Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Making its ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1996, the 13th-seeded Valparaiso men’s basketball team travels to Columbus, Ohio to open tournament play with a Second Round game against fourth-seeded Maryland on Friday afternoon at approximately 3:45 p.m. CT.
Last Time Out: Given opportunities where it could have folded, the Valparaiso men’s basketball team did what it had done all season long – stepped up to the challenge. The Crusaders scored the final two baskets of the first half to cut their halftime deficit to six points, and then dominated the second half, outscoring Green Bay 35-19 to earn a 54-44 victory and claim the 2015 Horizon League Championship – Valpo’s second league title in three years. David Skara led Valpo with 12 points, while E. Victor Nickerson added 11 points. The win also extended the Crusaders’ school record victory total to 28 wins.
Following the Crusaders: Audio WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso Todd Ickow (PxP) and Dave Huseman (Color)
Westwood One Dave Sims (PxP) and Jim Jackson (Color)
Television TNT Ian Eagle (PxP) and Doug Gottlieb (Color)
Links for live coverage will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew (94-41) is in his fourth season at the helm of the Crusader men's basketball program in 2014-15. In his first four years to date, Drew has led Valpo to 94 victories and postseason berths in each of his four seasons, along with three Horizon League regular season and two league tournament titles. The 2012 and 2015 HL Coach of the Year, Drew ascended to the head coaching position on May 17, 2011 after spending six seasons as an assistant and associate head coach with the Crusaders.
Series Notes: Valparaiso and Maryland have met just once in program history, and that meeting also came during the NCAA Tournament, as the second-seeded Terrapins beat the 15th-seeded Crusaders, 82-60, in the first round of the 1999 tournament. Zoran Viskovic led Valpo that day with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Greg Tonagel and Jason Jenkins added 10 points each. Laron Profit and Terence Morris led all players with 18 points apiece. Steve Francis chipped in 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists for the Terrapins.
...and the @HorizonLeague
@ValpoBasketball was picked to finish in fourth place in the league standings in 2014-15 in preseason polling.
The Crusaders have now not finished worse than their preseason projection in the last five years.
Sophomore Alec Peters was the lone underclassman on the preseason #HLMBB First Team All-League squad.
...notes from Green Bay
Valpo limited Green Bay to 19 second-half points, including just 11 points in the game’s final 16:40 and five points in the last 11:43.
The Phoenix scored just one field goal in the final 12:23 of the game, as Valpo ended the game on a 23-6 run over that stretch.
The 44 points were the fewest surrendered by a Valpo team since a 71-40 win over Milwaukee on Feb. 1, 2013.
The 54 points matched the fewest scored by Valpo in a victory since a Dec. 10, 1996 win over Green Bay by a 50-44 final.
Valpo overcame a double-digit deficit for just the second time this season (Ball State).
David Skara led the Crusaders with 12 points off the bench, his first time leading Valpo in scoring versus a D-I opponent this year.
Alec Peters failed to score in double figures for just the sixth time this season (2-4).
With a win Friday, Valpo would take on either fifth-seeded West Virginia or 12th-seeded Buffalo on Sunday.
Keith Carter’s cousin, Jevon, plays for West Virginia, while Valpo and Buffalo met in a closed scrimmage before the season.
...at a neutral site
Valpo is a perfect 5-0 this season on neutral courts, winning two games at Central Michigan and three games in Nashville.
Among the Crusaders’ three wins at the Challenge in Music City was a 35-point drubbing of Murray State, the Racers’ last loss before the OVC title game.
Overall this season, the Crusaders own a 13-4 record away from home, including an 8-4 mark in true road games.
Back to the NCAA
The Crusaders are in the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time since 1996 and the 14th time overall in program history.
Valpo’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament came in 2013, when the Crusaders suffered a first-round loss to Michigan State.
Valpo owns a 2-8 record since 1996 in the NCAA Tournament, with both wins coming in its run to the Sweet Sixteen in 1998 when the Crusaders were also a 13 seed.
The Crusaders also made five appearances in the old NCAA College Division Tournament, including three trips under coach Gene Bartow Valpo advanced to the national quarterfinal twice.
Another Tournament Crown
This year was the third appearance in the Horizon League title game in the last four years for Valpo, and the second win in three years.
