Valparaiso (0-0, 0-0 MVC)
Game #1 - Friday, November 10 - 7 p.m.
North Park (0-0, 0-0 CCIW)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The lid lifts on the 2017-18 season for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Friday evening at the ARC, as the Crusaders welcome North Park to town. It will be a new journey for the Crusaders this year, as they commence their first season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Last Time Out: Valpo cruised to wins in both of its exhibition games in its first competition of the season, showcasing a high-octane offense at the ARC last Thursday in a 117-79 victory over Robert Morris [Ill.] and then locking down defensively on Saturday for a 77-42 win at Chicago State in a special hurricane relief exhibition contest.
Following the Crusaders: Video - The Valley on ESPN3/WatchESPN/ESPN app - Todd Ickow (PxP), David Huseman (Analyst) and Spencer Krock (Sidelines)
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) - Payton Ball (PxP) and Ben Ariano (Analyst)
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (24-9) continued the Valparaiso University men’s basketball program’s run of success in his first season as head coach of the Crusaders, and is poised to keep the program at a high level as he enters his second season in charge in 2017-2018. In his first season at the helm, Lottich guided Valpo to its fifth Horizon League regular season championship in the last six years as he led the Crusaders to 24 wins and an at-large berth into the NIT.
Series Notes: Friday marks the third regular season meeting all-time between Valpo and North Park, with the Crusaders earning easy wins in each of the previous two matchups. The last matchup came four years ago to the day of Friday’s meeting, on Nov. 10, 2013 - a 113-50 Valpo victory. The Crusaders shot 70.2% from the field in that win as eight different players scored at least nine points - led by 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting from Lavonte Dority.
- Valpo was selected to finish in sixth place in the MVC preseason poll, finishing just 12 points behind Southern Illinois for fifth place.
- The Crusaders have defeated MVC preseason favorite Missouri State in each of the last two seasons.
- Valpo has not finished worse in the final standings than its preseason projection in the last seven years.
- Senior Tevonn Walker represented the Crusaders among the preseason All-Conference honorees, earning Second Team accolades.
...looking back at last year
- The Crusaders are coming off of their third consecutive Horizon League regular season title and their fifth in the last six years, posting a 14-4 mark within league play and a 24-9 record overall.
- The regular season was highlighted by a win over #21 Rhode Island at the ARC - the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since 1998 - and wins in Las Vegas over Alabama and BYU to earn the MGM Grand Main Event title.
- Valpo earned an at-large bid into the Postseason NIT for the second time in program history, falling at Illinois in a first-round matchup. The NIT berth extended the Crusaders’ string of postseason appearances to seven straight seasons.
- Alec Peters was named an NABC Third Team All-American and an AP Honorable Mention All-American and claimed the Horizon League Player of the Year award.
- Peters closed out his career as the Crusaders’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
- Shane Hammink was a Second Team All-League selection, while Tevonn Walker was named to the league’s All-Defensive Team.
...in the exhibitions
- Valpo controlled Chicago State defensively in the special hurricane relief exhibition in Chicago, downing the Cougars 77-42.
- The Crusaders limited CSU to 24.1% shooting from the field in the victory and held the Cougars to just 15 second-half points.
- Tevonn Walker finished the game with a double-double, posting 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Bakari Evelyn added 12 points and Joe Burton chipped in 10 points.
- Valpo wowed the fans at the ARC in the first exhibition game, racing to a 117-69 victory over Robert Morris [Ill.], which was ranked #12 in the NAIA Division II preseason poll.
- The Crusaders’ bench scoring alone matched the Eagles’ entire offensive output (69 points), while Valpo also racked up 34 fast-break points.
- Seven different Valpo players scored in double figures in the win over RMU, led by 17 points apiece from Micah Bradford and Markus Golder.
- Golder threw down four dunks as the Crusaders racked up eight slams as a team.
- Valpo will return to action with another home game on Monday evening, as the Crusaders host Trinity Christian at the ARC.
