The Missouri Valley Conference is altering its conference basketball schedules in response to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.
The MVC, which includes Bradley University and Illinois State University, announced Friday it will change the format for conference games to reduce travel and emphasize health and safety. Instead of teams playing every opponent once at each school, most MVC members will face one another twice at a single site on consecutive days. All 10 teams will still compete in a full 18-game conference schedule.
A conference news release said the MVC Presidents’ Council “acknowledged that athletically-related activities will take place only to the extent permitted by local environments and applicable national, state, local and institutional guidelines in order to safeguard the health and safety of participants, staff and fans.”
Schools will have four, two-game home series and four on the road. The other two games will consist of a home-and-home series with a “designated travel partner.” With the Bradley and ISU campuses separated by just 40 miles, the Braves and Redbirds are likely to be travel partners.
All conference games will begin after Dec. 25. The Bradley men’s team is scheduled to begin nonconference play Wednesday against Toledo as part of the Xavier Invitational in Cincinnati, while ISU is slated to visit No. 23 Ohio State the same day. The BU women open the season in a 1 p.m. game Wednesday against Kansas City at Renaissance Coliseum.
Earlier Friday, the Redbirds’ women’s basketball team announced it has paused activities with limited player availability due to “COVID-19 testing protocols,” and canceled its first three nonconference games: at Northern Illinois on Wednesday, at Tulsa on Nov. 28, and at home against Dayton on Dec. 2.
“As disappointing as this news is, our first priority is always the health and safety of our student-athletes, staff, and the individuals who work with our program,” ISU coach Kristen Gillespie said in a release. “We will continue to follow the guidelines and protocols in place and look forward to returning to play when it is safe to do so.”
The MVC conference tournaments remain scheduled as originally planned, with the men’s championship March 4-7 in St. Louis, and the women’s event one week later in Moline.
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