MVC now within a win of a Final Four

LOS ANGELES -- Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin was standing in a hallway at Staples Center enjoying something he'd literally never witnessed before -- i.e., a win in the Sweet 16 by one of his schools -- when I bumped into him Thursday.

I asked how nice this felt.

I already knew the answer.

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"Especially when you consider the change in membership, this is particularly sweet," Elgin said. "And I think it makes a statement about how strong leagues like ours are."

Eight. That's how many times Elgin had traveled before this year to watch an MVC school in the Sweet 16 since becoming its commissioner in 1988. Zero. That's how many times Elgin had watched an MVC school advance to the Elite Eight.

Like I wrote, it had never happened ... until Thursday night.

Final score: Wichita State 72, La Salle 58.

So now the Shockers will play Ohio State in Saturday's West Regional title game, where a win over the Big Ten tournament champs will send the MVC runners-up to the Final Four. That, if it happened, would qualify as a massive achievement for this scrappy league that operates outside of the power structure and was reminded of as much when Creighton recently announced it is leaving to join the (new) Big East.

Yes, it was a tough blow for the league.

There's no denying that.

But the Shockers have spent the past eight days proving the MVC is more than just Creighton and Doug McDermott. They opened the Field of 68 with a win over Pittsburgh. Then they upset top-ranked Gonzaga. Then they handled La Salle. It's a run that should bring more respect to the rest of the league because five MVC schools beat Wichita State this season but, so far, a Big East power (Pitt), a WCC power (Gonzaga) and an A-10 member (La Salle) with wins over Butler and VCU haven't been able to do it.

So update Elgin's record in the Sweet 16, please.

He's now 1-8 as the league's commissioner.

Now let's see if he can move to 1-0 in the Elite Eight.

"Our entire league takes pride," Elgin said, "when one of our teams has this success."

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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