Valparaiso (22-11, 14-4 Horizon)
Game #34: Wednesday, Mar. 14 - 6:30 p.m. CDT
at Miami (19-12, 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference)
BankUnited Center (8,000) - Coral Gables, Fla.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso takes to the postseason for the 11th time in the last 17 seasons, as the Crusaders travel to Coral Gables, Fla. as a seventh seed in the 2012 National Invitation Tournament to take on second-seeded Miami out of the ACC. It marks Valpo’s second all-time appearance in the postseason NIT, as the Crusaders also earned an NIT berth in 2003.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso led by three at the half in the 2012 Horizon League Championship title game last Tuesday evening at the ARC, but Detroit out-scored the Crusaders 46-23 over the final 20 minutes as Valpo fell by a 70-50 final. Kevin Van Wijk led the Crusaders with 17 points and eight rebounds, hitting 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Ryan Broekhoff added 13 points and six rebounds, while Matt Kenney contributed seven points and a career-best 10 rebounds off the bench. The Crusaders shot just 36.4% (16-of-44) for the game, including just 2-of-18 from beyond the 3-point line.
Following the Crusaders: Wednesday night’s game will be broadcast live on ESPNU, the fifth appearance for Valpo on the ESPN family of networks in its last six games. Mark Jones and Tim Welsh will be on the call on the U Wednesday evening. Meanwhile, Todd Ickow - in his 20th year on the call of Crusader men’s basketball - will have the play-by-play on Wednesday night live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), while Aaron Leavitt will join him on color commentary. As always, the live audio and video (through ESPN3.com) webcasts, as well as a link for live statistics, will be available through 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: The Crusaders and Hurricanes have met just once in program history, way back on Dec. 28, 1956 as part of the Orange Bowl Classic, a game which Valpo won 81-76. Valpo holds a 2-9 record all-time against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, while Miami will mark the fourth different ACC squad that the Crusaders have faced in postseason play.
The Road Ahead: A win on Wednesday would move the Crusaders on into the second round of the NIT on a to-be-determined date against either third-seeded La Salle or sixth-seeded Minnesota. The game woudl be played anywhere from Friday, March 16 to Monday, March 19.
Scouting Miami: The Hurricanes enter Wednesday’s first-round NIT matchup at 19-12 overall, having finished in a tie for fourth place in the ACC regular season with a 9-7 league mark. Miami lost in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament to eventual champion Florida State, and owns victories over the Seminoles and at Duke this season. Four players average in double figures for the Hurricanes, which average 71.2 ppg as a team, led by 12.9 ppg from Durand Scott. Post player Reggie Johnson posts a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game to go with 10.1 points per game.
Back in the NIT: This year marks Valpo’s second foray into the postseason NIT, with the Crusaders looking for a better result than the first go-round. Valpo previously participated in the NIT in the 2003 season, learning Sunday afternoon it would play at Iowa just over 24 hours later on Monday night, March 17. The Crusaders battled with the Hawkeyes in Iowa City before suffering a narrow 62-60 loss. Valpo was led by 14 points off the bench from Stalin Ortiz, while Ali Berdiel added 13 points.
Crusaders In the Postseason: Valpo’s bid to the NIT marks the Crusaders’ 11th postseason appearance in the last 17 years. Valpo has been to the NCAA Tournament seven times and the NIT, CBI and CIT one time apiece, with an overall record in postseason play of 3-9. See page four of the PDF notes for a complete list of D-I postseason games.
Keeping a Postseason Tradition Alive: With this year’s bid to the NIT, the Crusaders continue a streak that started with the Valpo basketball class of 1996, which was the first to appear in postseason play on the D-I level. Since then, all 20 four-year classes (counting through this year’s freshmen class) have experienced at least one postseason tournament over their four years.
Award Winners: When the Horizon League announced its postseason award winners at the conclusion of the regular season, 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 and hosting rights for the Horizon League Championship.
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.
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 just about the same rate from inside, knocking down 55.2% 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. Despite a subpar overall shooting performance in the HL title game agaisnt Detroit last Tuesday, Valpo still connected on 14-of-26 (53.8%) of its tries from inside the arc.
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 the clincher over Loyola on Feb. 21.
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.
A Set Rotation: Head coach Bryce Drew seems to have settled into a regular eight-man rotation over the second half of the season. 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 17 games, all eight regulars have played at least 10 minutes in every game, while over the same stretch, only three times (Broekhoff at Wright State, against Loyola and in the HL title game vs. Detroit) has any Crusader been asked to play more than 35 minutes. Last time out in the league championship game, Broekhoff played a team-high 37 minutes, while all eight players saw at least 13 minutes of action.
Player of the Year: HL Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff leads the league in rebounding, averaging 8.6 rebounds per game, and has totaled 283 rebounds to date, already sixth-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 14.8 ppg, and has scored in double figures in 28 out of Valpo’s 33 games. The junior forward earned All-Tournament Team honors at the HL Championship after going for 13 points and six rebounds against Detroit and 19 points with a career-high 16 rebounds against Butler, his 12th double-double of the year. The 12 double-doubles matches 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 another shot in the HL title game and now is ninth all-time at Valpo with 73 career blocked shots. Broekhoff also made a triple last Tuesday, giving him 167 career 3-pointers, seventh-most all-time. With his six rebounds against the Titans, he now has 594 career rebounds as well, moving him into 13th in Crusader history.
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 (14.4 ppg) and easily leads the league in field goal percentage, hitting 62.5% 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 26 occasions, including six efforts of 20+ points. Van Wijk earned HL All-Tournament Team honors as well following games of 11 points/7 rebounds against Butler and 17 points/8 rebounds versus Detroit.
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 fifth on the team, respectively, in scoring. The trio has averaged 25.5 ppg for the Crusaders this season. Individually, Edwards has led the Crusaders on six occasions, including three consecutive games late in the season. Harris has paced Valpo in the scoring column three times, while Kenney led all Crusaders in their home win over Green Bay earlier this season.