- A trip to Edwardsville, Ill. follows, as Valpo makes the trip for a Wednesday night showdown with SIUE.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 14 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season.
- The Crusaders posted a 15-2 record in 17 home games last season, one year after setting a program record with 17 home victories.
- Valpo has recorded a 47-4 record in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Over the last 22 years, the Crusaders own a 282-60 (.825) record on their home court at the ARC.
...in home openers
- Valpo has won its home opener each of the last 12 years, including 11 victories by double digits.
- Last season, the Crusaders took down Southern Utah 79-65 to open up the campaign, led by 23 points and eight rebounds from Alec Peters.
- The last time Valpo lost a home opener was Nov. 27, 2004, falling to Charlotte 85-71.
- The Vikings are coming off an 18-8 season last year and went 11-5 in CCIW action in 2016-17.
- Friday night’s game will be the season opener for North Park.
- Senior guard Colin Lake is the Vikings’ leading returning scorer, as he averaged 12.8 ppg a year ago and hit at nearly a 40% clip from 3-point range.
Valpo in the Valley
- A new era begins this year for Valpo men’s basketball and the athletics department and University as a whole, as the 2017-18 year is Valpo’s first as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Valley is renowned for its men’s basketball success on the national stage. Since the year 2000, The Valley has earned 33 bids to the NCAA Tournament – 18 automatic bids and 15 at-large berths – and has posted 27 tournament victories.
- Since 2010, 12 MVC programs in the NCAA Tournament have combined for 16 victories.
- The Crusaders are looking to carry over the success they’ve had in the past two-plus decades into The Valley.
- Over its last 13 years as a member of the Mid-Continent Conference (1994-2007), Valpo claimed nine regular season and eight tournament championships.
- Then, in a decade as a Horizon League member, the Crusaders won five regular season and two tournament titles.
- Six letterwinners return from last year’s 24-win squad, including one full-time starter in Tevonn Walker and a trio of part-time starters in Derrik Smits, Micah Bradford and Jaume Sorolla.
- In all, the Crusaders return 50.2% of minutes played, 46.3% of rebounding and 40.7% of scoring from last year’s team.
- Six players will take the floor for the first time for the Crusaders this year.
- A pair of high-major transfers are eligible after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Joe Burton (Oklahoma State) has two seasons of eligibility remaining, while Bakari Evelyn (Nebraska) is entering his sophomore season of eligibility.
- A third transfer joins the Crusaders with three years remaining as well, as Markus Golder comes to Valpo from North Idaho College.
- The three transfers are joined by three true freshmen - Indiana H.S. products Mileek McMillan and Parker Hazen, and German import Marten Linssen.
The International Flavor
- This year’s squad continues the international pipeline that Valpo has cultivated over the past two decades.
- The Crusaders boast four international players on this year’s roster from three different countries.
- Represented are Canada (Joseph and Walker), Spain (Sorolla) and Germany (Linssen).
- Over the past 21 years, the Crusaders have welcomed 33 international players from 19 different countries.
Crusaders Sign Javon Freeman-Liberty
- One of the top prospects in the Class of 2018 in the state of Illinois, Javon Freeman-Liberty signed a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period and will join Valpo as a freshman for the 2018-19 season.
- Freeman-Liberty helped lead Whitney Young H.S. to the Illinois Class 4A state title last year as a junior, averaging 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
- The 6’4” Chicago native is a consensus top-10 prospect in his class in Illinois and is ranked fifth overall in the state and 37th nationally among shooting guards by ESPN. He played his AAU basketball last summer for Meanstreets.
- Valpo is looking to continue its recent string of successful non-conference campaigns.
- The Crusaders have entered conference play with at least 10 victories under their belt in four of the last five years, including a 10-3 mark in pre-conference action each of the last two seasons.
- Valpo owns a 51-19 (.729) record in pre-league action over the last five seasons.