Paul Suellentrop

Eight not great when it comes to MVC baseball

The early discussion of Dallas Baptist as a baseball-only candidate to join the Missouri Valley Conference focused on RPI benefits. With the conference race roughly at midway, the addition as a scheduling fix becomes more prominent.

Eight baseball schools isn't enough, in the opinion of MVC coaches. That number creates two problems — an uneven number of home-road series each season and only seven conference series, a scheduling headache. The MVC is looking at Dallas Baptist as a replacement for Northern Iowa, which dropped baseball last year.

"It's so difficult to find non-conference games once other teams start playing conference," Indiana State coach Rick Heller said. "We're going to have to bring in a Division II school to play a weekend series (in 2011). It's really difficult when you have so few conference weekends."

This season, Northern Iowa's unexpected departure creates weird, and possibly unfair, schedules. Indiana State and Wichita State both play three of their final four conference series on the road — with the Shockers on the road three consecutive weekends.

Creighton and Missouri State play this weekend. After today, Creighton plays two more MVC series and MSU plays four. Bradley wraps up a series with Evansville today and won't play another MVC game until May 14.

Next season, the MVC solves some problems by playing seven consecutive conference weekends beginning in mid-April. That won't even the home-road split, and it won't fix all the scheduling problems.

WSU owns enough juice to fill its schedule with a trip to Oregon and a four-game series at Hawaii. Not all MVC schools can do that. They are looking for weekend opponents in early April, when most schools are locked into conference weekends.

Forced to scramble this season, MVC schools filled open weekends with schools such as NAIA St. Xavier, NCAA Dallas Baptist (which plays Evansville and WSU) and Division I newcomers Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Seattle.

"The weekends are the problem," WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. "If we only have seven weekends to use because we only have eight teams, we're going to have a devil of a time filling those weekends."

MVC coaches are unanimously in favor of adding Dallas Baptist. Heller and Stephenson are would like to add a second school to provide nine conference weekends. Stephenson has long been in favor of adding Oral Roberts to the MVC, although that is not part of current discussions.

"We've talked about, in our league, for years how we can improve it," Heller said. "The thing we can do to improve it is let a good team like Dallas Baptist into the league."

MVC and school administrators are checking out Dallas Baptist and the issue is scheduled to be discussed at conference meetings in May. The school presidents will have the final say in June. The earliest Dallas Baptist could play a Valley schedule is 2012.

Dallas Baptist (22-16 through Friday) owns an RPI ranking of No. 127, which would rank sixth in the MVC.

Help wanted — WSU men's basketball coach Gregg Marshall is the owner of one of the more attractive job openings in Division I basketball.

He needs an assistant coach. The Shockers are in great shape for a good season in 2010-11, and Marshall's coaching tree grew significantly when Earl Grant moved to Clemson.

Marshall will take his time to find Grant's successor. With recruiting wrapped up, he is going to take time off before making that choice.

"I'm not in a hurry at all," he said last week.

Grant recruited in the South, an area Marshall is also connected with. Marshall will consider geographic ties, but isn't locked in to hiring another coach with roots similar to Grant's.

"I'm going to consider every single aptitude," he said. "It would be great to stay in the Southeast. But we're strong enough now we can recruit other areas."

Worth noting — Several players whom visited or considered Wichita State men's basketball in recent weeks signed or committed to other schools: Three Rivers (Mo.) Community College guard Marquise Carter signed with Gonzaga; Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College forward Will Clyburn signed with Utah; Mesa (Ariz.) Community College forward Stephen Rogers picked Brigham Young over Utah State.... Southern Illinois' men's basketball team will play at Illinois for an $80,000 guarantee next season, according to the Southern Illinoisan newspaper. The Salukis will also play Purdue, with former coach Matt Painter, in Chicago.... Evansville is losing sophomore forward James Haarsma, who averaged 10.8 points and a team-leading 7.1 rebounds. He wants to play closer to his home in Wisconsin, the school said in a news release.