TODAY'S MATCHUP: The Crusaders kick off the 2006-07 regular season Saturday night against the Crimson Wave of Calumet College. Calumet is a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference in NAIA Division II. The Crimson Wave enter the contest with a win in their only game, downing Purdue-Calumet Wednesday night in overtime 70-65.
LAST MEETING: Tonight marks the first meeting between Valparaiso and Calumet on the basketball court during regular season action. However, the two squads faced off in exhibition action on Nov. 12, 2005. The Crusaders jumped out to a 22-point halftime lead in the contest on their way to a 92-62 victory. Mohamed Kone registered game-high totals of 21 points and 14 rebounds, including a first-half double-double of 17 points and 11 boards. Jimmie Miles chipped in 17 points, while Dan Oppland added 16 points of his own. Dan's twin brother and former Crusader, Mike, led the Crimson Wave with 17 points.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso took care of business in its final exhibition game, taking advantage of stifling defense to roll over Trinity Christian, 91-48. Shawn Huff utilized 8-of-13 shooting to register a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, leading four Crusaders in double figures. Samuel Haanpaa hit three 3-pointers on his way to 15 points, while Jarryd Loyd added 14 and Urule Igbavboa chipped in 11 points to go along with nine boards. Brandon McPherson dished out seven assists for Valpo. Ty DeWitte led the Trolls with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but hit just 3-of-9 shots from the field. The Crusaders took advantage of 22 Trinity Christian turnovers, scoring 28 points off of them, while committing just 11 turnovers of their own.
ON THE AIR: Today's game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-station entity carrying Crusader athletics all over Northwest Indiana. Originating from WVUR, 95.1 FM in Valparaiso, the Valpo Sports Radio Network also includes WEFM, 95.9 FM in Michigan City and WAKE, 1500 AM in Valparaiso. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 16th season on play-by-play, while WVUR's Mike Haase will handle the color commentary. All Crusader basketball action this year can also be heard around the world via www.valpo.edu/athletics by clicking on the webcast link.
A LOT TO REPLACE: Valparaiso must look to new sources to produce in the 2006-07 season, as the Crusaders have to replace seven players, including All-Conference performers Ali Berdiel, Ron Howard, Mohamed Kone, and Dan Oppland and sharpshooter Seth Colclasure. The seven departed Crusaders accounted for 81% of the scoring, 67% of the rebounding, and 74% of the minutes played during the 2005-06 campaign.
TOUGH ROAD AWAITING CRUSADERS: Three teams ranked in the top-20 of the Associated Press preseason poll highlight Valpo's non-conference schedule. Following tonight's game, the Crusaders embark on a three-game road trip that takes them to IPFW, Niagara, and ACC foe North Carolina State, matching up against the Wolfpack for the first time in program history. Valpo then hosts #16 Marquette and in-state rival Butler at the ARC in the final week of November. The Crusaders follow with a matchup at #7 Ohio State Dec. 2, which has the potential to be the third top-ranked team in the nation Valpo has faced in the past three seasons (Illinois in 2004-05, Duke in 2005-06). Games at Evansville and Ball State follow before the Crusaders head to Hawai'i to take part in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic. Valpo drew a difficult first-round opponent, facing off against #19 Creighton.
VALPO DOMINATES IN EXHIBITION ACTION: The Crusaders took care of business in both of their warm-up games prior to the start of the regular season, taking down Indiana Wesleyan last Saturday, 83-65, and defeating Trinity Christian on Monday, 91-48. Valpo hit exactly half of its shots in both games and also knocked down 22 free throws in both contests, shooting a combined 74.6% from the line over the two games. The Crusaders utilized significant advantages in points in the paint (86-46) and bench scoring (62-12) to gain both victories. The most impressive statistic, however, might have been Valpo's edge in fast break points. The Crusaders ran to 34 fast break points over the two contests, while holding the Wildcats and Trolls to a combined zero fast break points.
OPENING ON THE RIGHT FOOT: Valpo has been historically impressive in season openers, holding a 60-29 record all-time, including a 74-68 victory at IPFW last year. The Crusaders' last opener at the ARC was not so kind, as Purdue defeated Valpo, 73-69, at the start of the 2001-02 season.
PRESEASON POLL PLACES VALPO FOURTH: The Crusaders received 156 points in the Mid-Continent Conference's preseason polling of coaches, sports information directors, and selected media members, placing them fourth out of the league's eight teams. Projected league champs Oral Roberts registered 260 points. IUPUI and UMKC are projected second and third, respectively, while Oakland, Western Illinois, Southern Utah, and Centenary round out the fifth through eighth spots.