Valpo has appeared in 13 conference title games in the last 21 years the Crusaders are 10-3 in title games over that span.
Regular Season Champions Again
@ValpoBasketball entered the final week of the regular season having already clinched a share of the league title, and clinched the outright crown with the win over Cleveland State.
The Crusaders have now won three outright regular season titles in Bryce Drew’s four years at the helm.
Valpo has now claimed its conference regular season title in 12 of the last 21 seasons.
Three in Four Years
Valpo’s stretch of three regular season titles in four years puts the Crusaders among the top spans of results in Horizon League history.
Xavier won six regular season championships in an eight-year stretch (1987-88; 89-90; 90-91; 92-93; 93-94; 94-95).
Butler won four straight regular season titles (1999-2003) and then had another five-year string of championships (2006-2011).
Milwaukee also won three straight #HLMBB regular season titles, from 2003-04 through 2005-06.
Three Valpo players were honored following the league tournament title, as Alec Peters was named tournament MVP.
E. Victor Nickerson and David Skara joined Peters on the All-Tournament Team.
Five Crusaders were honored with #HLMBB postseason awards.
Head coach Bryce Drew earned Coach of the Year honors for the second time (2011-12).
Drew joins Pete Gillen, Jim Crews, Barry Collier, Bruce Pearl, Todd Lickliter and Brad Stevens as multiple-time #HLMBB Coach of the Year honorees.
Senior Vashil Fernandez was named Defensive Player of the YearValpo’s first since joining the league and was also a member of the league’s All-Defensive Team.
Sophomore Jubril Adekoya earned Sixth Man of the Year honors, the third Crusader to earn the award in the last eight years.
Peters was a First Team All-League honoree, while Tevonn Walker earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team.
Postseason Trips a Habit
The NCAA Tournament berth marks the fifth straight season Valpo will appear in postseason play and the 14th time in the last 20 years.
Every four-year senior class since the 1995 class has made at least one postseason trip.
Hitting 28 Wins
@ValpoBasketball reached 28 wins on the year with the championship game win over Green Bay.
The Crusaders are one of just 13 teams in the nation with at least 28 wins entering the NCAA Tournament.
The Crusaders earned their 20th win at UIC on Jan. 31 they had previously never reached their 20th win before Feb. 12 (2012-13).
Valpo has now won at least 20 games 14 times in the last 22 years, including three times in four seasons under Bryce Drew.
This year’s team is the first in program history to win at least 28 games.
The semifinal win over CSU gave Valpo its 27th win of the year, breaking a tie for most wins with the 2012-13 squad, which finished 26-8.
Other teams which lost fewer than five games include the “World’s Tallest Team” in 1944-45 (23-3), the 1930-31 squad (16-2) and the “Victory Five” in 1923-24 (24-4).
Valpo won the outright #HLMBB title despite being an underclassman-laden squad.
The Crusaders have just one senior in their regular rotation and have five underclassmen among their nine players averaging 10+ minutes.
Valpo ranks 261st nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s Experience metric, with only Kentucky and Duke ranking lower among teams with 28+ wins.
The Crusaders are the least-experienced team in the Horizon League, with Detroit (210th) the next least-experienced squad.
Hitting the Glass
Valpo has out-rebounded opponents by double figures 13 times on the year, and has only been out-rebounded twice this season.
The Crusaders’ league-leading rebounding margin sits at +7.2, good for 13th in the nation.
Valpo leads the league in rebounding margin by over four boards/game, and also paces the circuit in both offensive and defensive rebounding pct.
The Crusaders held 13 of 16 opponents to 65 or fewer points in #HLMBB play, as well as both league tournament foes.
Valpo has won five games this year while scoring in the 50s, matching their number of wins with fewer than 60 points over the last five seasons.
Valpo ranks 18th nationally in scoring defense and eighth in field goal percentage defense.
Valpo boasts a defensive efficiency of 94.3, 31st-best nationally the Crusaders haven’t ranked in the top-100 since 2006-07.
Crusader opponents are shooting just 42.1% from 2-point range (13th nationally) and are pulling down just 27.6% of available offensive boards (37th nationally).
