Valparaiso (23-11, 12-6 Horizon)
Game #35: Wednesday, Mar. 16 - 7:05 p.m.
Iona (22-11, 13-5 Metro Atlantic)
2011 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament - First Round
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso returns to the postseason for the tenth time in 16 years as the Crusaders make their first-ever appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) Wednesday evening, hosting Iona in first-round action. This marks the first time in the Crusaders’ Division I era that they have hosted a national postseason tournament game.
Last Time Out: Junior guard Brandon Wood scored 24 points, but it wasn't enough, as fourth-seeded Valparaiso fell in Horizon League Championship semifinal action at top-seeded Milwaukee, 70-63, on March 5. The Crusaders led by five in the first half, but gave up an 11-2 run which gave Milwaukee the lead for good and could get no closer than four points late in the game.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Wednesday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso), WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City) and WJOB (1230 AM, Hammond). Todd Ickow is back for his 19th season on play-by-play, while Adam Amin will handle the color commentary Wednesday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as live stats and live video through Fox College Sports Broadband.
Head Coach Homer Drew: One of only a handful of coaches at the Division I level coaching on a floor named in his honor, head coach Homer Drew is tied for sixth in career victories among active coaches in D-I men’s basketball. Drew enters Wednesday's game with a 371-304 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 640-426 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valparaiso has met Iona on the hardwood just once in program history, on Nov. 22, 2008 at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. The Gaels earned a 75-55 victory in that matchup, as the Crusaders shot just 28.8% from the floor on the game. De’Andre Haskins paced Valpo with 19 points, while Howard Little pulled down a career-best 14 rebounds. The Crusaders are 4-5 all-time against teams currently in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The Road Ahead: With a win Wednesday, the Crusaders would have to wait and see if they earned one of four byes directly to the CIT quarterfinals, to be played Monday, Mar. 21 and Tuesday, Mar. 22. If it doesn’t earn a bye, Valpo would play a second-round game on Friday, Mar. 18 or Saturday, Mar. 19.
Scouting Iona: Iona enters CIT play having gone 22-11 this season, including a 13-5 mark in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. The Gaels advanced to the championship game of the MAAC Tournament before falling to Saint Peter’s, their only loss in the last 10 games. Iona is led by junior Mike Glover, who averages a double-double with 18.2 ppg and 10.2 rpg. Junior Scott Machado scores 13.6 ppg, while sophomore Kyle Smyth adds 10.1 ppg.
CIT Format: Wednesday marks the final of three nights of first-round games in the CIT. Following the conclusion of Wednesday’s action, four of the remaining 12 teams will receive byes into the quarterfinals, while the other eight teams will play for the four remaining spots in second-round action (Mar. 18-19). Quarterfinals are slated for Mar. 21-22, with the semifinals scheduled for Mar. 25 and the championship game on Mar. 30.
Crusaders In the Postseason: Valpo’s bid to the CIT marks the Crusaders’ tenth postseason appearance in the last 16 years. Valpo has been to the NCAA Tournament seven times and the NIT and CBI one time apiece, with an overall record in postseason play of 3-8. See page three of the PDF notes for a complete list of D-I postseason games.
Keeping a Postseason Tradition Alive: With this year’s bid to the CIT, the Crusaders continue a streak that started with the Valpo basketball class of 1996, which was the first to experience postseason play on the D-I level. Since then, all 19 four-year classes (counting through this year’s freshmen class) have appeared in at least one postseason tournament over their four years.
Some More Home Cooking: With at least one CIT home game to be played, Valpo is currently 13-3 at the ARC this year and is now 246-109 (.693) all-time at the ARC, including a 193-44 (.814) mark over the last 17-plus years at home. The 13 wins matches the second-most at home at the ARC all-time, just one shy of the 1994-1995 squad, which won 14 home games.
