Valparaiso’s Bandwagon Filling Up Fast

Posted by Ray Curren on November 20th, 2015

You can look in the back if you wish, but the Valparaiso bandwagon is just about standing room only at the moment. In mid-November. Imagine what it might look like by March. There’s good reason, of course, for all the Valpo love, as the Crusaders can check off just about every box there is on the dangerous mid-major checklist.
  • Veteran team? Check. Valpo returns 10 of 11 letterwinners from last season’s 28-6 squad, including 98.3 percent of its minutes played and 98.8 percent of its scoring.
  • Been there before? Yup. The Crusaders had a chance to upset Maryland (as a No. 13 seed) late in last year’s NCAA Tournament before eventually falling, 65-62. It was Valpo’s ninth trip to the NCAAs since 1996.
  • Star player? How about 6’9” junior Alec Peters, who was 13th nationally in three-point percentage (46.7%) last season and finished in the top 100 nationally in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and three-pointers per game (and finished sixth in the Horizon League in rebounding).
Alec Peters is the engine that drives an impressive Valpo squad. (Valparaiso Athletics)

Alec Peters is the engine that drives an impressive Valpo squad. (Valparaiso Athletics)

Valparaiso’s Q-rating is also helped by the fact that mere mention of the school’s name sends the casual fan’s brain back to 1998, when current Valpo coach Bryce Drew — then coached by his father — hit one of the most memorable shots in NCAA Tournament history, beating Mississippi on “The Shot” (it ended up winning an ESPY for Play of the Year). Drew has been asked approximately 125,342 times about that March 1998 afternoon, and has smiled when responding to each and every query. He even hopes that number dramatically rises in the next few months because it would mean the Crusaders are winning big games. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Tourney Primers: Horizon League

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 3rd, 2015

It’s the start of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the next 13 days of games by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way – starting with tonight’s action.

Horizon League Tournament

Dates: March 3, 6, 7, 10

Site: First round is at campus sites; quarterfinals and semifinals are at Athletics Recreation Center (Valparaiso, IN); championship is at a campus site (seeded team hosts)

horizonleague

What to expect: Valparaiso came up big at Cleveland State last Friday, clinching the outright conference title and earning the right to play in its own gym. That’s good news for the Crusaders, which rolled to a 26-5 record and went undefeated at home in conference play. The bad news? There are several strong challengers – Green Bay, Cleveland State and Oakland – each good enough to make a run at Bryce Drew’s club, even on the road. The senior-laden Phoenix, led by Keifer Sykes, will be an especially tough out.

Favorite: Valparaiso. The Crusaders are an exceptional defensive unit, only once surrendering more than a point per possession at home during league play. They boast the 14th-best interior defense in college hoops, thanks largely to the presence of 6’10” center Vashil Fernandez – the conference’s best shot-blocker. And if Sykes is the Horizon League’s best overall player, then forward Alec Peters (16.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG) can’t be far behind. Throw in home court advantage and you see why Valparaiso is the team to beat.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Tournament Primer: Horizon League

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 4th, 2014

Championship Fortnight is under way, and what better way to get you through the next two weeks of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s conference tournaments as they get started. Today, the Horizon League and Atlantic Sun tip things off.

Dates: March 4, 7, 8, 11
Site: First Round: Campus sites; Quarterfinals and Semifinals: Resch Center (Green Bay, WI); Championship: Campus site (higher-seeded team hosts)

Horizon

What to expect: Green Bay was far and away the best team in the regular season, amassing a 24-5 overall record and notching a high-profile non-conference victory over ACC regular season champion Virginia. Led by 7’1’’ center Alec Brown — an NBA prospect with an outside shot — and high-flying point guard Keifer Sykes, the Phoenix should take care of business on their home floor. Brian Wardle’s bunch has been playing some of its best basketball of the season since losing to Milwaukee in early February, securing four its final five wins on the road and dominating opponents by more than 15 points per contest. Still, watch out for Cleveland State and its lights-out three-point shooting — fourth-best in the country at 40.8 percent — as well as defending champion Valparaiso; the Crusaders took down Green Bay earlier in the year. The top seed stumbling at home is not unprecedented for this tournament, but seems unlikely this time around.

Favorite: Green Bay. The team is confident, talented and playing at home. Put simply, anything short of a championship would be hugely disappointing for the Phoenix.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story