What’s Back and Who’s New
@ValpoBasketball returns just seven letterwinners from its 2013-14 team, returning 48.3% of scoring and 56.8% of rebounding.
Nearly half of the Crusader roster (6 of 14 players) is new to the program this season.
Five players are eligible for the first time this season, including Charlotte transfer E. Victor Nickerson, who sat out at Valpo last year.
Darien Walker came to Valpo from junior college, while Max Joseph, David Skara and Tevonn Walker are all true freshmen.
Shane Hammink (LSU) and Chandler Levingston Simon (UMKC) both transferred to Valpo last off-season and have to sit out this year.
The International Flavor
This year’s squad continues the international pipeline that @ValpoBasketball has cultivated over the past two decades.
The Crusaders boast five international players on this year’s roster from four different countries.
Represented are Canada (Joseph, T. Walker), Croatia (Skara), Jamaica (Fernandez) and Netherlands (Hammink).
The duo from Canada mark the first Canadian players in program history.
Over the past two decades, @ValpoBasketball has welcomed 31 international players from 18 different countries.
Crusader signee Daniel Relvao is from Portugal and will become the first Portugese player in program history when he joins in 2015-16.
In the Crusaders’ Future
Daniel Relvao and Derrik Smits have both signed NLIs to join @ValpoBasketball as freshmen for the 2015-16 campaign.
Relvao (6’9”, 235 lbs.) hails from Coimbra, Portugal and currently plays prep ball at Mountain Mission [Va.] School.
Relvao averaged 8.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 3.3 bpg for Portugal last summer in Division B of the FIBA U18 World Championship.
Smits (7’0”, 230 lbs.) will join Valpo from Zionsville [Ind.] H.S., where he averaged in double figures last season & also posted 3.6 rpg and 1.8 bpg.
Smits is the son of former Indiana Pacers star center Rik Smits.
Bryce Drew is in his fourth season as head coach of @ValpoBasketball and is in his tenth season overall on the coaching staff.
Drew was named #HLMBB Coach of the Year this season and has led Valpo to a school-record 28 victories and the league title.
Last season, Drew led the Crusaders to 18 wins and their fourth straight postseason berth.
In 2012-13, Drew guided Valpo to its second straight regular season title, its first tournament title and a school record 26 wins.
Drew was named #HLMBB Coach of the Year in 2011-12 in his first season as head coach 22 wins and #HLMBB regular season title.
Drew was the first Crusader men’s basketball Coach of the Year since 2001-02, when dad Homer won the honor in the Mid-Con.
Prior to coaching, Drew spent seven seasons playing professionally, including six seasons in the NBA.
Drew was a two-time Mid-Con MVP in his playing days with Valparaiso, helping the team to three NCAA tournament appearances.
Drew hit “The Shot”, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament, to lift the Crusaders over Ole Miss.
“The Shot” was named one of the top-35 All-Time Madness Moments by the NCAA as part of the celebration of 75 Years of March Madness.
Bryce is the third member of the Drew family to serve as head coach of @ValpoBasketball.
Father Homer was head coach from 1988-2002, and then returned to lead Valpo from 2003-11.
Brother Scott (current head coach of @BaylorMBB) led the Crusaders during the 2002-03 season after nine seasons as an assistant under Homer.
A Drew has been at the helm of the Crusaders for the last 27 years. #DrewFamilyDynasty
The Drew family has combined to lead @ValpoBasketball to 485 victories and 12 postseason appearances. #DrewFamilyDynasty
Overall, the trio of Drews owns 982 collegiate victories over a combined 45+ seasons of head coaching. #DrewFamilyDynasty
With Scott leading Baylor to a Big XII tournament win over West Virginia, the Drews passed the Knight family (Bob & Pat, 981) for total coaching wins.
@ValpoBasketball boasts one of the nation’s highest-scoring staffs, as a trio of coaches combined for 4,211 points during their D-I careers.
Head coach Bryce Drew scored 2,142 points during his four-year career with the Crusaders.
Assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. tallied 1,178 points during his four-year career with Illinois.
Assistant coach Matt Lottich poured in 891 points over his four-year career at Stanford.
Assistant coach Luke Gore also played collegiately at NAIA Bethel [Tenn.] College.