SPRINGFIELD, Mo–It’s the middle of summer, with sweltering heat.

But in the Missouri Valley it’s always basketball season.

Thursday, the conference conducted a mid-summer zoom call with its coaches.

And the big news in the Valley is expansion.

Belmont, Murray State and Illinois Chicago will all join the Valley making it a 12 team conference.

The additions will make the conference stronger especially in mens basketball.

Missouri State coach Dana Ford is familiar with all of these teams and knows it will be a challenge this winter.

“You know I’m excited about it. I coached against Belmont and Murray State when I was in the OVC. And those programs have always been two of the better programs in the country at any level. And then growing up in Illinois, I’m familiar with UIC. Our league has done a fantastic job in regards to replacing the loss of Loyola with these programs,” said Ford.