Doug Elgin's speech won't change until something changes in March.
The Missouri Valley Commissioner addresses the need for multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament every year at media day. Earning at-large bids in men's basketball is the financial and prestige driver for the conference.
"Everything we do is geared towards that," he said last month in St. Louis.
The solutions to the MVC's multiple-bid problem can be found in Omaha and Carbondale, Ill.
Not to put unfair pressure on Creighton and Southern Illinois, but it's clear Evansville and Indiana State aren't going to pull the MVC out of its current state. When the MVC routinely produced NCAA Tournament at-large teams, Creighton and Southern Illinois led the way. As those programs — particularly SIU — slipped the past three seasons, the selection committee limited the MVC to one spot in the tournament. Drake and Northern Iowa went winless in 2008 and 2009 before UNI went to the Sweet 16 last season. In 2009, co-champion Creighton didn't make the cut.
Unfortunately, the MVC's premier programs of the past decade are in flux. Creighton is breaking in new coach Greg McDermott. SIU coach Chris Lowery is trying to remake his team with a return to defense and hard work.
"I'm definitely confident," Lowery said. "How we put this team together was in the image of some of our other teams — guys that defend, guys that come from tough coaches, guys that come from places where they won a lot and where the coaches are teachers."
The Salukis, who played in the NCAA Tournament in 2007, dropped to ninth in the MVC last season. Lowery purged his roster of players he considered talented, yet unwilling to play the Saluki way. Guard Kevin Dillard, the 2009 MVC Freshman of the Year, transferred to Dayton. Forward Anthony Booker went to Iowa State. Both were highly recruited. Neither played on a team with a winning MVC record.
Lowery spent the off-season finding players who want to play his way.
"The toughness that it took to be able to get on the floor for a loose ball won't be an issue anymore," he said. "We watched over plays a lot the past two years. We watched people do tough things while we complained, and now it's not that way."
Creighton's slip isn't as dramatic. The Bluejays shared the MVC title with UNI in 2009. Last season, however, they went 18-16 and finished fourth in the MVC. Coach Dana Altman was hired at Oregon. Within a day, Creighton hired McDermott from Iowa State.
McDermott, who coached at Northern Iowa for five seasons, inherits preseason Player of the Year Kenny Lawson and three other starters. The Bluejays are expected to challenge near the top of the MVC.
Altman elevated Creighton basketball to one of the nation's most consistent programs. Change, however, might work out for everybody.
"It's definitely an adjustment," Lawson said. "The biggest change is adjusting to the toughness the coaches expect out of us. Being able to push through at the end of the game, getting those stops. That was evident during last season, toward the end of the game, we lost a lot of close ones because we weren't tough enough."
Northern Iowa hogged every meaningful title the past two seasons, winning regular-season and tournament titles in 2009 and 2010. The Panthers won't be as big or as experienced this season without center Jordan Eglseder and forward Adam Koch. Coach Ben Jacobson has his system in place and his roster is stocked with players who know how the Panthers win.
Reserves such as Marc Sonnen, Jake Koch and Anthony James became valuable contributors by the end of last season. This season, they must step into more prominent roles.
"A lot of those guys were in those same wars I was in," senior Kwadzo Ahelegbe said. "We went 10 deep last year."
McDermott and Indiana State's Greg Lansing are the MVC's new coaches. Lansing, a former Indiana State assistant, took over when Kevin McKenna joined Altman at Oregon.
The MVC's building boom, another staple of Elgin's state of the conference address, isn't slowing. SIU Arena, built in 1964, underwent a $29.9 million renovation. Evansville will play its final season in Roberts Stadium before moving to a new downtown arena. Bradley will continue to play games at Carver Arena, but practices will unfold at $50 million Renaissance Coliseum, an on-campus facility with a 4,200-seat arena, practice gym and offices.