VALPARAISO (0-0) at IPFW (1-1)
WHEN: Wednesday, November 23, 6:00 p.m.
WHERE: Allen County War Memorial Coliseum (11,500)
RADIO: Valpo Sports Radio Network (95.1 FM, WVUR, 95.9 FM, WEFM, 1270 AM, Relevant Radio, 1500 AM, WAKE). Todd Ickow will handle the play-by-play with Brent Whitlock providing the color commentary.
TV: WYIN 56, Channel 56 and WHME, Channel 46
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 538-336 overall and 194-129 at Valpo. IPFW is led by Dane Fife, who is 1-1 in his 1st season overall and with the Mastodons.
BEHIND THE SERIES: The Crusaders lead the all-time series 2-0 over the Mastodons, winning once each of the last two seasons. Both previous meetings had come at Valpo's Athletics-Recreation Center, including a thrilling 74-72 overtime win February 23 of last season. In that game, Dan Oppland tipped in an errant shot with 29 seconds left in the overtime before David Simon's game-tying tip-dunk was waved off on an offensive foul call.
Valparaiso opens the 2005-06 season in Fort Wayne, Ind. Wednesday night against the IPFW Mastodons. Homer Drew's squad features six seniors, geared for a run at an eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament.
OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT: The Crusaders enter tonight's regular season opener off a perfect 2-0 exhibition season, and looking to win to road opener for the first time since 2000, when they beat Alaska-Anchorage at the Great Alaska Shootout. Valpo lost on the road it open last season, falling 88-70 at Cincinnati.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: In a preseason poll of conference coaches, Sports Information Directors and media the Crusaders were picked to finish second in the Mid-Con behind defending regular season champion Oral Roberts. The Crusaders picked up two of 28 first-place votes and totaled a conference-best four preseason all-conference honorees. Defending first-teamer Dan Oppland was selected to the First Team along with 2004-05 Second Team selection Ron Howard. Ali Berdiel, who was granted a medical redshirt last season, placed on the Second Team along with junior college transfer Mohamed Kone.
THE SAVVY SIX: Thanks to a 2004-05 team that didn't lose a single player to graduation, this year's Valpo squad features a six-member senior class. Dan Oppland, Ron Howard, Seth Colclasure, Mohamed Kone, Ali Berdiel and Jim Hooper will all be counted on for on and off the court leadership as the Crusaders make a run at a 10th Mid-Con Regular Season title.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON(S): When Homer Drew retired from coaching in 2002 to let his son Scott take the reigns, it meant the Valpo bench had only one Drew for the first time in a decade. Since then, Scott has begun a major rebuilding effort at Baylor and Homer has returned to the sidelines. Now, with his NBA and international playing career over, Scott's brother Bryce is back at Valpo this season, reuniting father and son. Byrce, Valpo's most decorated and well-recognized former student-athlete, played six NBA seasons and one international year after being drafted by the Houston Rockets in the First Round of the 1998 NBA Draft.
DAN THE MAN: Very quietly, Dan Oppland is having one of the finest careers a Crusader has ever had. After an inconsistent freshman season, Oppland honed his game and came back as a sophomore to earn Second Team All-Conference honors with a 15.7 points/game scoring average. Still known only as a banger on the inside, the 6'8" Oppland went to work again after his sophomore season to develop an outside game and came back better than ever last year. The Saint Louis native shot 42.3% from three-point land, averaged 18.6 points/game and was named to the All-Conference First Team. In his three seasons, Oppland is already in the top-10 all-time in points and rebounds, and his 577 points last season were the sixth most ever at Valpo.
HOWARD'S END: Senior Ron Howard, winner of Valpo's 2005 Homer Drew Sr. Most Improved Player Award, comes into this season looking to turn that momentum into another all-conference season. Howard scored 13.8 points/game last season, eight more than he did as a sophomore, and racked up 116 assists, tops on the team. Dangerous driving to the basket and from the outside, Howard picked up his game in conference last year, scoring 16.6 points/game and earning Second Team All-Conference honors.
BIG MO BREAKS OUT: After a quiet exhibition debut, highly-touted juco transfer Mohamed Kone busted out in a big way in the November 12 exhibition win over Calumet. Kone played just 24 minutes but scored 21 points (on 8-of-10 shooting), grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked two shots and had four assists. Rated the top junior college center in America by a number of scouting services last year, the 6'11" Kone arrives at Valpo projected to fill a void at the center position.
GUESS WHO'S BACK: Last season was supposed to be the crowning year of the stellar Valpo career of guard Ali Berdiel. Instead, Berdiel missed all but the first two games of the season with a foot injury and watched the brown and gold struggle to a 15-16 finish from the bench. Granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, Berdiel's back this year, poised to fill in where he can in the backcourt. Primarily a point guard his first three seasons, Berdiel is third-all time in career assists at Valpo, and with his long 6'6" frame is also seventh all-time in steals. A native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Beridel played a year of high school ball in Northwest Indiana at Andrean High School where he was rated the #1 player in Indiana by Hoop Scoop.
IPFW NOTES: Former Indiana Hoosier star Dane Fife picked up his first win as a college head coach Monday night in the Mastodon's 65-64 win at Southeast Missouri State. Fife, the youngest head coach in Division I at 25 years old, played two seasons in the CBA before coaching under Mike Davis at Indiana each of the last two years.
DeWitt Scott, a 6'6" sophomore forward from Chicago, was a big reason Fife picked up that win on Monday, playing all 40 minutes and scoring 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Scott was especially deadly from deep, knocking down all four of his three-point attempts.
Quintin Carrouthers is the only other Mastodon averaging in double-figures through the first two games, and it's been his shooting from the field that's done it. Carrouthers has made 13-of-22 shots from the field, averaging 13.5 points.