Five games against preseason consensus top-15 teams nationally, including contests against both reigning national champion North Carolina and national runner-up Michigan State, highlight the Valparaiso men’s basketball 2009-2010 schedule, as announced today by head coach Homer Drew.
The regular season kicks off Nov. 13 when the Crusaders play at in-state rival Ball State. Two days later, Valpo ventures to Chapel Hill to take on the defending national champion Tar Heels, the third year in a row that the Crusaders have faced off against North Carolina. Each of the previous two years, the Tar Heels have been the top-ranked team in the nation at the time of the game.
The home opener is next on the slate, as Valpo hosts IU-South Bend Nov. 19. From there, the Crusaders travel up to East Lansing to face Michigan State Nov. 22, which has earned the preseason #1 nod from Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated. If the Spartans are #1 at game time, it will mark the sixth straight season the Crusaders have played the nation’s top team, following Illinois, Duke, Ohio State and North Carolina twice.
Thanksgiving weekend will be spent playing in the Legends Classic, as the Crusaders will take to the court for three games at a location to be determined. That tournament is followed by the Horizon League opener, as Valpo will face off with Butler in Indianapolis on Dec. 5. The Bulldogs are a consensus preseason top-15 squad and have been ranked as high as tenth (Pat Forde, espn.com).
Another preseason top-ten team looms just four days later, as for the second straight year Valpo will make the 90-minute trip to West Lafayette to play Big Ten foe Purdue. The Crusaders return home for a brief two-game homestand against Toledo (Dec. 12) and Concordia (Wis.) (Dec. 19) before wrapping up the early-season slate in contests at IPFW (Dec. 22) and Akron (Dec. 27).
The Horizon League, which has ranked among the mid-major leagues in the nation in terms of RPI over Valpo’s two seasons in the league, schedule starts up in earnest on New Year’s Eve as the Crusaders host Milwaukee. As in the past, the Crusaders will play an 18-game league slate, with home and home series against each of the other nine teams.
For the sixth straight year, Valparaiso is in the pool of teams for the ESPNU BracketBusters series, to be contested on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season. The Crusaders are designated as a road team this year in the event. The regular season wraps up at the ARC against Butler on Feb. 26. The Horizon League Championship kicks off March 2 and runs through March 9, with the tournament champion receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.