Best League Finish: Valparaiso concluded the 2010-2011 Horizon League regular season at 12-6, its best finish in league action since making the move prior to the 2007-2008 season. The Crusaders’ fourth seed for the league championship also marks their best seed for the league’s postseason event.
Finishing Near the Top: Valpo also finished just one game back of a three-way tie atop the league standings, the closest its been to the top spot since winning the Mid-Con title in 2003-2004. The Crusaders were also the only squad in the league to have beaten all three of the teams that tied for the title.
Most Wins Ever?: This year’s Crusader squad is one of 15 teams in program history, including 11 in the last 18 years, that has won 20 or more games. Valpo enters the CIT with 23 victories, just two wins shy of the program record of 25, set in the 2001-2002 season. The 1923-1924, 1996-1997 and 2000-2001 teams all won 24 games as well.
20 Wins, 10 Times: The Crusaders’ Feb. 19 win over Missouri State gave Valpo its 20th win of the season, the tenth time the Crusaders have reached the 20-win milestone under Homer Drew. However, it marks just the second time in the last eight years that Valpo has won at least 20 games, joining the 2007-2008 squad which came out ahead on 22 occasions.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 98.3/100 possessions (100th nationally) this year, a big key to their 23 wins so far this year. Eight times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, while they are 17-2 on the season when holding their opposition under 70 points.
How Improved It Is: Last year, the Crusaders surrendered a league-worst 74.3 points per game and gave up 71.8 ppg in league play only, which ranked ninth among the ten Horizon League squads. This year, however, it has been a 180 in terms of the defensive output, as Valpo is giving up just 67.5 ppg overall and just 66.7 ppg in league action.
Higher Numbers on Both Sides: If it seems like the Crusaders’ scores on both sides of the scoreboard have been higher lately, it’s because they have been. Over the season’s first 21 games, Valpo scored 72.2 ppg and surrendered just 64.4 ppg. But over the last 13 games, the Crusaders have averaged 74.6 ppg and given up 72.5 ppg.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter the postseason as one of four Horizon League teams in the top-100 in the nation in RPI. According to the latest NCAA official report, Valpo sits at #71 heading into the Milwaukee game, joining Butler (#33), Cleveland State (#42) and Milwaukee (#93) among the nation's top-100 squads.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Valparaiso has flipped a number of games in its favor this season after trailing by double digits. The Crusaders own a 7-9 mark on the season in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, and have actually led after trailing by 10+ points in three of the losses. On the flip side, they are 20-3 in games where they have led by 10 or more points. In addition, Valpo has overcome nine-point deficits in a pair of games this season as well, and rallied from eight down in the HL quarterfinal win over Detroit.
Sharp Shooters From Inside: Valpo has cemented itself as one of the best shooting teams in the nation this year, entering this week 17th nationally with a .475 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have normally been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .553 clip from two-point range, good for third nationally. Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, eight players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
Working Extra Time: Three of Valpo’s league games in the second half of Horizon League action required an overtime session to decide, with the Crusaders now 3-2 overall this season when playing extra time. Valpo’s five overtime games this year are the most in a single season by a Crusader squad since the 1992-1993 team played eight overtime games, tied for the NCAA single-season record.
National Poll Watch: For the first time in almost nine years, the Crusaders have received votes in one of the two major national polls. Valparaiso received votes four consecutive weeks from Jan. 31-Feb. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Prior to this season, Valpo last made an appearance in one of the national polls in March of 2002, accumulating five points in the last poll prior to the NCAA Tournament that year.
BracketBuster: Valparaiso earned its second televised appearance in seven years as part of the Sears BracketBusters series this year, and made the most of it with its win over Missouri State Feb. 19 on ESPN2. The commentary was provided by Dave O’Brien and Dick Vitale, with the latter doing his first BracketBusters game ever for ESPN. The ARC also marked the smallest venue Vitale has broadcast from in his 32 years at ESPN, but he was definitely impressed, remarking near the end of the broadcast, “These fans have been on fire from the moment we sat here...they gave them an edge today, a great home-court feel. This is truly home court.”
