Valparaiso (0-0, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #1: Monday, Nov. 7 - 8 p.m. CST
at #16/16 Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) - McKale Center (14,545)
2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso opens the Bryce Drew era on the road against #16/16 Arizona in its opening game of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer Monday evening. The game, which can be seen live on ESPNU, is the first of four Valpo will play as part of the Classic, as the Crusaders will host a subregional pod Nov. 18-20 as well.
Looking at the Exhibitions: The Crusaders went 2-0 in exhibition play this season, nipping Hillsdale 73-71 on a late 3-point play by Kevin Van Wijk before leading by as much as 24 late in a 74-65 victory over Augustana. Van Wijk combined for 32 points and 16 rebounds in just 36 minutes over the two games, while Ryan Broekhoff put up 33 points and 17 rebounds. Matt Kenney led Valpo distributing the basketball, registering nine assists over the two contests.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Monday'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 Aaron Leavitt will handle the color commentary. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats available through the official Crusader website as well. The game is also the first of at least four the Crusaders will have nationally televised this season, as ESPNU will be broadcasting the game, with Dave Fleming and Miles Simon on the call.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew was named the 21st head coach in the history of the Valparaiso men’s basketball program on May 17, 2011. Just the fourth new head coach to grace the Crusader sidelines in the last 31 years, Drew had spent the last six seasons as a member of the Crusader coaching staff before earning the head position. He famously hit the game-winning shot against Ole Miss for Valpo in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament to cap an illustrious Crusader career, before going on to a seven-year professional career, six of which were spent in the NBA.
Series Notes: Valpo and Arizona have met just twice on the hardwood all-time, with the Wildcats owning victories in both the prior meetings. Most recently, a late four-point play from Jason Gardner helped Arizona to a 74-70 victory in the championship game of the Fiesta Bowl Classic on Dec. 30, 2001. Tony Falu posted a game-high 22 points in that contest, while three other Crusaders chipped in 11 point apiece.
The Road Ahead: Valpo continues its season-opening road trip this coming Friday, Nov. 11, with a game at Georgia Southern. The Crusaders open the regular season home slate Monday, Nov. 14 versus Holy Cross [Ind.] College.
Valpo Tabbed Fifth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members. The Crusaders tallied 255 points in the polling. Preseason league favorite Butler received 28 of the 50 first-place votes, while Detroit was picked second and received 19 first-place votes. Cleveland State (2 first-place votes) and Milwaukee (1 first-place vote) were chosen third and fourth ahead of the Crusaders, while Green Bay was just behind Valpo in sixth position. Youngstown State, Wright State, Loyola and UIC rounded out the polling in order.
A Look Back at 2010-2011: Valparaiso is coming off of its tenth postseason appearance in the last 16 seasons, having earned a berth into the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) last season. The Crusaders won 23 total games in 2010-2011, their greatest number of victories since the 2001-2002 season. Valpo also went 12-6 in Horizon League, posting its best record in league play since entering the HL and finishing just one game out of a share of the regular season title.
A Lot to Replace: The Crusaders have a lot of production to replace entering the 2011-2012 season, as they lost 60.5% of their scoring from last year’s squad, as well as more than 40% of their rebounding, assists and steals from a season ago. Cory Johnson (Second Team All-HL in 2009-2010; 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Howard Little (Valpo’s all-time leader in games played and eighth all-time in steals; 9.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Michael Rogers (5.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG) all were graduating seniors on last year’s team, while Brandon Wood (Two-time All-HL honoree, First Team honoree in 2010-2011; 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG) graduated following his junior season of eligibility and transferred to Michigan State.
What They Have Back: Even with the losses, Valpo still has eight letterwinners returning from a season ago, including a pair of starters in junior Ryan Broekhoff (10.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 44.8% 3PT) and redshirt junior Erik Buggs (3.1 APG). Junior Matt Kenney (6.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG) averaged over 23 minutes a game off the bench last year, while sophomore Jay Harris (5.1 PPG) and junior Kevin Van Wijk (5.1 PPG) each played at least 13 minutes a contest as well. In addition, Tommy Kurth returns after sitting out last season as a medical redshirt.
A Winning Debut?: Bryce Drew is looking to become the first member of the Drew family to win his Valpo head coaching debut. Father Homer fell in his first game at the helm on Nov. 25, 1988 at Butler, 83-53, while brother Scott led the Crusaders into a tight battle with eventual national champions Syracuse before the Orange earned an 81-66 win on Nov. 24, 2002.
An Early Start: This year’s Crusader squad will match the earliest start to the regular season ever by a Valpo men’s basketball team. Coming off the Sweet 16 run a year prior, the 1998-1999 team opened the regular season also on November 7 at the NABC Classic, taking on South Carolina. That year’s team downed the Gamecocks that night, 67-61.
A Lonely Banner: Each year’s senior class has banners hung inside the ARC during their senior season, but this season, there is just one men’s basketball banner hanging from the rafters. Walk-on guard Nick Shelton is the lone member of this year’s senior class.
Calling All Captains: With no scholarship seniors on this year’s squad, Valpo looks to a trio of juniors to lead the way as the captains for the 2011-2012 team. Ryan Broekhoff, Erik Buggs and Matt Kenney will share the captaincy this season.
Not Many Freshmen Either: The scales are even in terms of seniors and freshmen on this year’s Crusader squad. While Valpo has five newcomers joining the program this year, just one of them, Jamaican Vashil Fernandez, is in his first season of collegiate eligibility.
A Short Bench: Valpo enters the regular season with just nine scholarship players available to step on the court. Bobby Capobianco must sit out the entire season after transferring to Valpo from Indiana, while Ben Boggs has to sit out at least the first semester after arriving at Valpo at the semester break last year from Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, Vashil Fernandez remains unavailable pending a ruling from the NCAA on his status.
Broekhoff a Second Team All-League Pick: Junior Ryan Broekhoff earned a spot on the preseason All-League Second Team after scoring 10.3 points per game and averaging a team-best 5.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore. The Crusaders’ leading returning scorer, Broekhoff led the Horizon League last year, hitting 44.8% of his 3-point attempts. The junior also ranked among the league’s top-10 in blocked shots/game (1.1, 6th), 3-pointers made/game (1.8, 7th) and assist/turnover ratio (1.54, 8th). Broekhoff posted a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds in the exhibition win over Hillsdale and added 13 and 5 in the victory over Augustana.
Van Wijk Revved Up: Junior Kevin Van Wijk was plagued by back issues last year that limited him to just 13 minutes per game, but if the exhibition games are any indication, the Dutch big man is ready to go this year. Van Wijk registered a game-high 23 points, including the game-winning 3-point play, and seven rebounds in just 24 minutes in the win over Hillsdale, and then needed just 12 minutes to pick up nine points and seven rebounds versus Augustana.
Homer Drew: Fans have a new look on the sidelines this year, as Dr. Homer Drew, who spent 22 seasons as head coach of the Crusaders, retired this past May. Drew closed his 22-year tenure with the Crusaders with 371 career victories and led Valparaiso to nine postseason appearances over his final 16 seasons. He concluded his coaching career, which also included stints at Bethel [Ind.] and IU-South Bend, with 640 career victories over 32 seasons overall, a number which ranked 28th overall among coaches with at least ten years of NCAA Division I coaching experience. The nine postseason appearances include seven trips to the NCAA Tournament, highlighted by the Crusaders' run to the Sweet 16 in 1998, when Valpo defeated Ole Miss and Florida State in a Cinderella journey that captivated the nation.