By Paul Suellentrop

The Wichita Eagle

(MCT) Say you're a lifelong Shocker fan and you're looking at that Jan. 11 basketball game at Loyola as a possible road trip. Saturday night in Chicago. Direct flight. Reasonable price if booked soon. If it's an afternoon game, a flight back on Sunday night is possible.

You are waiting on a tip-off time before you book a flight. Keep waiting. The ESPN family of networks is not concerned with your travel plans.

As part of ESPN's new contract with the Missouri Valley Conference, the network will wait until nine days before Sunday games to decide on a time and network. This move helps the MVC get a consistent game of the week time on ESPNU and insures the top games are on, certainly good news for Shockers fans who want to see their team highlighted.

ESPN is increasing its use of "flex" scheduling in college basketball and the Valley is part of the experiment. In recent seasons, the Valley used this wild-card format on the final regular-season day to split its best games between ESPN and Fox Sports. On Sundays this season, games will be sent to ESPNU or ESPN3 (ESPN's internet broadcast).

"When you see the tickets, those ESPN games, we have TBD, on most of our tickets because we won't know until nine days out," WSU associate athletic director John Brewer said.

The first Sunday of MVC play features Illinois State at Wichita State, Loyola at Northern Iowa and Evansville at Indiana State. One will go on ESPNU and ESPN3 will take the others. Times on Sunday games will vary. UNI lists 2:30 or 4:30 as the possible times.

The rest of the Sundays are two-game choices. Missouri State web-site lists possible times of 2 or 4 p.m. and 1 or 3 p.m. for its Sunday games. All 10 MVC schools play at least one Sunday game. WSU, UNI, Missouri State and Loyola will appear four times.

(c)2014 The Wichita Eagle