VALPO (0-0) at SYRACUSE (0-1)
WHEN: Sunday, November 24 - noon CST (1 p.m. EST)
WHERE: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York
TV: (tape-delay) - AT&T Cable - Channel 43 - in Valparaiso. Dick Harlan announcing.
RADIO: WEFM (95.9, Michigan City), WVUR-FM (95.1, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow and Tim Harwood announcing.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Scott Drew, who is beginning his first season. Syracuse is led by Jim Boeheim, who has a career mark of 623-222 in his 27th season.
SERIES RECORD: Syracuse leads 1-0
LAST MEETING: 1963-64 - Syracuse won 100-66
LAST GAME: Valpo is playing its season opener Sunday. Syracuse lost to Memphis 70-63 Nov. 14 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.
NEXT UP: Valpo begins a two-game homestand on Tuesday against Indiana State at 7:05 p.m. CST.
Sunday's game at Syracuse is not an ordinary season opener for Valpo. For the first time in 15 seasons, the Crusaders will be under the guidance of a new coach. After 14 seasons, which included seven Mid-Continent Conference Regular Season & Tournament Championships and six NCAA Tournament appearances, Homer Drew has passed the reins to his son, Scott, who served as an associate head coach/assistant at Valpo for nine seasons. At 31, Scott Drew is one of the youngest Division I head basketball coaches in the nation.
EXHIBITION NUMBERS: In two exhibition wins over International Select (73-62, Nov. 3) and Northwest Sports (108-74, Nov. 9), the Crusaders displayed a well-balanced attack. Raitis Grafs averaged 17.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, while Joaquim Gomes added 13.5 ppg. and 8.0 rpg. Freshman Dan Oppland (12.0 ppg., 7.5 rpg.) scored 12 points in each of the games. Stalin Ortiz missed the International Select game, but led Valpo with 20 points against Northwest Sports. The backcourt played complete games as Ali Berdiel averaged 9.0 ppg., 4.5 assists, 4.5 rpg. and 2.0 steals and Greg Tonagel recorded 8.0 ppg., 5.5 apg., 4.5 rpg. and 2.0 spg. Roberto Nieves, a junior college transfer, scored 15 points against Northwest Sports.
VALPO PICKED TO WIN MID-CONTINENT: Valpo, the defending Mid-Continent Conference Champion, is the favorite to repeat as conference champion in a preseason poll of Mid-Con coaches, sports information directors and media members. The Crusaders, 25-8 in 2001-02, received 17 first-place votes. Oral Roberts, which finished second, garnered 11 first-place votes. IUPUI was picked third, followed by Oakland, UMKC, Southern Utah, Western Illinois and Chicago State. Raitis Grafs was named to the Mid-Con Preseason First Team. A two-time First Team All-Mid-Con selection and the school's all-time blocked shots leader, Grafs averaged 12.6 ppg. and 6.8 rpg. as a junior. Stalin Ortiz was named to the Mid-Con Preseason Second Team. A member of the Mid-Con's All-Newcomer Team last season, Ortiz averaged 11.2 ppg. and 4.1 rpg. in 2001-02.
CHAMPIONSHIP LEGACY CONTINUES: After capturing the Mid-Con Regular Season and Tournament Championships last season, Valpo has won a Mid-Con record seven conference regular season and tournament titles in the last eight years.
ROARING 20s: Last season, Valpo set a school record for wins (25-8), reaching the 20-win plateau for the eighth time in nine years.