After sending two teams into the sweet-16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament the Missouri Valley Conference is off to an even better start this season. The Valley has equaled an all-time high and is currently ranked second in the nation behind the ACC. Wichita State is ranked in the top ten in both national polls.

Valley commissioner Doug Elgin says says teams understand the conference R-P-I does not guarantee that they’ll get a tournament bid and they have to go out and do that on their own. Elgin say the level of play in the conference has risen dramatically in recent years, and he thinks they’ve earned their way with increased TV exposure. He says last year’s NCAA tournament performance is a validation of their belief that the conference has stepped up the level of competition so that they can play with any of the other teams in the country.

Back in the early 90s the Valley was rated so low that only the conference tournament champion made the NCAA Tournament. It was at that point the league worked to strengthen non-conference schedules. Elgin says they’ve paid more attention to the games they’re scheduling. He says they’ve proved nothing other than you have to prove yourself on the basketball floor.

U-N-I is one of the teams off to an impressive start. After getting off to a school record 10-1 start last season the Panthers are 8-1 under first year coach Ben Jacobson. Jacobson says they’re happy with that start, but know they have to get better.

Jacobson says defense has been the key in their quick start and they have to sharpen up their offense. He says defense was the primary concern coming in, and says it seems like they keep making strides. U-N-I returns to action Saturday at Loyola of Chicago.