As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners.
- Horizon League Champion (28-5, 13-3)
- RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #59/#66/#73
- Adjusted Scoring Margin = +6.9
- Likely NCAA Seed: #12
Strength: The Crusaders are an excellent defensive unit equipped with one of the best interior defenders at the mid-major level in 6’10” center Vashil Fernandez; the senior led the Horizon League in blocks per game (2.9 BPG) and boasts the sixth-best block percentage in college hoops. His ability to protect the rim – along with good complementary size around him – enables Valparaiso to prevent quality looks (or often any looks) on the inside. Bryce Drew’s group held Green Bay to just 36.8 percent shooting from inside the arc and 0.75 PPP on Tuesday night, their 44 points the lowest Horizon League championship total since Butler limited Milwaukee to the same mark in 2011. Valparaiso is also a very good rebounding team, with its offensive and defensive rebounding percentages ranking among the top 50 in America.
Weakness: Valpo suffered the highest turnover rate in the Horizon League this season and can be streaky offensively. On top of that, freshman guard Tevonn Walker – the team’s third-leading scorer (10.5 PPG) – was injured in the conference semifinals and may not be healthy in time for next week’s NCAA Tournament opener. Defensively, the Crusaders are less dominant when Fernandez is not on the floor, which – considering he only plays 24. 7 minutes per game – means there are periodic stretches of vulnerability.