#15 VALPO (18-12) vs. #2 GONZAGA (27-2)
WHEN: Thursday, March 18 - 9 p.m. CST (7 p.m. PST)
WHERE: Key Arena, Seattle, Washington
RADIO: WEFM (95.9, Michigan City), WVUR-FM (95.1, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow and Drew Wolf announcing. CBS Radio - Joel Meyers and Tom Penders announcing.
TV: CBS - Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel and Greg Kelser announcing.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Homer Drew, who has a career record of 523-318 in his 27th season and a record at Valpo of 254-196 in his 15th season. Gonzaga is led by Mark Few, who has a career mark of 108-22 in his 4th season and a record at Gonzaga of 108-22 in his 4th season.
SERIES RECORD: First Meeting
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Valpo won the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship, defeating IUPUI 75-70 in the title game. Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference Championship, defeating Saint Mary's 84-71 in the title game.
NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORDS: Valpo - 2-6 (Sweet 16 in 98'). Gonzaga - 8-6 (Final 8, 99'; Sweet 16, 00', 01')
A battle of two of the most successful college basketball programs over the last 10 years will take place on Thursday at 9 p.m. (CST) when Valpo opposes Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Key Arena in Seattle.
The Crusaders (18-12, 11-5 Mid-Con), the #15 seed in the St. Louis Region, captured the Mid-Continent Conference regular season and tournament championships. The Bulldogs (27-2, 14-0 West Coast), the #2 seed, won the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament championships. Valpo has won five straight games and 14 of its last 17. Gonzaga owns a 20-game winning streak.
Valpo Shoots for NCAA Tournament Dreams
As Hoosier State's Lone Representative
Valparaiso will carry the torch for the state of Indiana in the 2004 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The Crusaders are the lone team from the 10 Indiana Division I schools to qualify for the Field of 65.
VALPO'S CHAMPIONSHIP DECADE: Valpo lives in elite company when it comes to conference championships. By winning either or both the Mid-Con regular season or tournament championships in each of the last 10 years, Valpo trails only Kentucky (11) for the longest title stretch in the nation during that span.
VALPO CAPTURES 8th TOURNAMENT TITLE: Valpo has captured eight Mid-Con Tournament titles - all in the last 10 years. The Crusaders have appeared in 10 straight conference tournament championship games - the only school in the nation to accomplish this feat during this span.
DAN OPPLAND - MR. CONSISTENCY: Sophomore Dan Oppland, a Second Team All-Mid-Con and All-Tournament selection, who averaged 20.3 ppg. and 7.0 rpg. in the three Mid-Con Tourney games, has been the model of consistency. The 6'8" forward, who leads the team in scoring (15.9 ppg.), has tallied double-figure points in 28 of the 30 games and grabbed twin-digit rebounds six times. He was impressive in Mid-Con games, averaging 17.1 ppg. and shooting .568 from the field. Oppland stands 2nd overall in the Mid-Con in offensive rebounding (3.20 pg.), 3rd in field goal percentage (.550), 6th in rebounding (7.2 pg.), 8th in free throw percentage (.781) and 8th in scoring.
GOMES COMES THROUGH IN CLUTCH: Kikas Gomes, a Second Team All-Mid-Con and All-Tournament selection, enjoyed a strong Mid-Con Tournament, averaging 18.0 ppg., including scoring a career-high 23 in the title-game win over IUPUI. The senior from Angola, who averages 13.1 ppg., has scored 1,042 points. Gomes is also climbing Valpo's all-time blocked shots list, ranking 3rd with 111. With 696 career rebounds, Gomes stands 7th on Valpo's all-time list. He stands 2nd in the Mid-Con in blocked shots (1.80 pg., 54 in 30 games) and 2nd in rebounding (8.8 pg.). Gomes has 13 double-doubles on the season.
BERDIEL 17th NATIONALLY IN ASSISTS: Ali Berdiel, a Second Team All-Mid-Con and All-Tournament selection, ranks 17th in the nation in assists (6.1 pg.). The junior has vaulted up Valpo's all-time charts in assists and steals. Berdiel ranks 3rd in assists with 387 and 8th in steals with 139. This season, Berdiel ranks 2nd in the Mid-Con in assists and 3rd in steals (1.7 pg.).
RESILIANT TONAGEL KEY TO SURGE: Sixth-year senior Greg Tonagel's leadership and experience have had major impacts on Valpo's success over the last portion of the season. Since Tonagel began playing on Jan. 29, the Crusaders own a 10-3 record.