Next Up in Crusader Basketball: 40 minutes away from a second Horizon League Championship in three years and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, all that stands in Valparaiso’s way is the second-seeded Green Bay Phoenix. The Crusaders and Phoenix will tip off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening at the ARC, live on ESPN.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders advanced to the Horizon League Championship title game on Saturday night at the ARC, ending the game on a 7-2 run and earning a 60-55 victory over fourth-seeded Cleveland State. Alec Peters scored four points in the final minute, including a key layup with 41 seconds to play, to cap a 22-point performance. The win was the 27th of the year for the Crusaders, setting a new program single-season record.
Following the Crusaders: Audio Valpo Sports Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WJOB, 1230 AM, Hammond) Todd Ickow (PxP) and Dave Huseman (Color) [Also live national broadcast on TuneInRadio]
Television ESPN Bob Wischusen (PxP) and Jim Calhoun (Color)
Links for live coverage will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew (93-41) is in his fourth season at the helm of the Crusader men's basketball program in 2014-15. In his first three years, Drew led Valpo to 66 victories and postseason berths in each of his three seasons. 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: Green Bay leads the all-time series over Valpo, 28-21, but the two squads have split 18 meetings since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League prior to the 2007-08 campaign. Valpo is 7-3 at home against the Phoenix over the last eight years and has won five straight home games, including a 63-59 triumph back on February 13. The two teams each won at home this season during the regular season, as Green Bay claimed a 51-50 win at the Resch Center in the first meeting of the year.
...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 Cleveland State
The five-point win was Valpo’s ninth straight single-digit decision the Crusaders are 8-1 over that stretch.
Alec Peters scored at least 20 points for the 11th time this season.
Peters scored 16 of his 22 points after intermission.
Darien Walker scored the game’s first seven points and ended with 12 points, his fifth straight game in double figures.
After hitting just one of their first four free throws, the Crusaders hit 16 of their last 19 attempts from the charity stripe.
Valpo limited Trey Lewis to just 10 points Lewis averaged just 9.3 ppg (5-24 3PT) in three games against the Crusaders this season.
The Crusaders went with a crunch-time lineup of Nickerson, Carter, Darien Walker, Peters and Fernandez in the last ten minutes.
The lineup played a total of 17 minutes on Saturday after playing just 10 minutes together all year, including just 31 seconds in #HLMBB play.
Valpo will learn its postseason destination, whether the NCAA Tournament or the Postseason NIT, on Sunday evening.
...at the ARC
The Crusaders are 14-1 at the ARC this season, including a perfect 8-0 mark in #HLMBB regular season play.
The 14 home wins match the second-most in a season at home since the opening of the ARC trailing only the 2012-13 team (16).
The 14-1 record – a .933 winning percentage – is the second-best home record since the ARC opened, trailing only a perfect 14-0 home record in 1994-95.
Valpo has won at least 10 home games in each of the last five years.
Over the last 20+ years, @ValpoBasketball owns a 249-57 (.814) record on its home court.
Back to the ‘Ship
This year marks the third appearance in the #HLMBB title game in the last four years for @ValpoBasketball.
The Crusaders are a perfect 3-0 in semifinal games at the ARC following their win over CSU.
This is Valpo’s 13th appearance in a conference title game in the last 21 years the Crusaders are 9-3 in previous title games over that span.
@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 #HLMBB 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.
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.
Sophomore Alec Peters was a First Team All-League honoree, while Tevonn Walker earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team.
Heading to the Postseason Again
The regular season title also secures at worst a berth in the postseason NIT for the Crusaders.
This 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 27 Wins
@ValpoBasketball reached 27 wins on the year with the semifinal win over Cleveland State on Saturday.
The Crusaders are one of just 13 teams in the nation with at least 27 wins as of the end of play Sunday.
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 27 games.
The semifinal win over CSU moved the Crusaders’ record to 27-5, 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 26+ wins.
The Crusaders are the least-experienced team in the Horizon League, with Detroit (207th) the next least-experienced squad.
Hitting the Glass
Valpo has out-rebounded opponents by double figures 13 times on the year, including most recently a +12 edge in the win over WSU.
The Crusaders outrebounded Wright State by 21 earlier this year best vs. a D-I opponent since a +22 advantage on the glass last year vs. Saint Louis.
Valpo has only been outrebounded on three occasions this year losses to New Mexico and Missouri, and the regular season finale at CSU.
The Crusaders’ league-leading rebounding margin sits at +7.6, good for 11th in the nation.
Valpo leads the league in rebounding margin by five 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.
Earlier this year, Valpo held three straight foes to 56 points, the first time it won 3 straight games and gave up 56 or fewer points in all three since Dec. 7-17, 1983.
Valpo ranks 26th nationally in scoring defense and 14th in field goal percentage defense.
Valpo boasts a defensive efficiency of 95.1, 47th-best nationally the Crusaders haven’t ranked in the top-100 since 2006-07.
Crusader opponents are shooting just 42.3% from 2-point range (16th nationally) and are pulling down just 27.4% 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.
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 484 victories and 12 postseason appearances. #DrewFamilyDynasty
Overall, the trio of Drews owns 982 collegiate victories over a combined 45+ seasons of head coaching. #DrewFamilyDynasty
@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.