Valparaiso (21-10, 14-4 Horizon)
Game #32: Saturday, Mar. 3 - 7:30 p.m.
Butler (19-13, 11-7 Horizon) OR Milwaukee (20-13, 11-7 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: As the 2011-2012 Horizon League regular season champion, Valparaiso earned hosting rights for the Men’s Basketball Championship and the double bye to Saturday’s semifinals. The Crusaders will face off against either fourth-seeded Milwaukee or fifth-seeded Butler Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m., live on ESPNU.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso put an emphatic end to a championship regular season last Friday evening, leading wire-to-wire in a 71-59 victory over Butler. The victory came on Senior Night in front of a sellout crowd of 5,237 and in front of a national television audience on ESPNU. The Crusaders got out to a 10-2 lead less than four minutes into the game and never led by less than six points thereafter. Kevin Van Wijk led Valpo with 18 points, going 8-of-9 from the floor, while Will Bogan added 14 and Ben Boggs 11.
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 Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary Saturday. The game will also be broadcast live on ESPNU, the fourth appearance for Valpo on ESPNU this season, with Mark Jones and Stephen Bardo on the call. Links to the live audio webcast and video webcast (via ESPN3.com), as well as to live statistics and the Valpo Gameday interactive page, 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: Milwaukee - The Crusaders hold a slight 12-11 advantage in the all-time series against Milwaukee, but the Panthers are 6-5 against Valpo since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League. The two squads each won on the road this year in the season series, with Milwaukee winning 57-55 at Valpo on Dec. 29, 2011 and the Crusaders returning the favor in Milwaukee on Jan. 27, 2012, 55-52. In all, six of the teams’ 11 meetings since Valpo joined the league have been decided by three points or less.
Butler - Valpo’s most common opponent all-time, Butler holds a sizable 67-35 lead in the all-time series against the Crusaders, including a 7-3 mark since Valpo joined the Horizon League. But the Crusaders own a slight 26-24 advantage on their home court, and in fact have won the last three meetings between the two squads, including both this season, winning a 77-71 overtime decision in Indianapolis on Dec. 3, 2011 before completing the season sweep at the ARC last Friday, 71-59.
The Road Ahead: With a win in Saturday’s semifinal, the Crusaders would play at the ARC on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. in the Horizon League title game, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. A loss Saturday means the Crusaders would not play again until the first round of the NIT, which Valpo has earned an automatic bid to by virtue of winning the Horizon League regular season title.
Scouting Milwaukee: The fourth-seeded Panthers enter Friday’s quarterfinal against Butler at 20-12 overall, having defeated ninth-seeded UIC in first round action, 68-55. The Panthers average 64.4 ppg, led by 11.1 ppg from sharpshooter Tony Meier, who hits at nearly a 41% clip from beyond the 3-point line. Second Team All-League honoree Kaylon Williams averages 10.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg and a league-high 6.5 apg, while James Haarsma chips in 10.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest.
Scouting Butler: The Bulldogs enter Friday night’s quarterfinal against Milwaukee at 19-13 overall after beating eighth-seeded Wright State in the first round, 70-52. Butler scores just 63.6 points per game, but allows just 61 points a contest as well. Andrew Smith is the only Bulldog who averages in double figures, posting 11.1 ppg to go with 5.2 rebounds per game, while Second Team All-League recipient Ronald Nored contributes 7.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Award Winners: The Horizon League announced its postseason award winners earlier this week, and it was a haul unlike any for Valpo since the 2001-2002 campaign in the Mid-Con. Junior forward Ryan Broekhoff claimed the HL Player of the Year hardware, the first Crusader to be named Player of the Year since Lubos Barton in 01-02, while first-year head coach Bryce Drew was tabbed as Coach of the Year, Valpo’s first such honor since Homer Drew earned the Mid-Con CoY award in 01-02. Meanwhile, junior forward Kevin Van Wijk joined Broekhoff on the All-League First Team, giving Valpo two First Team honorees for the first time since 01-02.
Regular Season Champions: Valpo’s 66-62 overtime victory over Loyola last Tuesday assured the Crusaders they would be outright Horizon League regular season champions, and the Crusaders closed the regular season two games up on the field with a 71-59 victory in the season finale over Butler. Valpo won the outright title in just its fifth season as a Horizon League member, and the championship assures the Crusaders of the #1 seed in the upcoming Horizon League Championship, which will be held at the ARC. It also guarantees that Valpo will go to the postseason for the 11th time in the last 17 years, as all NCAA Division I conference regular season champions are assured of at least a berth in the NIT.
It’s Been a While: While the Valpo men’s basketball program has a legacy of championships, it’s been a few years since the Crusaders have been able to celebrate a title. Valpo’s last regular season championship came in the 2003-2004 season, when the Crusaders defeated Chicago State in the regular season finale to claim the outright Mid-Continent Conference title. That regular season title also ended a stretch of nine regular season Mid-Con titles in ten years.
20 x 12: The Crusaders’ victory over Loyola last Tuesday also assured Valpo of winning at least 20 games for the second consecutive year, a milestone which the program has now reached in 12 of the last 19 seasons. Homer Drew led Valpo to ten 20+ win campaigns, while Scott Drew and Bryce Drew have now both guided the Crusaders to at least 20 victories in their seasons as head coach.
The League Tournament: Valpo will host at least the quarterfinals and semifinals of the 2012 Horizon League Championship at the ARC. Friday’s quarterfinals are at 5:00 and 7:30 p.m., featuring the winners of the first round games, while Saturday’s semifinals are at the same time, matching the quarterfinal winners from Friday against Valpo and Cleveland State. With a win Saturday, the Crusaders would also host Tuesday’s title game at 8:00 p.m.
