Well, actually if the Dak States continue to build their hoops pedigrees (NDSU in men's, SDSU in women's), they actually would have a very good shot in becoming 11 & 12 in the MVC, especially if Butler chooses to try to get in with the Big East non-fb teams rather than go MVC. I see Butler being the 1st choice since they give a boost in hoops to a conference that's still very solid mid-major wise (it was only a few years ago they had 3 teams in the Sweet 16), but the problem is finding a 12th to come along and not water down Butler's impact. The second choice would be the DSU's, and I think this looks better than the Big Sky would at that point: not only do you have a solid fb conference, you also get a boost in basketball that the Big Sky really doesn't have. If I'm looking at the big picture if I'm at one of those schools, that's probably more enticing.
It is interesting to bring up UMass, because they would be involved likely in a BE split, probably by the football conference trying to coerce an upgrade, which would probably happen in better economic times. The split would also probably try to woo Butler, which would see that as an upgrade from the Horizon if the MVC can't find a school that would convince Butler to move West.
I agree with the "Buts" around the BSC taking Denver and possibly being stranded with them, but it can be worked around. The first choice would be to try to woo a Cal-Davis or Cal Poly from the Big West with virtually at least two slots available to the I-AA playoffs as a carrot, and this would put them back at 9 fb-10 bb. Second option would be to take two of the Dakota schools and then maybe add Seattle if they're still available. While this would put you at 10/12, it's a lot cleaner than some of the other options. I also realize that Denver is a private, which hasn't been in the conference since Gonzaga and Nevada swapped, but really outside of convincing a Big West school to move, there's not really many publics to choose from as is, let alone getting one to upgrade.
* Butler: I like them alot and thought they should have been an option rather than Boston University or Detroit the last time the A10 discussed expansion (took StL and Charlotte when CUsa had their major changes). But if you're the Big East non-football schools and there is a split, I think it's a virtual assumption in the sports world that xavier would be the school selected. They have the facilities, budget and success that the Big East would want, along with the Cincy market they'd be losing from the departure of Cincy. After them, Dayton is a logical candidate based on success, budget and facilities. The NCAA favors them as well. After those 2, you have St. Louis whom DePaul and Marquette favor joining. Even Charlotte might make the list if football doesn't take off. Regardless, you have a number of schools (3) at worst, that would be invited before Butler even gets reviewed.
* Dakota St schools: the facilities are a big step down for the MVC. So while it makes sense based on NDSU winning the summit and the geography, both schools need to raise tens of millions to build new facilities before they'd be serious players in the MVC. Would love to see it though.
* the UMass window never opened. When the BE 2003 changes started, Providence pushed for UMass to be added as an replacement for Boston College. But the Big East never called and certainly never game a sweet deal like UConn, St. Johns and GTown (only UConn took the deal to upgrade to IA football). If UMass were to ever join the BE, it would mean upgrading on their own as an indy, maybe join the MAC, win conference titles, increase their attendance numbers to 50,000, build a new stadium...just doubtful it will happen. USF had a good situation with CUSA and then the BE: Tampa market, an NFL stadium. UMass has to do it all on their own.
* I don't think the Big sky would be unhappy is Sac St. left. Many fans complain already about travel their as well as NAU. So i don't think that they'd look at Cal poly or UC Davis. And I don't think either school would ever give up their low travel costs for what could be considered a downgrade in conference affiliation, with the ONLY carrot being a potential FCS playoff bid. If Cal Poly or UC Davis has a good year, they've proven they can get an at-large bid. And it saves them millions in travel costs over time.