The Matchup: The 2009 calendar year kicks off today for the
Crusaders as they host their most common all-time opponent and in-state
rival #25/RV Butler. This marks the third straight season that the
Bulldogs have been ranked when they have visited the ARC.
Series History: This will be the 95th meeting between the two institutions on the hardwood, with Butler holding a 62-32 advantage in the series. The last meeting was an epic battle in front of a record-setting crowd at the ARC, with the Bulldogs pulling out the 71-68 victory on Feb. 5, 2008 on ESPN2. Jarryd Loyd led three Crusaders in double figures with 16 points, and also paced the team with three assists. Brandon McPherson added 14 points, while Urule Igbavboa chipped in 11 of his own.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso snapped its five-game losing streak in emphatic fashion Tuesday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center, handling Division III opponent North Park easily on its way to a 78-47 victory. Four Valpo players finished in double figures, led by a career-best 16 points by Howard Little, who also paced the Crusaders with six rebounds and three steals. Urule Igbavboa connected for 15 points, while Erik Buggs and Cameron Witt added ten points apiece. Buggs also dished out a game-high five assists.
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. The game is also the first of seven men’s tilts to be broadcast live on Lakeshore Public Television this season.
Back on the Homefront: A return to the ARC was 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. After
Tuesday’s win, the Crusaders are 3-1 in their four contests on the
hardwood of the Athletics-Recreation Center, improving their home
record at the ARC since the start of the 1993-94 campaign to a robust
No Drama Here: Very rarely this season have Valpo’s games gone down to the wire. Last year, 21 of the Crusaders’ 36 contests were decided by single digits, but so far this year, only two of their 13 games have been nine-point spreads or less. Valpo has not played a single-digit game since its 75-70 overtime loss to La Salle in the Virgin Islands.
Spreading Out the Scoring: The Crusaders have had a variety of different players contribute in the scoring column during the non-league season. Six different players are averaging between 5.8 and 10.9 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. This marks the third ranked opponent Valpo has faced in the last 14 days, after taking on #1/1 North Carolina Dec. 20 and traveling to #10/15 Purdue Dec. 28.
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.
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.
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.
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 (10.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.1 rpg). The senior is just 37 points shy of reaching the 1,000 point milestone for his career and also ranks 12th in program history in rebounding.
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 8.5 ppg this season, including a career-high 16 points last time out against North Park. But more impressively, Little has hit the boards for Valpo extremely hard, tying for the team lead with 5.1 rpg. He led Valpo for the second straight game against the Vikings, grabbing six rebounds.
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 20 steals and a 1.9 assist/turnover ratio. The senior has had just two games in the last two seasons with a negative assist/turnover ratio.
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.