It was almost a year ago that student-athletes, coaches, Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) staff, and fans arrived in the Quad Cities for the 2020 Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament to find that sporting events across the United Sates including the NCAA Tournament were being canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Twenty-five seniors missed their last conference tournament to play and had to return home.

Visit Quad Cities and the MVC are proud to announce that the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament returns to

Missouri State players celebrate winning the 2019 MVC tournament at the TaxSlayer Center.

the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Ill., for the sixth straight year. Affectionately coined “Hoops in the Heartland,” the four-day event (Mar. 11-14) will showcase all 10 Missouri Valley Conference schools as they compete for The Valley’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

“We are thrilled that the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament will move forward this year,” says Dave Herrell, President and CEO, Visit Quad Cities. “The Conference office, their member institutions and student-athletes, and fans are incredibly important to our community. Hosting this signature event at the TaxSlayer Center with or without fans was imperative in 2021, and we are confident we can deliver a safe and responsible environment. We would like to thank the leadership at the Conference, the incredible team at the TaxSlayer Center, and the Rock Island County Health Department for their collaboration and partnership in working together to make this happen.”

The 2021 tournament will mark the 14th-consecutive season in its 39-year history that the event will take place at a neutral site. The Missouri Valley Conference is one of only seven conferences (out of 32 nationally) where the women’s basketball tournament is played at a neutral site, separate from the men’s championship (AAC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are the others).

At this time, due to Covid-19 restrictions, ticketing information and fan capacity has not been finalized and will be announced as soon as

Dave Herrell is president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities.

possible.

“The MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament loves having its home at TaxSlayer Center in the Quad Cities,” says Patty Viverito, Senior Associate Commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference.  “This year has brought many challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we are excited for the return of our tournament following last year’s cancellation. Our conference staff has worked hard along with the TaxSlayer Center staff to ensure all necessary changes are made to ensure a safe tournament environment for our student-athletes.”

As a response to health and safety protocols, all nine games of the tournament will be treated as separate sessions, and below is the new tournament schedule:

Thursday, March 11
Game #1 — #9 Seed vs. #8 Seed – 4:30 p.m. Central
Game #2 — #10 Seed vs. #7 Seed – 7:30 p.m. Central

Friday, March 12
Game #3 – Winner Game #1 vs. #1 Seed – 11 a.m. Central
Game #4 — #5 Seed vs. #4 Seed – 2 p.m. Central
Game #5 – Winner Game #2 vs. #2 Seed – 5 p.m. Central
Game #6 — #6 Seed vs. #3 Seed – 8 p.m. Central

Saturday, March 13
Game #7 – Winner Game #3 vs. Winner Game #4 – 1 p.m. Central
Game #8 – Winner Game #5 vs. Winner Game #6 – 4 p.m. Central

Sunday, March 14
Game #9 – Winner Game #7 vs. Winner Game #8 – 2 p.m. Central

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HOW FANS CAN ENGAGE WITH THE TOURNAMENT 

Fans will still be able to watch all nine games of the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament live on The Valley on ESPN (ESPN+).   Indianapolis-based Tupelo-Honey serves as the production company for the Missouri Valley Conference postseason cham­pionship events for The Valley on ESPN — the league’s digital channel available through the ESPN App. Fans subscribe to ESPN+ for just $5.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) at ESPN.com, ESPNplus.com or on the ESPN App (mobile and connected devices). It is also available as part of The Disney Bundle offer that gives subscribers access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu (ad-supported) — all for just $12.99/month.

The tournament can also be followed on http://mvc-sports.com/feature/21Hoops that includes all tournament releases, bracket, live stats and ESPN+ links.

Prior to the 2019 tournament, the Missouri Valley Conference launched the Hoops in the Heartland app, which contains all of the latest game-day information, including special events involving teams and other promotions throughout the weekend. Download the Hoops in the Heartland app now to see the latest from your favorite Valley teams and follow all the tournament action by using the App link: https://hoopsintheheartland.app.link/launch

“We are incredibly excited to have the MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament be our first event in the arena since the pandemic hit,” says TaxSlayer Center Executive Director, Scott Mullen. “Thanks to collaborative efforts with the MVC and Visit Quad Cities we will get to pick up with the same exact event that was cancelled a year ago.”

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All players, coaches and MVC staff will be tested prior to the tournament and the TaxSlayer Center will be following strict Covid-19 guidelines during the tournament. The TaxSlayer Center was among the first arenas in the nation to earn Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) STAR™ accreditation. Under the guidance of GBAC, a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, the TaxSlayer Center has implemented the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention in its facility and implemented best

Scott Mullen is executive director of the Taxslayer Center.

practices to prepare for, respond to, and recover from outbreaks and pandemics.

“The protocols we have instituted demonstrate that we have made the safety of our employees, guests and event partners a top priority,” says Mullen.

The Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament took to the court for the first time in the Quad Cities on March 10-13, 2016.  Since that time, the Quad Cities has welcomed the tournament and fans to the regional destination for Hoops in the Heartland. The tournament annually produces more than $2M in economic impact benefiting the area’s visitor economy and provides valuable brand exposure for the QC. In addition to the event’s impact on the economy, there are several community engagement opportunities creating value and providing opportunities to showcase female student-athletes.

The MVC has seen an average of four league teams participate in postseason play in the last 21 seasons where postseason action took place, including three teams reaching postseason play in 2018-19. Before the 2019-20 season was cut short due to Covid-19, the MVC was in position to send 5 or 6 teams to postseason play. The Valley has earned multiple NCAA Tournament bids in 12 differ­ent seasons, including two out of the last three seasons (not counting 2019-20).

The 2019-20 season tied the highest RPI ranking the MVC has recorded in its history showcasing how The Valley is becoming one of the best mid-major leagues in the country. The league also saw five teams in the Top 100 of the RPI for the first time since the 1998-99 season. In 2018-19, the league posted a top-15 RPI for the first time since 2012-13 a year after seeing the league’s worst RPI in 2017-18 (24). The Valley is looking to match or surpass last year’s record numbers in 2020-21.

Year                       MVC RPI              Top 100 RPI Teams

2020-21                7 (NET)              5 (NET)

2019-20                8                              5

2018-19                14                           3

2017-18                24                           2

The nation’s second-oldest Division I conference; the Missouri Valley Conference continues to be a leader in college athletics and is one of the nation’s most progressive conferences, celebrating its 114th year of competition. The league consists of 10 diverse institutions across four states, whose members include Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Loyola, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and Valparaiso. Dallas Baptist is an affiliate member for baseball, Arkansas-Little Rock is an affiliate member in women’s swimming and diving, and Stony Brook is an affiliate member in women’s tennis. Conference members have worked together to focus on common goals and objectives, putting a high value on league harmony while continuing to invest in athletic programs to compete at the highest level. The Valley brand remains very strong, both regionally and nationally, and the great athletic tradition of The Valley remains a compelling force in recruiting student-athletes and in marketing all the MVC programs.  For more information, visit www.mvc-sports.com.

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Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.