Valparaiso (5-1, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #7: Friday, Nov. 25 - 5:30 p.m. CST
at #3/3 Ohio State (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Value City Arena (19,049)
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso travels to Columbus, Ohio for a Friday evening showdown against the nation’s third-ranked team in Ohio State. The Crusaders enter the game, which can be seen live on the Big Ten Network, on a five-game winning streak.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders captured the Valparaiso Subregional of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer with a trio of victories last weekend. Valpo defeated Akron (62-59), IU Kokomo (79-48) and Duquesne (84-68) on consecutive days to earn the crown. Junior Ryan Broekhoff was named Subregional MVP, while junior Kevin Van Wijk joined Broekhoff on the All-Tournament Team.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Friday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso) and WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City). Todd Ickow is back for his 20th season on play-by-play, while Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary. The game will also be broadcast live nationwide on the Big Ten Network. A link to the live audio, as well as live statistics, will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew made his head coaching debut at Arizona on Nov. 7, as he 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 Ohio State have split their two meetings all-time. The Crusaders earned a 67-64 victory in the third-place game of the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 25, 2000, with Jason Jenkins earning Player of the Game honors after scoring 22 points. The Buckeyes defeated Valpo in Columbus on Dec. 2, 2006, 78-58, with Samuel Haanpaa pacing the Crusaders in that effort with 18 points.
The Road Ahead: After opening the season with seven games in an 18-day stretch, Valpo will have eight days before it takes to the hardwood again, as the Crusaders open Horizon League play Saturday, Dec. 3 at Butler. The Crusaders then conclude their three-game road trip at IPFW on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Scouting Ohio State: The Buckeyes have defended their #3 ranking to start the season, opening the year with four straight victories, including a 73-42 victory over fellow Horizon League squad Wright State. Ohio State, which has a game Wednesday night against VMI prior to taking on the Crusaders, is averaging 81.0 ppg, led by 20.5 ppg and 9.8 rpg from national preseason player of the year Jared Sullinger.
Tournament Success: The Crusaders won the Valparaiso Subregional of the 2K Sports Classic last weekend, continuing their success in in-season tournaments over the last couple years. Last season saw Valpo take the Upper Division Championship of the Las Vegas Invitational by defeating Northern Colorado and Texas A&M-CC, as well as the Lou Henson Award Tournament with wins over Eastern Michigan and Oakland.
Quick Start to the Season: Never in Valpo’s Division I era has it played so many games so early in the calendar (six games by Nov. 20), but the Crusaders have utilized the front-loaded schedule to get off to a great start. After dropping the opener, Valpo has won five consecutive games to enter Friday with a 5-1 record. It marks just the second time in the last 13 years that the Crusaders have picked up at least five wins before their second loss, as only the 2007-2008 squad has had a better start, beginning the year 10-1.
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.
Home Court Advantage: With 15 regular season home games slated for the ARC this year, Valparaiso has plenty of opportunities to utilize its home court advantage. After the sweep of four home games last week, the Crusaders own a 250-110 (.694) all-time record at the ARC, including a 197-45 (.814) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. The Crusaders have also finished above .500 on their home court in each of the last 18 years.
High-Scoring Coaching Staff: Valparaiso boasts the third-highest scoring coaching staff in Division I basketball, as judged by points scored by the core four coaches at the Division I level. Head coach Bryce Drew scored 2,142 points at Valpo, while assistant coach Jake Diebler scored 826 points as a Crusader. Assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. added 1,178 points during his time at Illinois. Valpo’s total of 4,146 Division I points trails just Tennessee and Auburn.
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.
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.
Who Needs 3’s?: The Crusaders proved they didn’t need the 3-pointer to win last Friday against Akron. Valpo went 0-for-14 from behind the arc, but went 19-for-32 inside the arc and 24-for-38 from the foul line in the victory. In fact, all 19 of Valpo’s baskets against the Zips came in the paint.
Getting to the Line: Valpo has proven to be one of the most proficient teams in the early going of the season at getting to the free throw line. The Crusaders have attempted 178 free throws through six games, trailing just St. John’s (186) and Duke (182) in total free throw attempts. Valpo is also connecting at a .719 clip, hitting 128 free throws to date, 20 more than its opponents have even attempted.
Getting Defensive: Valpo surrendered just 38 points to Holy Cross on Monday evening, holding the Saints to just 23.3% shooting from the floor. The 38 points allowed was the least by a Crusader squad since Valpo pulled out a 35-33 nailbiter against Green Bay on Jan. 21, 1984.
Subregional MVP: Junior Ryan Broekhoff was named the MVP of the 2K Sports Classic Valparaiso Subregional after a trio of stellar performances. Broekhoff registered a pair of double-doubles (13p, 11r vs. Akron; 21p, 13r vs. Duquesne) and in between led the Crusaders with 13 points in just 10 minutes against IU Kokomo. Rowdy also found his 3-point stroke in Sunday’s win over the Dukes, connecting on a season-high five 3-pointers.
Fighting Down Low: Junior Kevin Van Wijk continues to lead the Crusaders’ interior play. The native of the Netherlands earned a spot on the 2K Sports Classic All-Tournament Team and was named Horizon League Player of the Week after posting 21 points and 10 rebounds vs. Akron and a career-high 22 points and nine rebounds against Duquesne. The double-double against the Zips was the first of his career, as Van Wijk cracked double figures in rebounding for the first time. Van Wijk is a big part of the reason that Valpo is out-scoring opponents in the paint by better than 15 points per game (37.7-22.3).
Simply Perfect: Sophomore Jay Harris has literally been perfect at the free throw line so far this season. Harris has connected on all 20 of his attempts from the line, second-most in the nation among players who haven’t missed a free throw, and is now 57-of-59 (.966) for his career at the charity stripe. The sophomore scored 14 points, including a career-high eight free throws, in the win over Akron, and added 17, including a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown, against Duquesne.
Filling the Stat Sheet: Junior Matt Kenney filled up pretty much every column of the stat sheet in Valpo’s two D-I wins last weekend. The junior averaged 10.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in the victories over Akron and Duquesne.
Pull Down the Boards: Redshirt sophomore Hrvoje Vucic received his first career start Saturday against IU Kokomo and dominated the glass in his 27 minutes. Vucic pulled down 15 rebounds, easily a career high. In fact, it was the most rebounds by a single Crusader since Michael Rogers grabbed 15 against Wright State on Jan. 10, 2009.
Don’t Call Him Rudy: Senior walk-on Nick Shelton was rewarded for his hard work over the last three-plus years by head coach Bryce Drew with his first career start against IU Kokomo on Saturday. Playing a career-high 23 minutes, Shelton chipped in an assist and a rebound. After playing just 52 minutes over his first three seasons, Shelton has already seen 36 minutes of action this year.
Not Even a Scorecard Helps: The old saying goes “You can’t know the players without a scorecard.” Well, this past weekend, not even the scorecard within the game program would have helped identify two new Crusader walk-ons. Griffyn Carpenter joined the active roster prior to the Akron game, while Nathan Stegelmann was added to the team just five hours before the IU Kokomo contest. Both players played significant roles in the win Saturday over the Cougars as well. Stegelmann was one of four Crusaders in double digits, finishing his debut with 11 points, six rebounds and a Valpo season-best four blocked shots in 24 minutes. Meanwhile, Carpenter contributed five points, five rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes in his debut.