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Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge matchups announced

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The 2018 edition of the annual Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge is the last one in the current contract, and on Thursday the matchups were announced.

The headliner for the event is set for Tuesday, November 27, as reigning Mountain West regular season champion Nevada visits reigning Missouri Valley regular season and tournament champion Loyola University Chicago. The two teams staged a thriller in the Sweet 16 of this year’s NCAA tournament, with the Ramblers winning 69-68 in Atlanta.

Loyola, which finished the season with a 32-6 record, would go on to beat Kansas State in the Elite Eight to earn the program’s first trip to the Final Four since 1963.

In total there are three matchups on November 27, with Boise State visiting Drake and Southern Illinois visiting Colorado State.

Five matchups have been scheduled for Wednesday, November 28, including Valparaiso visiting UNLV and Wyoming visiting Evansville. The final two games of the Challenge will be played Saturday, December 1, with Mountain West tournament champion San Diego State visiting Illinois State and Bradley hosting New Mexico.

Fresno State is the Mountain West team that will not play in the Challenge, as the league has 11 members. Below are the dates and matchups, with tip times and television information to be released at a later date. Last season’s Challenge ended in a 5-5 tie.

Tuesday, November 27

Nevada at Loyola
Boise State at Drake
Southern Illinois at Colorado State

Wednesday, November 28

Valparaiso at UNLV
Northern Iowa at Utah State
Indiana State at San Jose State
Missouri State at Air Force
Wyoming at Evansville

Saturday, December 1

San Diego State at Illinois State
New Mexico at Bradley

Horizon League filed a lawsuit against Valparaiso

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The Horizon League is looking to take Valparaiso to court, only this time it’s not on the hardwood of a college campus.

On Thursday, Jason Belzer of Forbes, reported that the league is suing the university for breach of contract. The Horizon League claims Valpo did not give the conference a year’s notice and owes $500,000 in exit fees.

Valparaiso left its conference home since 2007 in order to join the Missouri Valley Conference. The Crusaders were replacing Wichita State, which departed for the American Athletic Conference, as the Missouri Valley’s 10th member.

The Horizon League voted to up the exit fee from $50,000 to $500,000 in 2012. The change came following Butler’s back-to-back national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011, which led to the university accepting an invitation to join the Atlantic 10 Conference. Valpo’s defense is that the exit fee was not part of the initial agreement the two sides reached in 2006. Belzer went on to note the several cases of exit fees as precedents that would go against Valpo’s defense.

This lawsuit was filed on June 27. A day later IUPUI was added to the Horizon League as Valparaiso’s replacement.

Report: Wichita State approaches Mountain West

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A year ago, Wichita State president John Bardo called for the school to study the feasibility of bringing football back to the athletic program.

Apparently the Shockers administration has even grander designs.

Wichita State has approached the Mountain West Conference about membership, according to a report from CBSSports.com.

The Missouri Valley Conference, which has been the Shockers’ home since 1946, is aware of Wichita State’s interest in switching conference affiliation, the report states. The Mountain West would makes sense for the Shockers as the conference currently has an odd-number hoops membership of 11 and would provide them with higher-profile opponents than the Valley. Just twice in conference history has the MWC been a one-bid NCAA tournament team, with last year being the first since 2001 for it to occur. The Shockers are also reportedly eyeing other leagues, like the AAC and Conference USA.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson told CBS Sports that if Wichita State were to leave the Valley, “it ain’t going to be to us.”

Wichita State, which dropped football in 1986, has seen its basketball profile skyrocket in recent years under Gregg Marshall, who led the Shockers to a Final Four and a 35-0 start to the season in back-to-back years before reaching the Sweet 16 in 2015 and the Round of 32 last year. Marshall now makes more than $3 million per season.

Losing Wichita State would be a considerable blow to the Valley, which already lost perennial power Creighton to the Big East in the last round of realignment. Loyola Chicago, formerly of the Horizon League, filled the Bluejays’ spot.

Wichita State guard Frankamp eligible to play tonight

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Hit hard by injuries at this early point in the season, Wichita State received some very good news regarding a mid-season transfer just hours before their game against UNLV.

The school announced that redshirt sophomore guard Conner Frankamp has been cleared to begin playing for the Shockers tonight, giving Gregg Marshall another guard to call upon alongside mainstays Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. When Frankamp would be available to play in games depended upon when fall semester grades were posted, be it Wednesday night against the Runnin’ Rebels or Saturday against No. 25 Utah.

Given the depth that UNLV has in its perimeter rotation, led by sophomore Patrick McCaw, the addition of Frankamp is an important boost for Wichita State.

VanVleet, who missed five games due to hamstring and ankle injuries, returned to action last weekend in the Shockers’ win at Saint Louis. Freshman Landry Shamet remains sidelined after undergoing foot surgery, and the same goes for senior power forward Anton Grady (neck).

The 6-foot-1 Frankamp can play either on or off the ball, which is key when considering the fact that sophomore Ty Taylor II (who has struggled recently) and walk-on John Robert Simon have been the players asked to spell VanVleet at the point.

