Next Up in Valpo Basketball:
It’s a sentence many have waited patiently yet anxiously to read: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball season is scheduled to begin this week. After the 2019-2020 campaign came to a memorable yet abrupt ending, the program shifted its focus to months of preparation for the start of a new season, which finally comes on Friday night in Nashville. The new year brings with it new opportunities, starting with a long-awaited matchup against SEC foe Vanderbilt.
Last Time Out:
Valpo had accepted a postseason tournament invitation last season, but all NCAA postseason tournaments were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This marks the first time Valpo has taken the court since a memorable run in St. Louis at last year’s State Farm MVC Tournament that culminated with an 80-66 setback to Bradley in the title game.
Following Valpo Basketball:
Television – SEC Network Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Brandon Vickrey (analyst) Twitter updates - @ValpoBasketball Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich:
Matt Lottich (73-60) is in his eighth season overall at Valpo and fifth as head coach in 2020-21. Just two years removed from finishing in last place and being knocked out in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament as a first-year Valley member, Lottich’s team did more than hold its own in 2019-2020, ascending into a tie for sixth in the league standings before finishing as the conference tournament runner-up.
Valpo became the first team in the history of Arch Madness to reach the title game after playing in the opening round. Lottich, hired as the 22nd head coach of the Valpo men’s basketball program in April 2016, graduated from Stanford University in 2004 and New Trier High School (Illinois) in 2000.
- Valpo has won its season opener each of the last eight years with all of them coming at the ARC.
- The last time Valpo opened the season with a setback was Nov. 7, 2011 at No. 16 Arizona, 73-64.
- Valpo has won the home opener for 15 consecutive seasons with 13 of those victories coming by double figures. The last time Valpo started the home slate with a loss was an 85-71 defeat to Charlotte on Nov. 27, 2004
- Sophomore Donovan Clay was named to the Preseason MVC Second Team.
- Valpo was picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll based on a survey of the conference’s head coaches, media members and sports information directors.
- Valpo exceeded preseason expectations a year ago after being picked to finish ninth. The Brown & Gold tied for sixth in the regular-season standings and went on to finish as the conference tournament runner-up.
Who’s Back, Who’s New?
- This year’s team features 11 returning letter winners (nine scholarship, two walk-on) to go along with six newcomers (four scholarship, two walk-on).
- Three letter winners departed from the 2019-20 squad.
- Valpo returns 59.2 percent of its scoring and 64.3 percent of its rebounding from last season. Both numbers are up from a year ago, when Valpo returned just 40.1 percent of its scoring and 35.7 percent of its rebounding from 2018-19.
- Last season, the entire roster was from either Indiana, Illinois or outside the United States. This year, Valpo has added three additional states to the mix in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Florida.
- Still, six players hail from Illinois and four from Indiana. The six Illinois natives are the most since 2015-16.
- Coincidentally, Valpo’s last player from the state of Florida before freshman Sheldon Edwards shares the same last name. Lakeland native Richie Edwards played for the Brown & Gold during the 2011-2012 campaign.
- Newcomer Goodnews Kpegeol is the first Valpo player from the state of Minnesota since Cory Johnson’s final season on campus in 2010-2011.
- Freshman Jacob Ognacevic is Valpo’s first player from Wisconsin since Andrew Ferry in 2008-2009.
Arrow Pointed Up
- Valpo made its first conference championship appearance since 2015, doing so after being picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll.
- Valpo reached the conference title game as only a third-year Missouri Valley Conference member. When the Brown & Gold transitioned from the Mid-Continent Conference to the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 season, the program didn’t reach the conference championship game until Year 5 and followed by winning its first Horizon League Tournament title in Year 6.
- The men’s basketball program became the first Valpo team in any sport to reach the Missouri Valley Conference championship game during the department’s young tenure in the prestigious league.
- Valpo accepted a postseason tournament invitation for the first time since joining The Valley, agreeing to a CollegeInsider. com Tournament berth before the event was canceled due to the coronavirus.
- The program had its largest win increase from the previous season (four) since jumping from 18 wins in 2013-14 to 28 in 2014-15.
- Valpo finished with a winning record during the nonconference portion of the season for the 10th straight year. In addition, Valpo continued its history of home dominance and hasn’t finished with a losing mark at the ARC since 1991-92, extending its streak to 28 seasons. Valpo achieved a double-figure home win total for the ninth time in the last 10 years.
Series Notes: Vanderbilt
- This marks the third meeting between the two teams and first since Nov. 20, 2007, an 87-78 victory for the homestanding Commodores.
- Vanderbilt has won each of the first two matchups, but both have come by fewer than 10 points. The Commodores won 74-66 on Nov. 20, 1996, also in the Music City.
- The 1996 matchup was the season opener as part of the Preseason NIT, while the 2007 clash was a non-bracketed game as part of the South Padre Island Invitational.
Inside the Commodores
- Under the direction of Jerry Stackhouse, who is in his second season after previously serving as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. Stackhouse played in the NBA for 18 seasons and was a two-time all-star with the Detroit Pistons (2000, 2001).
- Stackhouse and Valpo head coach Matt Lottich share the same predecessor in their current positions. Both took over for Valpo basketball legend and current Grand Canyon head coach Bryce Drew.
- Went 11-21 last season but won their final two regular-season games, topping SEC foes Alabama and South Carolina.
- Roster includes Scotty Pippen Jr., son of the six-time NBA champion. Pippen was named to the Preseason All-SEC Second Team