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Missouri Valley Conference wants to Dance

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

March 7, 2006

On Selection Sunday, it will be interesting to see how many schools from the Missouri Valley Conference make it to the Big Dance. If you look at the RPI, the MVC should have its highest total ever in the NCAA Tournament.

It has been a banner year for the Valley, led by commissioner Doug Elgin -- yes, the same Elgin who was sports information director at Virginia during the Ralph Sampson era. The bottom line is that this conference has earned the right to claim five bids, in my opinion. This conference will make noise this postseason. These MVC teams can play with anyone in America; all they need is a chance, an opportunity.

Southern Illinois punched its ticket by winning the conference tournament. Wichita State won the regular-season title. Northern Iowa earned wins over LSU and Iowa en route to a super season. Bradley's resumé includes a trip to the MVC final. Creighton has wins over Xavier and Nebraska as well as a victory at George Mason. Missouri State had a big victory at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the BracketBusters event.

The conference also scored a big win when Indiana State knocked off Indiana. There were other close calls, with Wichita State losing to Illinois by one, Drake falling to Boston College by three and Missouri State falling to Arkansas by four. Six teams have claims that they belong in the Big Dance. I've watched this league grow into something special. I remember when I coached at the University of Detroit and all I wanted was a chance. These teams have done a great job, and they could be dangerous in the field of 65.

When all is said and done on Selection Sunday, the Missouri Valley could have as many teams in the Dance as the ACC. That says a lot about how far the MVC has climbed.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.