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Monday, October 31, 2011

Game Preview: Preseason Finale vs. Augustana

The Crusaders wrap up their preseason Thursday night when they welcome Augustana College to town.  Questions abound after the preseason opener this past Saturday against Hillsdale.  Can this team make three pointers, can they help on defense, and can they defend the ARC?

Get to know your opponent:
The DIII Vikings compete in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.  Last year they captured their conference crown.  These guys went 27-4 last year and graduated only one of their starters.  They are expected to be one of the best DIIIs in the country as they are ranked #1 in the midwest region and #7 overall in the preseason polls.  This should be a nice final test to see how well the guys are progressing.

Some Interesting Augustana factoids and notable alumni:  Founded in 1860 by Sweedish settlers, Augustana is a DIII athletically, but a DI for the quality of people that leave the school with degrees. The college is known for the excellent dental experts and their Medievil and Renaissance studies graduates that come from their school.   Some notable alumni include former NFL QB Ken Anderson, the first female CEO of Sara Lee and PepsiCo Brenda Barnes, Noble Prize winner Daniel Tsui, and Aaron Kennedy the founder of Noodles & Co.

What to expect:
I expect we will see a group of guys who after a game under their belt and a few more practices will be a bit more in sync.  I suspect we will see a much better shooting effort from the Crusaders, especially from Will Bogan and Richie Edwards.  The team needs to show some improvement in their help defense and double teaming the post defense.  They were a step or two slow in both of these aspects in the first game.  I suspect Erik Buggs will continue to establish himself as a threat to attack the hoop, and I'm hoping to see Matt Kenney play a better game.  Jay Harris will continue to show he is a capable second scorer and will strengthen his hold on the starting shooting guard spot.

Well after Saturday's prediction debacle I'm going to be a bit more reserved.  I don't think Valpo will lose to a DIII team and I don't suspect Augustana will keep this one as close as Hillsdale did.  I will take a Valpo victory 81-64.  The real victory will come as we see Will Bogan hit a couple three pointers, Ryan Broekhoff continue to prove why this is HIS team, and KVW continues to provide an inside scoring presence.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Game Wrap Up: A coachable victory

Let me begin by stating that just about everyone was in preseason form tonight.  From the players to the video board operator to this blogger; everyone has room for improvement!

The Game
If you like nailbiters this game was just what you wanted to see.  In the last 1:02 there were 5 ties or lead changes.  The Crusaders lived at the line hitting converting on 26-39 attempts (would like to see this get a little better) while the Chargers made their living from behind the arc hitting 10-17 three pointers.  The biggest lead in the game was 8, a far cry from my predicted 40 point blowout!

Lets take a look at the final 1:02. With the score tied at 66, Valpo found themselves behind after a layup by Brandon Pritzl.  Valpo cut the lead to one after Kevin VanWijk split a pair of freebies (:43).  A turnover by Hillsdale was followed by a Ryan Broekhoff Centier Bank Three Pointer to give Valpo the two point advantage (:20).  When the Crusaders failed to help Erik Buggs when he got beat he comitted a foul and the layup was good by Tyler Gerber.  After Gerber hit his free throw to put the Crusaders down a point (:10), a nifty feed from Bogan to KVW led to a bucket and a foul.  KVW sank the free throw (:05) and the Crusaders held on to the 73-71 victory.

Needs Improvement
Allow me to make some first game observation.  These are things I am about to point out are things I will be watching for improvement or confirmation on Thursday.
*The new guys stuck out like a sore thumb tonight.  Their movement wasn't as crisp on the offensive end as I had hoped it would be.  Anytime more then one of them (Kurth, Bogans, Edwards) was on the court at the same time the offense really struggled.

*Will Bogan (more on him in the positive section) had tonight.  He was chasing on defense and his shot was off...way off. 

*Richie Edwards is a black hole on offense.  When he got it he was putting a shot up.  I like that he is not afraid or tentative with the ball, but occasionally working it back out or back around (he shoots the three like Cory Johnson) will create a better shot for himself or a teammate.

*Matt Kenney looks like his best fit should be coming off the bench as a 6th man.  There were several times in the first half where he did not help a teammate on the defensive end that led to a layup or a foul.  I'm also concerned that his outside jumper has appeared not to have improved.

*I really hope the team three point shooting improves (5-22).  Yikes!

*The video board is nice (more in the positives) but when the opponent commits an offensive fouls someone is going to have a seizure if they look at the board's special effects.

The Positives
Despite all the things I just listed there were plenty of positives as well.
*Ryan Broekhoff is really good.  His offense was outstanding and his rebounding and shot blocking was superb.

*Kevin VanWijk provided Valpo with a legit inside scoring presence in this game.  He also hit some big clutch free throws in the last minute of the game.

*Will Bogan had some nifty passes that led to some easy hoops for VanWijk and Buggs.

