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Monday, March 12, 2012

Game Preview: Valpo at Miami

The Crusaders, after a crushing loss in the Horizon League Championship (not to belabour this any more than necessary) were automatically NIT bound by winning the regular season Horizon League crown. The Crusaders were given a 7 seed, and will head down to Miami to take on the 2nd seeded Hurricanes on Wednesday night. It is definitely no easy draw for Valpo, since size and athleticism is what ultimately wore them down last time out.

Last time out: Nice 1st half, ugly 2nd half. You guys know what happened, so I feel like it is not necessary to elaborate on this.

Preview: Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff and Horizon League 1st teamer Kevin Van Wijk have been the ones Valpo has counted on to carry the offensive load all season. We should expect no difference this game. The problem is that Miami is a team with lots of size and athleticism, and can overmatch the Crusaders in that regard. Van Wijk has made himself known for his physical play, so he will be especially important in this contest. Throughout the season we have seen how important it is for Valpo to have someone step up and act as a third scorer. Offensive balance has been a big strength for them this year. Miami has 4 players that average double figures in scoring, so Valpo will have their hands more than full trying to contain them. However, as a team they are not that great behind the arc (35%). Their field goal percentage (43%) and free throw percentage (72%) are fairly average. The one player that will probably be a huge problem for Valpo is Kenny Kadji. The 6-11, 251 lb junior leads the team with his 12.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG. Van Wijk will have a tough assignment.

In order for Valpo to have a chance in this one, we need our 2 workhorses to produce, knock down a lot of threes, and limit the Miami big men on things like second chance points, and getting Van Wijk into foul trouble. I usually do not like to pick against Valpo (and maybe you guys will rip me a little bit for not having enough faith in them), but I do not think we will win this one. I believe we have a good chance, but when it is all said and done I don't see Valpo on the winning end.

Prediction - Miami 74 Valpo 63'

Notables alumni from U. of Miami include Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Ben Folds, Grammy Award Winner Bruce Hornsby, and Sylvester Stallone.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Game Wrap Up: We were this close

In a rebuilding year many would've been thrilled with the prospects of playing in the NIT, but when you come so close (10 minutes away) from the NCAA's it's hard not to be disappointed.  Valpo continually built upon every game this year to turn a rebuilding year into a championship season.

Detroit used stellar defense and a relentless offense to turn a three point halftime deficet into a twenty point victory.  The refs decided to let Detroit play physical on the ball defense and Valpo was unable to adjust on the offensive end continually turning the ball over leading to easy scores for Detroit.  Detroit was the last team I wanted to see in the tournament, and they proved why last night.  The Titans team celebrated with class, well all but Ray McCallum Jr.  Ray's dunk as time was expiring and everyone else was shaking hands was immature and classless.  He will not be the superstar he is capable of becoming until he grows up a little bit.  I was ready to say the fans were also classy in their celebrations, but the vandalism around town proved otherwise.

Valpo will now wait until Sunday night to see who and where they will play in the NIT.  I'm betting it is either Iowa or Northwestern from the Big10 but we shall see.  Stick around SectionEE as we will have some first and second round NCAA picks as well as many more statistics and PPS for players and teams.  You may be interested to know that out of the 9 HL tournament games if you picked the winner based on PPS you would have correctly selected 8 out of the 9 with the 1 miss coming in the Butler vs. Milwaukee game.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Game Wrap Up: Any more doubters out there?

If there were any doubters heading into the game Saturday night (I'm looking at you Vegas odds makers) the Crusaders certainly had to have changed their minds.  Butler started out to an 7-2 lead, the teams would tie the score at 8-8 but that would be the last time Butler was close.  Valpo would ride the amazing play of Ryan Broekhoff and some timely shooting by Erik Buggs (not a typo) and Jay Harris.  The ARC was on fire last night with crowd pushing the facility to it's limits.

After Butler got out to that early lead, Brent made the suggestion that our super subs would get things turned around for us.  Boy was he right.  That first substitution of Richie Edwards (apparently my wife's favorite player), Matt Kenney and Jay Harris turned the tide in the Crusader's favor.  The story of this night however was Ryan Broekhoff.  He filled up the box score with 19 points (6-9 fg, 5-6 ft, 2-3 3pt) and 16 rebounds.  At one point in the game Brent and I made a bet on whether he would have more points or rebounds...I lost and bought the drinks and appetizers at Wings Etc. after the game.  Ryan's hustle, energy, and always being in the right place at the right time (coincidence, I think not) are huge for the Crusaders as he is always creating extra scoring chances for the team.  If there was anybody in the league not thinking he should be the POY they are certainly on board now.

Coach Stevens had to be frustrated last night.  No defensive strategy seemed to work and his offense was not converting against Valpo's suddnely stingy defense.  Butler went with the Hack - a - Buggs strategy with about 7 minutes left in the game when it was obvious they weren't going to be able to chip away at the lead playing defense. 

Player of the Game: Ryan Broekhoff - 19 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and several amazing hustle plays (like when he saved a lose ball after a missed Buggs free throw and banged it off a Butler player creating another possession which would end in a Jay Harris 3pter).
1.303 PPS

POTG Runner Up: Erik Buggs - this was a tough call between Buggs and KVW.  I'm going with Erik because I thought those two 3 pointers he hit were so important.  While his free throw shooting left something to be desired when Butler went to the hack a buggs with 7 minutes left in the game, he managed to keep his cool and stay in the game.  He also played excellent defense (as did the whole team) on Ronald Nored holding him to only 4 points.

Up Next: The Crusaders will try to wrap up the conference tournament Tuesday night at home against Detroit at 8pm.