One of the best inter-league challenges in all of college basketball, the match-ups and dates for the annual Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge have been set for the 2018-2019 season. The event, which has finished tied at 5-5 between the conferences in the past two years, will tip-off on November 27th and conclude on December 1st.
1. Loyola-Chicago v. Nevada (Tuesday, November 27th)
The 2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 rematch is set for late November in the Windy City, where expectations for both the Ramblers and Wolf Pack are a return trip to the big dance. This one has all the makings of a showdown with serious NCAA Tournament implications.
2. Illinois State v. San Diego State (Saturday, December 1st)
Illinois State head coach Dan Muller continues to rise his coaching stock, which puts into question how long he’ll stay at his alma-mater. The Redbirds are ready to upset Loyola’s plan for a tournament trip, while the Aztecs want to keep the Mountain West as a multi-bid league.
3. Bradley v. New Mexico (Saturday, December 1st)
In my eyes (unless the whole Nevada group returns to campus), New Mexico will be the best team in the Mountain West next season. Bradley may not be as good, but the Braves will no doubt return the bulk of their roster from a twenty-win campaign in 2017-2018.
4. Drake v. Boise State (Tuesday, November 27th)
Drake had a very healthy off-season thus far in terms of additions to their roster, which makes their welcoming of the Broncos to Des Moines all that more intriguing. Over the years, Leon Rice’s crew has just been a different type of team when not at Taco Bell Arena.
5. UNLV v. Valparaiso (Wednesday, November 28th)
After a 24-9 start to his career at Valparaiso, head coach Matt Lottich’s group took a step back last season, sinking to the bottom of the Missouri Valley. With another year of improvement, they could shake things up in a trip to Sin City to meet the Runnin’ Rebels.
6. Evansville v. Wyoming (Wednesday, November 28th)
With a combined 43 victories in his two seasons with the Cowboys, Allen Edwards has established his version of a new culture in Laramie. Evansville is turning over a new leaf under former NBA star Walter McCarty, who has revamped the energy around the program.
7. Utah State v. Northern Iowa (Wednesday, November 28th)
Ben Jacobson will be entering his 13th season as the head of the Northern Iowa program, while Utah State’s Craig Smith is just getting his feet wet in the Cache Valley. This could be an important early season clash for the Aggies to display their marked improvements.
8. Colorado State v. Southern Illinois (Tuesday, November 27th)
New Colorado State head coach Niko Medved won’t get a shot at his old stomping grounds in Drake this season, but the Rams coach will have his hands full with Southern Illinois. The Salukis finished second in the league to Loyola last year, with one of the league’s best defenses.
9. Air Force v. Missouri State (Wednesday, November 28th)
Nothing exactly screams exciting about these two teams’ scheduled meeting on paper, which will mean the game will have to speak for itself. Like the Utah State-Northern Iowa clash, it’ll be a mix of the cemented style of Air Force against a fresh start at Missouri State.
10. San Jose State v. Indiana State (Wednesday, November 28th)
The fun fact about this match-up comes courtesy of the Spartans Athletic Department, who noted that the last time these two teams met, it was back in the 1948 NAIB Tournament. In that showdown, John Wooden’s Indiana State squad topped San Jose State in a 59-52 thriller.