On the Worldwide Leader: The win over the Bears marked the Crusaders’ 11th appearance on the ESPN family of networks over the last four seasons, and is the third time in that time span that ESPN2 has carried a game live from the ARC (2/5/08 - Butler; 3/1/08 - Wright State). Earlier this season, Valpo hosted Purdue on ESPNU from the ARC, while the Crusaders have also made three appearances this year in games broadcast exclusively on ESPN3.com.
4 Wins x 3: Valpo’s win over Detroit Jan. 16 gave the Crusaders their third four-game winning streak of the 2010-2011 campaign, something that has not happened for Valpo since the 2001-2002 season. That year’s Crusader squad won seven straight between November and December, captured nine straight wins in the heart of Mid-Con play and then won five consecutive games entering the NCAA Tournament.
10 Wins Before the New Year: The Crusaders’ win over Ball State Dec. 28 assured Valpo of heading into the 2011 calendar year with a 10-4 record, matching a program record for most wins prior to January 1. The 2001-2002 team also posted a 10-4 mark prior to New Year’s Day 2002, while the 2007-2008 Crusaders went 10-3 in the 2007 portion of the schedule.
Championship Record: Valpo set a new Horizon League Championship record in its quarterfinal win over Detroit by draining 15 shots from beyond the arc. The Crusaders went 6-of-13 in the first half before deep before going 9-of-14 in the final 20 minutes to close the game 15-of-27. Brandon Wood finished two off the individual tournament record, connecting on seven triples, all in the second half.
More Deep Thoughts: The team’s total of 15 trifectas and Wood’s individual effort of seven 3-pointers both were Valpo bests dating back over three years. The last time both efforts were surpassed was on Dec. 15, 2007 when the Crusaders downed Chicago State, 90-61. In that game, Valpo went 16-of-28 from behind the arc, led by Samuel Haanpaa, who set a new program record with 10 triples.
103-102: The antithesis of most of the Crusaders’ games this season was the 103-102 win in regulation at Oakland Dec. 21 to capture the Lou Henson Award Tournament. Some notes regarding that high-scoring victory can be found on page six of this release.
A Big Victory: Valpo easily handled Purdue North Central Nov. 18, limiting the Panthers to just 44 points in a 98-44 victory. The 54-point margin of victory ties for the sixth-highest differential in program history, matching the winning margin in a 66-12 win against Chicago Tech back in the 1920-1921 season.
Offensive Explosion: The Crusaders lit up the scoreboard throughout their season opener against IU Northwest, scoring 59 first-half points and adding 52 second-half points. A short-range flip up and in by Cory Johnson with 5:49 to play put Valpo over the century mark as it utilized the third digit on the scoreboard for the first time since a 105-73 win over Longwood on Jan. 7, 2006. The 111 points matched the most the Crusaders have scored in the last 15 seasons as well.
Crusaders Match Attendance Record: Valparaiso has sold out three games this year - Dec. 7 against Purdue, Jan. 29 against Butler and Feb. 19 against Missouri State - and matched the ARC all-time attendance record in the first two contests. The attendance of 5,432 for both games tied the mark set on Feb. 5, 2008 when the Crusaders welcomed a sellout crowd for a top-10 Butler squad.
Oh Captain My Captain: The Crusaders have a pair of captains on their squad for the 2010-2011 season. Cory Johnson and Howard Little are serving in the role, each for the second straight year.
Sun, Fun and Basketball: This year’s Crusader squad got the chance to bond as a team with a preseason foreign trip to Cancun in August, the first time Valpo has taken advantage of the chance to take a preseason trip. The Crusaders got 10 days of practice in Valpo before taking off for Cancun with all 13 players, including newcomers Jay Harris and Kevin Van Wijk. While down in Cancun, Valpo won all four games, including a come-from-behind 102-84 win over Pioneros de Quintana Roo, which finished third in the 20-team LNBP last year.
