By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
The Missouri Valley Conference revealed its 20-game men’s basketball conference schedule on Thursday as the league expands to 12 teams.
The round-robin schedule of 18 games is gone. Now teams will play nine conference opponents twice, and two opponents just one (one home, one away).
With the increased number of games, league play will open with games on November 30-December 1 and December 3-7.
Arch Madness, the Valley’s conference tournament in St. Louis, will be held on March 2-5 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The tournament expands to four first-round games on March 2, with the top four teams in conference play receiving a bye into the quarterfinals.
Northern Iowa will open the conference season at Bradley on November 30, followed by a home game against Evansville on December 3. Drake opens its conference season on November 30 at Indiana State, with a home game against UIC on December 3.
Drake and UNI will play twice this season, February 1 at Drake and February 15 at Northern Iowa.
Drake’s single-plays are Evansville (road) and Illinois State (home). UNI’s single-plays are Murray State (home) and UIC (road).
Among the features of the Drake and UNI schedules:
• UNI will face 10 opponents this season that played in a postseason tournament last season • three NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Richmond, Murray State, San Francisco), six NIT qualifiers (Toledo, Belmont, Missouri State, St. Bonaventure, Virginia, Towson) and one CBI qualifier (Drake).
• UNI will face Valley newcomers Belmont and Murray State for the first time in program history this season. The Panthers have played UIC, the other conference newcomer, 22 times. The series is tied at 11-11, which includes games in non-conference play as well as games in the former Mid-Continent Conference.
• Drake has back-to-back games against Atlantic 10 opponents, playing at Richmond on December 10 and at Saint Louis on December 17.
• The Bulldogs play Mississippi State on December 20 in the Battle In The Vault event in Lincoln, Neb.
Photo: UNI’s Bowen Born (left) looks to drive in last season’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis. (Keith Gillett/Icon SportsWire)