*Speaking of Erik Buggs he was clearly still our best option at the point.  He defended well and even attacked the hoop enough to make Hillsdale leave a defender on him.

*The guys really played the passing lanes well.  Team rebounding was once again a strength in this game.

*The video board was awesome.  I love the in game stats, the loudness meter, and nearly all of the special effects. 

Up Next
Valpo will wrap up their preseason with a game against Augustana on Thursday night.  

Sneak Preview

On the Valpo Fanzone message board a member of the VU Marketing team gave us a preview of what we will see on the video boards before the home games. 

Follow this link, turn up the sound, and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Game Preview: Pre-Season Opener vs. Hillsdale

All of our questions regarding the 2011-2012 VU Men's basketball team will be answered come Saturday night....wouldn't that be nice!  The more likely senario is that some questions will be answered and others will arise.  Regardless, this Saturday the fun begins in the ARC as a new era of Crusader basketball begins under the leadership of Coach Bryce Drew.

Get to know your opponent: The Hillsdale Chargers bring forth a team returning some good offensive players.  Two guys I'm going to recommend watching closely for them are Brent Eaton (#21) and Brad Guinane (#24).  Eaton averaged over 16 ppg last season and shot the 3 pointer at over 40%.  Guinane averaged just over 13 ppg last season and was even more proficient behind the arc shooting with success 43% of the time.  Guinane was also the teams top rebounder, averaging over 6 per game. As a team, the Chargers finished last year at a respectable 20-6.

What to expect: Last season Hillsdale only had 6 players averaging in double figures for minutes played.  I know this game doesn't mean anything in the win/loss column, but any team that comes up against the Crusaders are going to have to be deep on the bench.  As far as VU goes I suspect we will get a glimpse at what Coach Drew hopes will be his starting five, how much the new guys have been able to mesh with the returners, and what each new guy is going to bring to the table.  Some things I will be watching for: how effective is Vucic, has Buggs bettered himself offensively, and what role will newcomers Bogan/Fernandez/Edwards find themselves in?  A little side note on this game: it appears that Tommy Kurth will be playing against a former Penn High School teammate in Charger Ryan Choiniere.

Prediction: In part 1 of our season preview I picked Valpo to win this one 98-52 (Brent went with a Valpo victory of 88-60) and having not seen them play yet I have no reason to change that.  Everyone will get plenty of game action and Coach Drew and his staff will be provided with plenty of coachable moments for the week of practice that will follow leading up to the Thursday night tilt against Augstana.

See you at the game!

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Valparaiso Crusader's 2011-2012 Team Preview

Valparaiso University Crusaders
23-12 overall      12-6 conference               Lost in first round of the CIT to Iona

What Valpo lost:
Cory Johnson (graduated), Michael Rogers (graduated), Howard Little (graduated), Brandon Wood (transferred), Coach Homer Drew (retired)

What Valpo gained:
Ben Boggs (transfer from Virginia Tech), Will Bogan (transfer from Ole Miss), Richie Edwards (JUCO transfer), Dino Jakolis (freshman), Vashil Fernandez (freshman), Coach Bryce Drew (promoted)

Roster Breakdown (*indicates my projected starter):
Hrvoje Vucic, Jr/So, 7’1’’ Center: Valpo fans are looking for Vucic to become a regular contributor this season.  His height could provide a real presence on defense for a Valpo team that hasn’t had a true center in the starting lineup in some time.  While I don't think he will be a starter, I do believe we will see much more of Hrvoje this year.  Vuch answered some questions and spoke about his goals for the upcoming season recently for SectionEE.

*Erik Buggs, Sr/Jr, 5’10’’ Point Guard: Buggs does a nice job running the point for the Crusaders.  He had a nice assist to turnover ratio last season.  I think Erik will get the first crack at the starting point position.  However, Buggs was an offensive liability last season though, if he can’t find a way to attract a defender expect to see his minutes decrease with the depth VU has at the guard position.  More on Buggs and his aspirations for the upcoming season here.

Tommy Kurth, Jr/So, 6’1’’ Guard: Kurth sat out all of last season with injury.  I'm not real familiar with Kurth, so I will just say I think he will need to work hard in practice to grab some of the important game minutes with the depth we have at the guard position.

*Jay Harris, So, 6’1’’ Guard:  A combo guard who can light it up from long range.  Harris hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like.  Last year he had some trouble with the turnover as he adjusted to life at a D1 program, but was playing much better by year's end.  I expect Harris to stretch the defense and take another big step towards fulfilling his potential.  Jay will start for the Crusaders but only as long as turnovers don't plague him like they did for most of last year.

Matt Kenney, Jr, 6’3’’ Guard: A big guard who has played quality defense and has found ways to contribute on the offensive end.  He is a true hustle player with great hops who I think will step right into the role that Howard Little played last season (good rebounder and defender).  We would like to see Kenney’s shooting percentage from range improve this season (16%).