Players of the Week: Valparaiso claimed three Player of the Week honors from the Horizon League this season. Brandon Wood earned the Crusaders’ first honor of the year, sharing Player of the Week accolades after he averaged 28.0 ppg en route to All-Tournament honors at the Lou Henson Award Tournament. Cory Johnson was tabbed as the league’s Player of the Week Jan. 10 after averaging 23.0 ppg in two league victories for the Crusaders, while Wood was again honored the next week after tallying 21.5 ppg in a pair of league road wins.
Raking in the Honors: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood represented the Crusaders as a First Team All-League selection as the league’s postseason awards were announced. Wood, who also was on the preseason First Team, becomes the first Valpo player to earn a First Team nod since the Crusaders moved to the Horizon League. Wood also earned a spot on the league’s All-Tournament Team and also made the NABC All-District 12 First Team.
Wood Leads the Way: Wood averaged 24.7 ppg over Valpo’s three HL Championship games, including a 30-point effort with seven 3-pointers in the quarterfinal win over Detroit. The junior also registered his first career double-double (20 pts, 13 reb) in the first-round win over Youngstown State. Wood, who has scored 20 or more points in six of Valpo’s last eight games, leads the team and ranks third in the HL in scoring (17.0 ppg) and also leads the Crusaders in steals (1.7 spg, 2nd in HL) and assists (3.2, 8th in HL).
Hitting 1,000: With a 3-pointer with 4:24 to play in the first half at Green Bay Feb. 21, Wood became the 30th player in Valpo history to score 1,000 career points. Wood is also just the fourth Crusader in program history to reach the 1K milestone in just their second season of play, and enters Wednesday’s game with 1,110 career points, a Valpo record through two seasons. Dick Jones (1,020 pts, 1965-1967), John Meyne (1,013 pts, 1982-1984) and Dave Redmon (1,005 pts, 1992-1994) are the only other Crusaders to reach 1,000 in their first two seasons.
Broekhoff From Distance: While sophomore Ryan Broekhoff has struggled with a late-season shooting slump, hitting just 3-of-19 from behind the arc in Valpo’s last five games, he remains the league’s top 3-point shooter, connecting at a .453 clip overall and a .520 clip in HL play from downtown. The sophomore averages 10.4 ppg, third on the team, and leads the Crusaders with 5.1 rpg.
Johnson in the Post: Fifth-year senior Cory Johnson scored in double figures for his team-leading 26th time last time out in the HL semifinals against Milwaukee, scoring 14 points while also grabbing seven rebounds. Johnson currently ranks second on the team with 14.1 ppg, just outside the league’s top-ten, and hits at a .567 clip inside the arc on the season.
Cracking the Career Charts...: A number of Crusaders have already cracked Valpo’s career charts in different categories. Senior guard Howard Little broke Brandon McPherson’s career games played record against YSU Mar. 1 and has now played in 132 games. Senior Michael Rogers is also moving up the same list, currently sitting in third place with 128 career games. Little has also tallied 145 career steals, good for eighth in Valpo history and just five thefts shy of Jamie Sykes in seventh place. Ryan Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .415 ranks seventh in Crusader history. Wood and Johnson are ranked ninth (17.3 ppg) and 12th (14.8 ppg) on the scoring average chart, while Johnson is also seventh in career field goal percentage, shooting at a .520 clip.
...and the Single-Season Charts: Nearing the end of the season, a couple of players are also threatening the single-season charts. Wood moved into sixth place for single-season steals last time out, and his total of 54 is just nine shy of Valpo’s record of 63. Wood also is just four field goals and 20 points outside of those respective top-10 lists. Broekhoff’s current 3-point percentage of .453 would place him tenth in a season all-time, while the sophomore is also just three blocked shots and eight 3-pointers outside the top-10s in those respective categories.