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So how about that Missouri Valley Conference?
The Valley is the fifth-rated conference in college basketball, behind the Big Ten, Big East, ACC and SEC. The Valley's got five teams in the top 33 of the RPI. The Valley's talking about sending a record four teams to the NCAA tournament. And some dreamers are even suggesting a fifth.
Dream on, Valley fans. This is your time. This is your year. Enjoy.
And while you're at it, send a thank-you note to Doug Elgin.
This was the Valley commissioner's vision. But not even Elgin can believe his eyes.
"We were so good, so early, that it doesn't seem real," Elgin said. "It's fun. It's a lot of fun. It's heartwarming to see our coaches, teams and fans enjoy it so much."
Indiana State beat Indiana. Creighton beat Nebraska and Xavier. Northern Iowa beat LSU and Iowa. Wichita State took Illinois to the wire. The Valley has earned its stripes. The gap between the "majors" and the Valley is thinner than ever.
Question: Take away Texas, and how would the Valley do against the Big 12, head-to-head, up and down the line? This year, you wouldn't want to bet against the Valley.
The man who deserves the most credit for this is Elgin.
Elgin, a former member of the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee, has pushed Valley athletic directors and coaches toward higher standards. His biggest stroke of genius might have been his scheduling incentive. Any Valley school that either ends the season with an RPI of 149 or better, or whose nonconference schedule has an average RPI of 149 or better, gets $50,000.
Elgin's thinking: The way for the Valley to build its reputation, and its basketball, is to go take on the best, wherever and whenever. The results are obvious.
The league is also fortunate to have kept its best coaches the last few years and, in the case of Southern Illinois, had good hires when turnover occurred. Along those lines, Elgin gives a ton of credit for this season to a guy who works at the Qwest Center Omaha.
"Dana (Altman) stayed," Elgin said. "He understands you can accomplish just as much at Creighton as you can at big State U. To see him stay there, sink in roots, build a program, it has a tremendous effect. Kids today in the Midwest see what you can do. They see the teams in our league beating other big teams, they see our arenas full, 14,000 at Creighton games, the TV exposure."
Oh, yes, the TV. This year the Valley's conference tournament championship game will be televised by CBS, the first "non-BCS" league to have its tourney game hit the big time. The timing is impeccable.
Will the real RPI please stand up? If you have a subscription to Jerry Palm's collegeRPI.com, or any of the other RPI Web sites, I hope you can get a refund. According to USA Today, the NCAA is going to release its RPI - yes, the actual one used by the Basketball Committee - to the public for the first time. Starting on Feb. 2, it will be available at ncaasports.com.
It's about time. It will be interesting to see how close Palm, Jeff Sagarin and Co. are to the real thing.
Read the paper instead: You'd think Kansas coach Bill Self had more to worry about these days than the Internet, but the Head Hawk was bemoaning fan Web sites to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
"One thing I think has hurt college athletics more than anything is the technology age," Self said. "I think the Internet stinks. What happens on the Internet is some guys are sensitive (to criticism), some guys aren't. Some guys look at that stuff, some guys don't. The guys that don't usually perform better.
"Guys look at that stuff, think 'Oh, God, I can't believe they're saying that stuff about me.' There are kids that read that stuff, and I'm sure it can deflate you from time to time if you're not used to anyone saying anything negative about you and you've grown up the golden child. That's life, and these guys are going through life right now."
Don't tell Dana Altman or Barry Collier (as if they don't know), but if you're interested in reading local hoops, the top sites are thebluejaycafe.com and huskerhoopscentral.
Dave Snell, the longtime radio voice of the Bradley Braves, is back home in Peoria, Ill., and doing better after passing out before the Creighton-Bradley game here Wednesday night. Snell, who apparently had a viral infection, spent Wednesday and Thursday nights at Creighton University Medical Center.
Interestingly, one of the first doctors to treat Snell at CU Med Center was former Bluejay guard Matt West. So Snell left Omaha feeling better, and, certainly, older.
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