*Ryan Broekhoff, Jr, 6’6’’ Shooting Guard: A lanky guard who can fill it up from the outside.  Broekhoff will probably be the focus of many opposing defenses.  One of the best shooters in the conference look for Broekhoff to lead the Crusaders in points per game this year.  Ryan is also a very good rebounder and led the team in blocked shots (19) last season.

*Kevin Van Wijk, Jr, 6’8’’ Power Forward: Van Wijk biggest challenge is his own health.  If healthy, I suspect Van Wijk will have another good season for VU.  A banger in the paint who isn’t afraid to rough it up with opposing big men, Van Wijk brings a tough guy attitude to the team.  An area for KVW to work on would be defending without fouling.  A healthy Van Wijk would go a long way in helping the Crusaders find success this season.

Ben Boggs, Jr, 6’4’’ Guard: Boggs brings another shooter to the lineup for Coach Drew.  Here is more on our Virginia Tech transfer.  He may start come Horizon League season if he doesn't end up red shirting.

Will Bogan, Jr, 6’1’’ Guard: A combo guard with some real scoring ability.  Great court vision and the willingness to put his teammates first make him even more dangerous.  Bogan comes in through the graduation transfer rule from Ole Miss.  Read more from Bogan in our interview with him here.

*Richie Edwards, Jr, 6’8’’ Power Forward: Edwards comes to Valpo after a stellar two year career at JUCO Hillsborough C.C.  He has a nice mid range jumper and is a good rebounder.   Edwards will undoubtedly see big minutes in the front court.

Dino Jakolis, Fr, 6’4’’ Guard/Small Forward:  Still awaiting his name to show up on the official roster.  Jakolis is a big guard with a nice jump shot.   Jakolis comes to Valpo from prep school LaLumiere where he played against very good competition on a regular basis.  For more on Jakolis check out our interview here.  Dino will need to really prove his value with the team being very deep at his position.  A year learning the D1 game and a chance to work out with his coaches and teammates to put on some muscle weight and Dino will be a solid contributor come next year.

Vashil Fernandez, Fr, 6’11’’ Center:  Fernandez comes in with very raw basketball skills.  The big man is full of potential. I suspect Fernandez to see plenty of time on the court this season as he should be able to establish himself on the defensive end of the court immediately.  Rebounding, shot blocking, and offensive put backs will get Fernandez through and establish him as an up and coming player in the Horizon League.  For more on Fernandez click here. With his big body, Vashil could find himself in the starting lineup at some point this season.

Griffyn Carpenter, Fr, 6' Guard: A walk-on to the team this year, Carpenter comes from a small local high school in Triton.  He has led his teams on deep state tournament runs the past couple of years.  Carpenter is a great shooter and could see some playing time to help stretch the opposing defense.  Griffyn answered some questions for us earlier in the Summer, read it here.

Bryce Drew, Head Coach: Drew has made his impact felt immediately.  Getting a verbal commitment from a highly ranked local kid is something that Valpo hasn’t been able to do in sometime.  Fans are looking forward to a new era in Crusader hoops.  It should be interesting to see which starting Coach Drew has settled on come the middle of January.  He has a lot of solid players and could go with just about any combination of 8 or 9 guys.

Team Strengths:
Valpo should once again be one of the deepest teams in the HL this year, especially at the guard position.  VU boasts several tall bodies, a luxury not seen here in some time, so defending the paint should be a strength.  Valpo has been a very good shooting team, expect that to continue.  Last year VU held a slight rebounding edge over their opponents, with new big bodies, I expect team rebounding to be another strength of this year’s club.  Coach Drew should also have the ability to go big or small with his lineups depending on matchups. 

Team Weaknesses:
Many new faces could cause the team some issues when it comes to gelling on the court as a group.  I expect by the time league play begins any issue with this will most likely be resolved.  Along with all the new players is a new head coach who may or may not bring an entire different style of play.  While we have some tall guys we don’t have a lot of girth.  An opposing big man with some weight and muscle could push our bigs around if help doesn’t come quick enough.

How Valpo will fare in the Horizon League this year:
I suspect Valpo will finish in the top half of the league again this year.  I think this team is one year away from doing some special things.  I will pick Valpo to finish 4th in the league this season and host a HL tournament game.  The team could surprise Horizon League opponents and this writer if they manage to gel as a productive unit.  I think another visit to the CIT or CBI is in line for this season, which is not a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Homer's newest opponent

As reported today by many news outlets, both Homer and his wife Janet have been diagnosed with cancer.  We wish them well and will be praying for a quick recovery. Here is the article from the Times today.

I was told this health concern was not a factor into Homer retiring earlier this Summer.

Hopefully Coach had changed his position about wanting this information publicized before Brandon Wood decided it was a good idea to tweet it to the world (I'm sure he meant well).  Regardless, hopefully the abundance of thoughts and prayers will pay off for the Drew family!