In the ever-changing world of college athletics, the Great Lakes Valley Conference finds itself in a state of flux.
The loss of Saint Joseph's College, which closed in May, forced the league to change divisional formats. So when the men's basketball conference slate kicks off Thursday night, there will be three five-team divisions that have altered the schedule and hampered some rivalries.
More changes are looming. Wisconsin-Parkside is leaving and will join the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference beginning with the 2018-19 school year. Until then, the Rangers will play one final season in arguably the league's toughest division.
Here's what to expect around the league:
East is a beast
Bellarmine alone makes the East Division is challenging. Southern Indiana makes it remarkably competitive. Indianapolis, Lewis and Wisconsin-Parkside make it a gauntlet.
The East is the only division in which all five teams qualified for the GLVC Tournament last season. In fact, those five schools were among the top seven seeds after dominating the league. Take away games against each other, and the five East Division schools were a combined 54-8 against the rest of the league.
It's tougher this season since they play each other twice, but this group promises to be competitive.
Look no further than the Knights for the favorite to win the division and the league. Ranked third nationally, Bellarmine is off to a 6-0 start and already owns a victory in a top-five matchup, beating No. 5 Barry 75-69 at the Cesar Odio Thanksgiving Classic in Miami Shores, Fla.
Junior forward Adam Eberhard is living up to the preseason All-American hype, averaging 14 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 64.1 percent from the field and 91.2 percent from the line.
Southern Indiana (5-2) owns an exhibition victory against Eastern Illinois. The Screaming Eagles are averaging 81 points per game, have made a GLVC-best 57 3-pointers and are outrebounding opponents by 13 boards per game. Junior guard Alex Stein is averaging 18.3 points and shooting 92.5 percent from the line.
Indianapolis (4-1) has scored 100 or more points three times already. The Greyhounds are averaging 87 points per game with senior guard Ajay Lawton averaging 17.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Senior guard Eric Davidson is averaging 16.6 points and has made 22 consecutive free throws.
Wisconsin-Parkside (0-5), which is ineligible for NCAA and conference postseason play, and Lewis (2-4) have struggled against non-conference competition.
Central up for grabs
Only two teams from the Central Division qualified for the GLVC Tournament a year ago, and one of those sits in last place in the division.
Quincy (1-4) has had a tough start replacing six seniors who led the Hawks to a division championship last season, but two of the Hawks' four losses have been by two points. A lineup of newcomers seems to be meshing.
The surprise so far has been the solid play of Maryville (3-1), which opened a season 3-0 for the first time since 2013. Not bad a way for Marc Stricker to begin his coaching tenure with the Saints. A former assistant at Maryville, Stricker was hired last spring to replace Kevin Carroll.
The Saints are built around 6-foot-10 senior center Nolan Berry, who is averaging 17 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
McKendree also is off to a 3-1 start behind the solid shooting of senior guard Justin Blanks, who is averaging 20.5 points and shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range.
Illinois-Springfield is rolling heading into conference, having won five straight after losing twice in the GLVC/GLIAC Challenge. The Prairie Stars also played Southern Illinois to a five-point game in an exhibition. Senior guard Eddie Longmeyer is averaging 18.8 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Missouri-St. Louis (3-2) leads the GLVC in scoring defense, allowing just 65.2 points per game, but two of its victories are against NAIA or NCAA Division III opponents.
How the West will be won
Drury is not sitting atop the division as league play begins, which is quite a surprise.
The fact William Jewell is 7-0 and the No. 2 scoring team in the league is shocking.
The Cardinals have not enjoyed a winning season since the 2010-11 campaign, but a pair of dynamic 3-point shooters and one of the league's best rebounders has fueled quite a turnaround. Junior guard Keith Hayes is averaging 21 points and has made 18 of 35 3-pointers (51.4 percent), while senior guard Patrick Whelan is averaging 19.4 points and has made 19 of 46 3-pointers (41.3 percent).
That's quite a change from the teams that won nine games each of the previous two seasons.
William Jewell will have to contend with the league's No. 1 scoring team to win a division title. Drury (4-1) is averaging 91.8 points and has scored 100 or more points three times. The Panthers have only three players averaging in double figures, none higher than Isaac Johnson at 13.6 points per game, but they have six players averaging between 6.4 and 9.6 points per game.
The Panthers have 10 players averaging 11 or more minutes per game.
Truman State (3-2) figures to be in the title hunt with its shooters, namely junior guard Jake Velky, who is averaging 18.4 points and has made 14 3-pointers.
Rockhurst (3-3) and Missouri S&T (1-4) continue to be works in progress.