishing the 2007-08 MVC regular season in 10th place, will be the Valley school that does not participate in the 2009 Challenge Series. In keeping with the overall objective of the Challenge, match-ups for the first year are based in part on 2008-09 pre-season rankings and on RPI rankings from the previous year, or RPI rankings from the preceding three-year period.
“The development of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge Series is a great step toward improving the strength of schedule of our programs and our overall ranking,” said MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson. “Historically, both conferences send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament each year and the Challenge Series will showcase the outstanding basketball played by the teams in both leagues.”
A number of factors were taken into consideration in determining the nine match-ups for the 2009 Challenge, starting with the inclusion of match-ups of teams in three previously-scheduled games that were already contracted as part of home-and-home series between teams in the two conferences. The initial Challenge spans nearly a month and a half from start to finish (Nov. 13 to Dec. 23), but future challenges will have a more concentrated schedule for the games in the series.
“This Challenge Series is a matchup of two tradition-rich basketball conferences with great coaches, players and arenas,” said MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin. “This concept will allow schools in both leagues to strengthen their non-conference schedules and improve their resumes for NCAA Tournament at-large consideration.”
The two leagues will alternate between having five home games in one year and four in the second year (the Mountain West will have four home games in 2009 and 2011, and five in 2010 and 2012).
For the following three years of the Challenge, the series match-ups will be made by a Challenge Committee consisting of three athletics directors from each league and representatives of each conference office staff.
The Mountain West has ranked among the Top 10 in the NCAA’s final RPI report in eight of the last nine years, while the Valley has been among the Top 8 in each of the last four. Teams from the two leagues have squared off 37 times since the inception of the Mountain West in 1999, with MWC teams holding a 20-17 edge in those contests, including a 3-2 edge in games played this season. Entering this week, the Mountain West is rated No. 6 in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI, while The Valley is No. 8. Five Mountain West teams are in the Top 100, and five MVC teams are among the Top 100.
2009 CHALLENGE DATES (Series Records)
Nov. 13 Bradley at BYU (BYU, 2-1, last met 12/17/77)
Nov. 20 Colorado State at Indiana State (tied, 1-1, last met 12/30/81)
Nov. 21 Southern Illinois at UNLV (UNLV, 2-1, last met 12/23/83)
Dec. 5 Air Force at Missouri State (first meeting)
Dec. 12 TCU at Wichita State (WSU, 5-2, last met 12/8/08)
Dec. 19 Creighton at New Mexico (UNM, 2-1, last met 11/16/08)
Dec. 19 Illinois State at Utah (first meeting)
Dec. 22 San Diego State at Drake (DU, 4-2, last met 11/25/77)
Dec. 23 Wyoming at Northern Iowa (UW, 3-0, last met 12/13/08)