Things on the Horizon

So much for a dead period in basketball season. Recruiting is still going on, but there’s been a shake up in the Horizon League.

Tuesday, the Missouri Valley Conference invited Valparaiso to replace Wichita State, which left the MVC for the American Athletic Conference. Valparaiso has yet to comment on the move, but it’s one that seems imminent starting July 1.

Valparaiso made the move to the Horizon beginning in 2007 and was in the Summit League prior to the Horizon. The Summit League is the former Mid-Continent Conference, a league YSU was in until the 2000-01 season.

The Horizon League didn’t respond to an email about the Valparaiso move. YSU Director of Athletics Ron Strollo said he cannot comment on the move until Horizon League commissioner Jonathan LeCrone speaks on the matter.

However, there’s been quite the speculation about some potential schools out there as Valparaiso’s replacement.

Mind you, the Horizon League is a men’s basketball-driven league. Losing a program like Valparaiso, which has had several of past success in the NCAA Tournament and NIT, gives plenty of thought to who could replace them.

First and foremost, Murray State. The Racers, who had an off year, are a perennial NCAA Tournament team and one of the powers in the Ohio Valley Conference. For those of you who remember the heydays of YSU basketball in the mid 1980s, there were many exciting battles between OVC teams at the Beeghly Center. Murray State would be a welcome addition to the Horizon League. It is on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, about 8 hours away from Youngstown.

Robert Morris. The Colonials bring the Pittsburgh market to the league, something that could be very eye-catching to the Indianapolis-based Horizon League. That said, it’s the best geographic fit for the Penguins, about an hour away.

Here’s some other schools that have been bantered about as possible replacements — Nebraska-Omaha, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.

Omaha, Edwardsville, IUPUI and IPFW are good teams, but not great fits for the Horizon. They don’t add anything to the league’s RPI, now 17th.

This is a league that had Butler, a two-time national runner-up. With Valparaiso leaving, who else can increase the Horizon League RPI?

How about Grand Canyon University? This team went 22-9 last season, playing the likes of Duke and Louisville.

Grand Canyon is in the Western Athletic Conference and is a great travel spot in Phoenix, but does it cramp the travel budgets of teams like YSU? Isn’t this the reason the Penguins left the Mid-Con because they played a team like Southern Utah every year.

The Horizon League encompasses every sport except football, so imagine that travel budget?

That’s why the smart thinking goes to Murray State or Robert Morris. They have upside on both schools to the Horizon League. Let’s hope either one is the selection as Valparaiso’s replacement.