Valpo in HL Championship Action: The Crusaders are 4-4 all-time in the Horizon League Championship, but this will be their first year earning the double bye to the semifinals. Valpo went 2-1 in both 2008 and 2011, advancing to the semifinals, while the Crusaders dropped first-round matchups in 2009 and 2010.
Finishing Close Games: One reason the Crusaders were able to win the league’s regular season title was their ability to win the tight games. Valpo owns an 8-2 overall record this season in games decided by five or fewer points. Within Horizon League play, the Crusaders were 7-1 in games decided by either five or fewer points or in overtime, and in fact have won their last six such games, including last Tuesday’s clincher over Loyola.
Proficiency Inside the Arc: Valparaiso’s success shooting from 2-point range has carried over into the 2011-2012 season. Last season, the Crusaders finished the year hitting 55.3% of their 2-point attempts, good for third nationally. So far this year, Valpo has connected at nearly the exact same rate from inside, knocking down 55.1% of its tries from inside the arc, good for sixth nationally. In fact, of Valpo’s seven rotation players who have been playing the entire season, all seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Last time out against Butler, the Crusaders went 15-of-23 (.652) from inside the arc, led by Van Wijk’s 8-of-9 effort.
Home Court Advantage: Valparaiso hopes to utilize its home court advantage during the 2012 Horizon League Championship. In 15 regular season home games at the ARC this season, the Crusaders boasted a 13-2 home record and now own a 259-112 (.698) all-time record at the ARC, including a 206-47 (.814) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. The Crusaders are also guaranteed to finish well above .500 at home, which will mark the 19th consecutive season with at least a .500 record on their home court.
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 entered this season 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 (then) best record in league play since entering the HL and finishing just one game out of a share of the regular season title.
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.
Shots From the Heart: Both Valpo head coach Bryce Drew and assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. participated in the 2nd Annual Shots From the Heart Tournament, in benefit of the Skip Prosser Foundation. The tournament was started last year to help create more awareness for the growing problem of heart disease, and consists of two 64-coach fields (one bracket of head coaches and one bracket of assistant coaches) participating in a free throw shooting contest. Drew was eliminated in the second round, while Powell fell in the third round.
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 started the season as the lone member of this year’s senior class, as fellow senior walk-on Nathan Stegelmann was added to the roster in mid-November.
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.
Short Bench: Finally, the Crusaders have available to them all 10 scholarship athletes who are eligible. Other than the Dec. 17 game against Oakland, Valpo had not been able to use the full contingent of 10. Prior to that point, Ben Boggs had to sit out the first semester after transferring in from Virginia Tech, while Tommy Kurth had missed nine games due to illness. The Crusaders are also without scholarship players Bobby Capobianco, who must sit out the entire season after transferring to Valpo from Indiana, and Vashil Fernandez, who will be sitting out this season.
A Set Rotation: Head coach Bryce Drew seems to have settled into a regular eight-man rotation as the Crusaders head into tournament play. Other than the disqualification of Richie Edwards after just four minutes at Milwaukee and an injury to Kevin Van Wijk at Cleveland State which forced him to miss the YSU and LMU games, over the last 15 games, all eight regulars have played at least 10 minutes in every game, while over the same stretch, only twice (Broekhoff at Wright State and against Loyola) has any Crusader been asked to play more than 35 minutes. Last time out in the victory over Butler, Broekhoff and Buggs led the way with 33 minutes apiece, as all eight rotation players saw at least 16 minutes of action.
Player of the Year: HL Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff led the league in rebounding, averaging 8.4 rebounds per game, and has totaled 261 rebounds to date, already tied for ninth-most in a single season in Crusader history. Broekhoff also ranks fourth in the league in scoring, posting 14.8 ppg, and scored in double figures in 26 out of Valpo’s 31 games. The junior forward easily led the Horizon League with 11 double-doubles, the most by a Valpo player since Kikas Gomes had 12 double-doubles in the 2003-2004 campaign. Broekhoff also closed the regular season among the league’s top-ten in eight different statistical categories.
Onward and Upward: Broekhoff’s tremendous season also has him already moving up Valpo’s all-time charts in a number of categories. The junior ranks tenth all-time at Valpo with 70 career blocked shots and seventh in 3-pointers made with 164 career triples. With Broekhoff’s nine rebounds last Friday, he now has 572 career rebounds as well, good for 15th in Crusader history and just two rebounds shy of the 14th spot.
Doing Work in the Post: First Team All-HL honoree Kevin Van Wijk has been a stalwart for the Crusaders in the paint all season long. Van Wijk finished fifth in the league in scoring (14.4 ppg) and easily led the league in field goal percentage, hitting 62.6% of his shots, good for fifth nationally. The two-time HL Player of the Week had just four games all season in which he hit less than half of his field goal attempts and scored in double figures on 24 occasions, including six efforts of 20+ points.
Bogan Comes Up Big: Redshirt junior Will Bogan had a pair of big games as the Crusaders clinched the Horizon League regular season title last weekend. Bogan bookended the Crusaders’ win over Loyola with big shots on both sides, ending the night with 16 points. The junior hit a pair of 3-pointers to get Valpo out to an early 8-0 lead, and then with the Crusaders up just one point with under two minutes to play in overtime, hit shots on two consecutive possessions to push the advantage to four points. Then on Friday against Butler, Bogan again hit a pair of early triples en route to a 14-point night, which included a career high five free throw makes. Bogan went 7-for-13 from behind the 3-point line over the two games and has hit 42.6% from deep this year, which ranks fourth among all HL players. He also now has 12 games this season in which he has hit at least three 3-pointers.