Wave of injuries has crippled Wichita State early in season

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall abhors excuses, so when asked what needs to change to get his team back on track, he first mentions creating better shots and defending better.

Then, almost as an aside, he adds: “I hope we’re done with injuries.”

Perhaps no other team in major college basketball has weathered more of them during the first few weeks of the season. Star point guard Fred VanVleet is hobbled by a hamstring, backup Landry Shamet had a stress fracture in his left foot that landed him on crutches and forward Anton Grady may never play the game again after a frightening injury during a tournament in Florida.

No surprise that the Shockers, ranked 10th in the preseason poll, have lost four of their past five games to drop out altogether. Their only win during that stretch came against Emporia State, a Division II school not far from their campus in southeastern Kansas.

“We are missing a lot of key guys,” said Markis McDuffie, a freshman forward. “But we’re not going to sit here and say the whole (reason for the losses) was because of injuries.”

That wouldn’t be the Wichita State way.

The Shockers have made a habit of overcoming adversity the past few years. They’ve rattled off three straight 30-win seasons, each capped by an NCAA Tournament trip, even though it has only been recently that many have begun to give Marshall and his troops credit for their accomplishments.

Another 30-win season is a longshot at this point. Instead, the Shockers (2-4) are just hoping to get healthy enough to make a run in the Missouri Valley Conference, and earn another trip to the tournament in the final season for Baker, VanVleet and the rest of their seniors.

“We’re not performing to our capabilities, even though we’re missing a lot of key guys,” McDuffie said. “We’re going to keep fighting and practicing, and we’re definitely going to knock off this losing streak. It’s a wake-up call. No one expected this.”

VanVleet dealt with an ankle injury at the start of the season before the hamstring issue cropped up. He missed the entire Advocare Invitational in Florida – the Shockers lost all three games – and was still hobbled in practice this week. His status for Saturday’s game at Saint Louis remains in question.

“He’s doing stuff on the side during practice,” Marshall said. “He’s running a bit and working with the trainers. It’s protocol to get as conditioned as possible without harming the hamstring. I don’t know (if he’ll play Saturday). There’s a chance, but I don’t know.”

There is no chance that Shamet will be on the court anytime soon.

The talented freshman guard averaged 8.7 points in the Shockers’ first three games. He complained of pain on the outside of his foot for about a week before the fracture was discovered.

Marshall indicated the timetable for recovery is 10 to 12 weeks.

Asked about the state of his backcourt, Marshall replied: “Depleted, short-handed, inexperienced other than Ron. We’re moving small forwards into the backcourt just to have enough guys. … To have Fred and then Landry go down is a lot for us to overcome.”

Then came the injury to Grady, by far the most serious.

The transfer from Cleveland State collided with an Alabama player in the final minutes of their game last week. Grady took a few steps before falling to the court, and teammates heard him say that he couldn’t move. He was loaded onto a stretcher and transported to an Orlando hospital, and CT scans and an MRI exam revealed that he had sustained a spinal concussion.

Grady was able to fly back to Wichita with the team, and the senior hopes to continue playing basketball. But for now, his immediate future involves rehabilitation.

“I don’t know if he’ll play again, or if so, then when,” Marshall said. “I’ll leave that up to the doctor’s decisions – his family, trainers and him.”

For now, the Shockers are forced to press on without him.

Without Shamet and VanVleet, too.

“Once we know who’s going to be out on the floor,” Marshall said, “we’ve got to come up with an attack that’s going to create easier scoring opportunities than the ones we’re getting. We’ve got to shoot the ball better and execute better. I hope we’re done with additional injuries. It seems like we’ve been going backward for a while.”

Wichita State’s VanVleet leaves game with minor ankle sprain

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No. 10 Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet entered Friday’s opener against Charleston Southern at less than full strength, as he’d been dealing with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately for the Shockers the All-America candidate picked up another injury in the first half of the 88-63 victory, as he left the game with a sprained ankle that head coach Gregg Marshall described as “minor.”

VanVleet, who played just three minutes Friday night, is considered to be day-to-day with the Shockers’ next games scheduled for Tuesday night at Tulsa.

Friday night freshman guards Ty Taylor II and Landry Shamet saw the most minutes off the bench amongst the Wichita State guards, with Shamet (27 minutes) scoring 13 points and Taylor (16 minutes) tallying ten. Junior John Robert Simon played just eight minutes but finished with a team-high three assists, a number matched by senior Ron Baker.

Also of note in the win was the play of forwards Anton Grady and Eric Hamilton. Grady, a grad student who transferred in from Cleveland State, accounted for 12 points and three rebounds while the freshman Hamilton added 13 points and seven boards off the bench. They’ll be two key players moving forward for a team that has to account for the loss of Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter from last season’s Sweet 16 team.

VanVleet’s status heading into Tuesday’s game will be something to keep an eye on, as Tulsa has a very good backcourt tandem of its own in seniors James Woodard and Shaquille Harrison. And even if he can go, how effective he’ll be dealing with two injuries remains to be seen.