Valparaiso (5-2, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #8: Saturday, Dec. 3 - 1 p.m. CST
at Butler (4-3, 0-0 Horizon)
Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,000) - Indianapolis, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso opens Horizon League play on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders travel to Indianapolis to face off against in-state rival Butler. The game is the lone league contest for Valpo until the heart of Horizon League action starts on Dec. 29.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso was within four points at halftime Friday evening at #3/3 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, thanks in large part to 15 first-half points from sophomore Jay Harris, but the Buckeyes hit their first eight field goal attempts of the second half as the Crusaders eventually fell by a final score of 80-47. Harris would end the game with 18 points, but was the only Crusader in double figures. Ryan Broekhoff pulled down a team-best 11 rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Saturday'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 Aaron Leavitt will join him on color commentary Saturday. The game can be seen in the Indianapolis area on WNDY-23 and online via the Horizon League Network, or on your mobile device with the HLN Live app. Links to the live audio and video webcasts, 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 is taking on its most common all-time opponent this Saturday, as the Crusaders have faced Butler 100 times in program history. The Bulldogs hold a 67-33 lead in the all-time series, but it was Valpo which earned the victory in the last matchup, downing Butler at the ARC in overtime, 85-79. Four Crusaders scored at least 15 points in the game, with Howard Little hitting a pair of big shots with the shot clock running down in the last 90 seconds of overtime.
The Road Ahead: Valpo concludes a three-game road trip on Wednesday, traveling to IPFW for a non-league matchup. The Crusaders then have a pair of home games bookending the final exam period, taking on Bowling Green on Dec. 10 and Oakland on Dec. 17.
Scouting Butler: The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s game with a 4-3 record and are coming off a 98-53 victory over Oakland City on Tuesday. Butler is outscoring its opponents by better than five points per game this year, led by 12.9 points per game from Chrishawn Hopkins. Andrew Smith adds 11.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Starting League Play on the Road: Since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 season, league play has opened with one weekend in early December. For the fifth straight year, Valpo will play that opening weekend on the road, but the Crusaders haven’t let that stop them from generally experiencing success in the early going. Valpo owns a 5-2 record in the last four years in the opening weekend, including a pair of two-game road sweeps. The Crusaders played at Butler in the opening weekend in 2009-2010, falling to the then-nationally ranked Bulldogs.
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 had it played so many games so early in the calendar (six games by Nov. 20), but the Crusaders utilized the front-loaded schedule to get off to a strong start to the season. After dropping its opener, Valpo won five consecutive games before falling at Ohio State last Friday. It marks just the second time in the last 13 years that the Crusaders picked up at least five wins before their second loss, as only the 2007-2008 squad 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 their first four home games, 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 their game Nov. 18 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. Despite attempting just two free throws last time out against Ohio State, Valpo ranks among the top-20 nationally with 180 total free throw attempts. Valpo is also connecting at a .717 clip, hitting 129 free throws to date, the same number of freebies that the Crusaders’ opponents have atttempted.
Getting Defensive: Valpo surrendered just 38 points to Holy Cross on Nov. 14, 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 the win over the Dukes, connecting on a season-high five 3-pointers. Last time out against Ohio State, Broekhoff reached double figures in rebounding for the third time in four games, grabbing 11 boards.
Harris Lights It Up: Sophomore Jay Harris showcased his shooting ability in Friday’s game at Ohio State, nailing four 3-pointers en route to 18 points, including 15 in the first half. Harris has now scored in double figures in three of Valpo’s last four games, averaging 14.3 ppg over that span. The sophomore also has literally been perfect at the free throw line so far this season, connecting on all 20 of his attempts from the line. Harris’ 20 makes are tied for the national lead among players who haven’t missed a free throw, while he is now 57-of-59 (.966) for his career at the charity stripe.
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 10 points per game (35.1-24.3).