The Matchup: Valparaiso returns to the ARC Tuesday to host
Division III foe North Park in its final game of the 2008 calendar
year. The Crusaders and Vikings, out of Chicago, Ill., are meeting for
the first time ever on the hardwood. Valpo has captured its last 14
regular season contests against non-Division I opponents, dating back
to the 1997-98 campaign.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso led for a good portion of the first half Sunday afternoon at #10/15 Purdue and trailed by just two at halftime, but the Boilermakers connected on four of their first five 3-point attempts in the second stanza and the Crusaders got no closer than six the rest of the way, dropping a 59-45 decision. Jake Diebler and Urule Igbavboa tied for team-high scoring honors on the game with 13 points apiece. Diebler connected on three of Valpo’s four triples for the contest, while Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with three assists as well. Howard Little pitched in eight points and also pulled down a team-high ten rebounds, his second double-figure rebounding output of the season.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso’s brief two-game homestand continues on Saturday as the Crusaders host last year’s Horizon League champion Butler. Valpo will then travel to Milwaukee on Monday before returning home for league games next Thursday and Saturday against Detroit and Wright State, respectively.
Following the Crusaders: Today’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a four-station entity carrying Crusader athletics all over Northwest Indiana. Originiating from WVUR, 95.1 FM in Valparaiso, the VSRN also includes WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; and WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 18th season on play-by-play for the Crusaders, while WVUR’s David Schroeder will handle the color commentary. Live audio will also be available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and video.
Back on the Homefront: A return to the ARC might be just what
the doctor ordered for the Crusaders. Prior to this week, Valpo had
played just one game out of its last ten contests on its home court.
The Crusaders are 2-1 in their three contests on the hardwood of the
Athletics-Recreation Center entering this week, improving their home
record at the ARC since the start of the 1993-94 campaign to a robust
Spreading Out the Scoring: The Crusaders have had a variety of different players contribute in the scoring column during the early stages of the season. Six different players are averaging between 6.8 and 10.6 points per game for Valpo in its first ten games. In addition, eight players have also scored in double figures at least once so far this year for Valpo, including four players (Buggs, Fumey, Haskins, Witt) who are in their first season on the court and two more (Little, Rogers) who are in just their second season.
Taking on Ranked Foes: The Crusaders are no strangers to taking on teams ranked among the nation’s top-25. Seven times in the past eight seasons, Valpo has faced at least two top-25 opponents over the course of the season, and six times, the Crusaders have faced multiple top-25 teams within a two-week span. While Valpo has not been able to topple any of those ranked squads in the past eight years, they have acquitted themselves well in those contests, playing within single digits of their nationally-ranked opponent seven times.
National Audience Awaits Valpo: After appearing on national television seven times during the 2007-08 campaign, Valparaiso will make at least three nationally televised appearances during the 2008-09 season. On Dec. 20, Valpo was featured on ESPNU in a showdown with top-ranked North Carolina. The Crusaders’ contest at Purdue last time out was broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their Jan. 30 league tilt at Butler will be carried on ESPNU.
Postseason Trips: Valparaiso’s trip to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational last season was its first postseason berth since the 2003-2004 campaign and extended an impressive streak. 16 consecutive classes of Crusader basketball players have experienced at least one postseason tournament.
Tabbed Seventh: The Crusader men’s basketball team has been picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League for the 2008-09 season, according to polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members. Cleveland State has been tabbed the preseason favorite with 40 of the possible 49 first-place votes. Wright State was picked second with UIC third and Green Bay fourth. 2007-08 league champion Butler was selected fifth, while Milwaukee was picked just ahead of the Crusaders in sixth. Loyola, Detroit and Youngstown State rounded out the polling.
Igbavboa Leads the Way: Preseason Second Team All-Horizon
League selection Urule Igbavboa has led the way for the Crusaders in
the early stages of the 2008-09 campaign, pacing the team in both
scoring (10.6 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 rpg). The senior is just 53
points shy of reaching the 1,000 point milestone for his career and
also ranks 12th in program history in rebounding. At Purdue, Igbavboa
tied for team-high scoring honors with 13 points and also led the
Crusaders with three assists.
Return of the Masked Man: Playing without his trademark mask in the first ten games of the season, senior guard Jake Diebler continued to play his trademark style of basketball in his final year. But that style resulted in yet another broken nose for Diebler, who suffered the injury against North Carolina on Dec. 20. But the return of the mask has not inhibited Diebler’s shooting, as the senior connected on three triples at Purdue on his way to a team-high 13 points. On the season, Diebler leads the Crusaders with 18 steals and a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio.
Little Hitting the Boards: Sophomore guard Howard Little has made an impact for the Crusaders on the offensive end this year, improving his scoring average from 2.4 ppg last year to 7.8 ppg this season. But more impressively, Little has hit the boards for Valpo extremely hard, ranking second on the team with an average of 5.0 rpg. At Purdue on Sunday, the sophomore registered his second double-figure rebounding output of the season, ripping down ten caroms against the Boilermakers.
Immediate Impact: Senior guard Brandon McPherson made his return to the Crusader lineup Dec. 20 against #1/1 UNC, playing eight minutes in the first half, scoring two points and dishing out an assist. Two days later, he moved back into the starting lineup at UCF and led the way with a team-high 12 points, including three trifectas. McPherson had missed the first nine games of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery, and sat out Valpo’s game at Purdue on Sunday.
Next Year’s Newcomers: Valparaiso has signed a quintet of players who will join the program for the 2009-2010 season, four of whom are freshmen and one junior college transfer. The five newcomers are:
- Ryan Broekhoff, a 6’6” guard from Frankston, Victoria, Australia. Broekhoff was named Australian Junior National Male Player of the Year earlier this year and was the MVP of the U20 Australian national championship.
- Chris Halvorsen, a 6’8” forward out of Henry Sibley [Minn.] H.S. Halvorsen helped lead the Warriors to a state championship appearance last year and was selected to the All-Tournament Team. He also has twice earned All-Conference honors.
- Matt Kenney, a 6’3” guard out of Mooresville [Ind.] H.S. Kenney was an honorable mention All-State honoree last year, while also earning All-Indianapolis Metro West First Team accolades and All-Conference honors.
- Tommy Kurth, a 6’1” guard out of Penn [Ind.] H.S. Kurth was also an honorable mention All-State honoree last year and has been ranked as the #54 point guard in the Class of 2009 by ESPN.com. He has been among the top-25 scorers in the area the last two years.
- Brandon Wood, a 6’3” guard from Kokomo, Ind. Wood is playing this year at Highland [Ill.] C.C. after playing just six games last year at Southern Illinois. A former Indiana All-Star, he is projected as the top incoming point guard in the Horizon League next year by Rivals.com.