CRUSADER ALUMNI RETURN TO THE BENCH: Valpo head coach Dr. Homer Drew has always found places for former players as assistant coaches, and this year is no exception. Bryce Drew is back for his second year on the bench, having been promoted to the title of associate head coach during the offseason. Jason Hawkins, who served as the director of basketball operations during the 2003-04 campaign, returns for his first year as an assistant coach, while Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, returns as the director of basketball operations.
A LOT OF HANDS TO SHAKE: Pregame captains meetings at center court will be crowded on Valpo's side this year, as five Crusaders have been designated as captains by Coach Drew. Senior Moussa Mbaye, juniors Shawn Huff and Jarryd Loyd, and sophomores Jake Diebler and Brandon McPherson will share this year's captaincy.
PERFECT 10: Urule Igbavboa came off the bench in each of his 22 appearances as a freshman. If he plays like he did in Valpo's exhibition opener against Indiana Wesleyan, Igbavboa will be in the starting lineup all season long. Urule hit all 10 of his shot attempts against the Wildcats last Saturday night, leading all scorers with 24 points while also adding seven rebounds. While he did not remain perfect from the floor in the second exhibition game, Igbavboa did put up 11 points and nine rebounds in the win over Trinity Christian. His 10-for-10 night, if it had occurred in regular season action, would have fallen just one short of the school record held by Zoran Viskovic of 11 field goals without a miss.
CALUM CAN PLAY: One of the questions coming into the season was how much production the Crusaders would get from the post after the departures of Dan Oppland and Mohamed Kone. If exhibition action was any sign of things to come, 7'1" juco transfer Calum MacLeod will fit into the lineup nicely. MacLeod averaged 15.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in the two exhibition contests while also swatting five shots.
B-MAC DISHES: Sophomore Brandon McPherson is vying to be the Crusaders' starting point guard this year, and had a nice outing against Trinity Christian to state his case. McPherson registered a game-high seven assists in just 20 minutes of action while committing just one turnover. McPherson showed last season that he was careful with the basketball, leading the team with a 1.92 assist-to-turnover ratio.
DIVING DIEBLER: Jake Diebler saw a team-high 55 minutes of playing time over the two exhibition games, just 23 minutes fewer than he played all of last season. Diebler saw time at both point guard and shooting guard for the Crusaders, and showed the fans why he was on the floor so much, diving into the stands for loose balls and registering a team-best seven steals over the two games. Diebler also ranked second on the team in assists during exhibition action, dishing out eight helpers over the two contests.
HUFFING AND PUFFING: Junior guard/forward Shawn Huff will be counted on for increased scoring output this year. Huff, the top returning scorer for the Crusaders at 7.5 points per game, scored seven points, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out three assists in Valpo's win over Indiana Wesleyan. But he stepped up his game against Trinity Christian, recording a double-double with 20 points (on 8-of-13 shooting) and 10 rebounds in the 91-48 victory. Huff also registered four assists with no turnovers in the win.
HAANPAA HITS THE THREE: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa showed a flash of his shooting ability against Trinity Christian. The 6'8" Finn knocked down three 3-pointers in the win, and hit 4-of-9 attempts from behind the arc in the two exhibition games. Haanpaa also displayed an ability to get to the free throw line, attempting 10 free throws over the two games, tied for the team high.
CRIMSON WAVE NOTES
VALPO CONNECTIONS: The Crimson Wave have had many people with Valpo ties as a part of their program over the last year. Crusader basketball alum Jason Hawkins served as Calumet's head coach the past two seasons, compiling a 30-34 record in his tenure before returning to Valpo's sideline this year as an assistant coach. Former Crusader Mike Oppland transferred to Calumet for his final two seasons of collegiate basketball and led the Crimson Wave last season with 20.4 points per game. Chris Artis, who donned the Valpo uniform from 1995-1997, is currently an assistant coach for Calumet.
WORKING OVERTIME: Calumet has needed extra time already this year in its first regular season action. The Crimson Wave's game against Purdue-Calumet Wednesday night went into an extra session, and Calumet came away with the 70-65 victory. Evinn Herring led the Crimson Wave in scoring with 19 points despite hitting just 4-of-14 shots from the field. Joining Herring in double figures were Janine Hudson, who netted 17 points and led the Crimson Wave with four assists in 44 minutes of action, and Tom Radtke, who registered 11 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds, along with recording three blocked shots.