Valparaiso (22-10, 14-4 Horizon)
Game #33: Tuesday, Mar. 6 - 8 p.m.
Detroit (21-13, 11-7 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: 40 minutes stand in between Valparaiso and a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, as the Crusaders host Detroit at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Tuesday evening in the Horizon League Championship title game. The winner of Tuesday’s game, which will be televised live nationally on ESPN, will earn the Horizon League’s automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso captured its second victory over Butler at the ARC in eight days, downing the Bulldogs 65-46 in front of a frenzied crowd Saturday evening in the second of two Horizon League Championship semifinals. The Crusaders got a monster effort from Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff, who posted the biggest of his 12 double-doubles on the season with game highs of 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Tuesday'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 20th season on play-by-play, while Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary Tuesday. The game will also be broadcast live on ESPN, the fifth appearance for Valpo on the ESPN family of networks this season, with Mark Jones and Stephen Bardo on the call, while it also will be available nationally on the radio on Westwood One, with Dave Ryan and Pete Gillen calling the action. Links to the live VSRN 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: 2012 Horizon League Coach of the Year 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 owns an 11-7 advantage in the all-time series over the Titans, but has been even more impressive since joining the Horizon League, winning eight of the 11 matchups, including the last five in a row. This season featured two Crusader victories, including a dramatic win at Detroit, capped by an end-to-end layup as the buzzer sounded by Erik Buggs, giving the Crusaders a 73-71 win on Jan. 6. Will Bogan posted a career-high 23 points in that contest, hitting 7-of-8 from behind the 3-point line. Then, at the ARC on Feb. 2, Valpo overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to come from behind for a 78-73 win, thanks in large part to a 6-of-6 effort from downtown by Ryan Broekhoff, who ended the night with a career-high 26 points.
The Road Ahead: No matter the result of Tuesday night’s game, Valpo knows its season will continue in the postseason next week. The Crusaders will find out their destination on Sunday evening. With a victory against Detroit on Tuesday, Valpo will tune in to the NCAA Tournament selection show having earned the HL’s automatic bid to the Big Dance. With a loss, the Crusaders would wait for the NIT pairings to come out later Sunday night to find out their next destination and opponent, as they have clinched an automatic berth into the NIT thanks to winning the regular season championship.
Scouting Detroit: The Titans enter Tuesday night’s championship clash at 21-13 on the season. Detroit was the third seed in the HL Championship, downing Loyola (80-71), Youngstown State (93-76) and Cleveland State (63-58) to advance to the title game. The Titans boast the highest-scoring offense in the Horizon League at 72.9 points per game, as four players average in double figures and a fifth averages better than nine points per contest. Detroit is led by First Team All-League honoree Ray McCallum, who posts 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
Title Games: Tuesday night marks Valparaiso’s 11th appearance in a conference championship game at the Division I level, but the Crusaders’ first since joining the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 campaign. All 10 of Valpo’s previous title game appearances came in the Mid-Continent Conference, where it went 8-2 in the title games.
Third Time’s Still the Charm: While the old coach’s adage is that it is tough to beat a team three times in one year, Valparaiso has had no such problem doing so over the last 20 years. The Crusaders beat a pair of teams (Youngstown State, Detroit) in Horizon League Championship action last year that it already owned two wins against, and then this year beat Butler in the semifinals after sweeping the regular season, giving them a 17-2 record over the last 20 years when facing a team in postseason action that it defeated twice in the regular season. The Crusaders beat Detroit in both regular season matchups this year. A full list of such games can be found on page four of these notes.
Award Winners: The Horizon League announced its postseason award winners last 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 on Feb. 21 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 assured the Crusaders of the #1 seed in the upcoming Horizon League Championship. It also guaranteed 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 Feb. 21 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.
Valpo in HL Championship Action: Following Saturday’s win over the Bulldogs of Butler, the Crusaders are 5-4 all-time in the Horizon League Championship. This was Valpo’s first year earning the double bye to the semifinals, however. Valpo went 2-1 in both 2008 and 2011, advancing to the semifinals, while the Crusaders dropped first-round matchups in 2009 and 2010.
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 the exact same rate from inside, knocking down 55.3% of its tries from inside the arc, good for fifth 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 in the semifinal victory over Butler, the Crusaders connected on 17 of their 27 attempts (63.0%) from inside the arc.
Home Court Advantage: Valparaiso hopes to utilize its home court advantage to its full capacity during Tuesday’s title game. In 15 regular season home games at the ARC this season, the Crusaders lost just twice, and are now 14-2 at the ARC following Saturday night’s win over Butler, matching the program record for most home victories in a single season. Valpo now owns a 260-112 (.699) all-time record at the ARC, including a 207-47 (.815) 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.
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.
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: Valparaiso has had just 10 scholarship players who were eligible to play this season, and other than the games against Oakland and at Green Bay, the Crusaders have not had the full contingent of 10 all play in a single game. Prior to the Oakland game, Ben Boggs had to sit out the first semester after transferring in from Virginia Tech. 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 16 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 played 33 minutes, but was the only Crusader to play more than 28 minutes, as all eight regulars played at least 19 minutes each.
Player of the Year: HL Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff leads the league in rebounding, averaging 8.7 rebounds per game, and has totaled 277 rebounds to date, already seventh-most in a single season in Crusader history and most by any Crusader since 1996. Broekhoff also ranks fourth in the league in scoring, posting 14.9 ppg, and has scored in double figures in 27 out of Valpo’s 32 games. The junior forward easily leads the Horizon League with 12 double-doubles following his monster effort against Butler, where he went for 19 points and a career-best 16 rebounds. The 12 double-doubles matches the most by a Valpo player the most by a Valpo player since Chris Ensminger had 16 such games during the 1995-1996 campaign.
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 swatted a pair of shots Saturday against Butler and now is tied for ninth all-time at Valpo with 72 career blocked shots. Broekhoff also made two triples on Saturday, giving him 166 career 3-pointers, seventh-most all-time. With Broekhoff’s career-best 16 rebounds on Saturday, he now has 588 career rebounds as well, jumping two spots on Valpo’s career chart to 14th all-time.
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 ranks fifth in the league in scoring (14.3 ppg) and easily leads the league in field goal percentage, hitting 62.4% of his shots, good for fifth nationally. The two-time HL Player of the Week has had just four games all season in which he hit less than half of his field goal attempts and scored in double figures on 25 occasions, including six efforts of 20+ points. In the win over Butler on Saturday, Van Wijk went 4-for-7 from the floor for 11 points and also pulled down seven rebounds.
Buggs Picks Up Scoring Load: While Broekhoff and Van Wijk have been scoring in double figures most of the season, the Crusaders’ third double-figure scorer in the win over Butler on Saturday was somewhat of a surprise. Redshirt junior guard Erik Buggs stepped up with just his third double-digit output of the season on Saturday, scoring 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor. Buggs, whose season high also came against Butler earlier this season (13 points) hit two of his three 3-point attempts, matching his total season output from beyond the arc entering the game.
Production From the Bench: Valpo’s eight-man rotation features a trio of legitimate scoring threats coming off the bench in Richie Edwards, Jay Harris and Matt Kenney, who rank third, fourth and sixth on the team, respectively, in scoring. In the Butler win, Harris knocked down a pair of huge second half 3-pointers en route to nine points, while Edwards scored eight points. The trio has averaged 25.8 ppg for the Crusaders this season.