This is a dangerous game.
Valparaiso has been a rising mid-major for years now. They have made a two conference jump now from the Mid-Continent Conference (Now the Summit League) where they made their original Sweet 16 run to the Missouri Valley Conference with a long stop in the Horizon League. They always recruit solid players and seem to have an excellent European on the roster. They haven’t won an NCAA game since that 1998 run, but they are up to a respectable 9 appearances since 1996. Just two years ago they were the NIT runner-up after they were absolutely robbed of an at large bid.
Normally these would be plenty of reasons to take them seriously, but this game screams TRAP GAME for a number of reasons:
· It is an in-state opponent, and we only need to look at South Bend last night to know what a motivated in-state team can do.
· They have had 9 days off since last playing last Tuesday.
· They are undefeated.
· They are bringing a couple busloads of fans.
· It is a sleepy midweek game just before finals without the usual crowd.
· Purdue just finished a brutal 6 game stretch in the previous 14 days against at least 5 NCAA teams, 4 of them away from home.
· They actually have the size to compete with us.
· A win over Purdue would immediately jump them into the at large conversation for the rest of the season.
The good news for Purdue is that a victory here would be one that can carry surprise weight on our postseason resume. It is entirely possible the Crusaders could become a viable at large team, especially if they beat Northwestern next week. The bad news is they are a legitimate threat to win in Mackey Arena.
From: Valparaiso, IN
Date : Thursday, December 7, 2017
Tip Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Online: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 15.5
2016-17 Record: 24-9, 14-4 Horizon League (Los tot Illinois 82-57 in NIT)
2017-18 Record: 8-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley
Opponent Blog: Valpo Fan Zone
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 15-1
Last Valparaiso Win: 114-96 at Valparaiso on 12/22/1965
Last Purdue Win: 76-58 at Valparaiso on 12/7/2010
NCAA Tournament History: 9 appearances, reached 1998 Sweet 16
Coach: Matt Lottich (32-9 in 2nd year at Valparaiso)
A year ago Valparaiso was cruising to an NCAA Tournament berth. Alec Peters was a human double-double in the Horizon League with 23 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The Crusaders roared out to a 22-6 start and were comfortably in front of the Horizon League, meaning they would play the league tournament at home.
Then Peters got hurt
A stress fracture in his leg caused him to miss the last two games of the regular season. Valparaiso was bounced from the conference tournament in round 1, then the NIT by Illinois. It was a shame too, because with Peters Valpo was almost certainly an NCAA team, and one that could do damage.
This is still a very experienced team that has won a lot of basketball the last three years. They were 28-6 in 2014-15, 30-7 in 2015-16, and 24-9 a year ago. This year they have gotten off to an 8-0 start with two wins over non-D1 teams and comfortable wins over SIU-Edwardsville, SE Louisiana Samford, Kent State, UNC-Wilmington, and Utah State. Purdue is, by far, the toughest team they have faced yet. They also will be playing in a new conference after they took Wichita State’s place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Valpo roster is a virtual United Nations with players from Germany, Spain, and Canada. Leading scorer Tevonn Walker is a 6’2” senior guard from Quebec that has scored over 1,100 points in his career. His best game this year was against Samford where he had 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. He is averaging a career best 17.3 points per game. Fellow guard Bakari Evelyn averages 11.5 points per game, while Marcus Golder, a 6’6” guard, averages 10.4 points and shoots 41.2% from three.
The Crusaders, like Purdue, boast a pair of seven-footers. Jaume Sorolla is a 7’ sophomore from Spain that averages 6 points and 3.7 rebounds. There is also Derrik Smits, a 7’2” versatile post that is the son of Pacers’ legend Rik Smits. I saw Derrik quite a bit during his high school career at Zionsville and he has some pretty good post moves, plus more of a jump shot than Isaac Haas. His game is much more similar to Matt Haarms. Derrik is averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
As expected, there is a heavy Indiana flavor on the roster too. Ryan Fazekas is a transfer from providence who won a state championship with Marquette Catholic. John Kiser is a sophomore from Noblesville. Parker Hazen is a 6’7” freshman from Columbia City. Mileek McMillan is a 6’8” freshman from Merillville.
This is a somewhat young team with Walker and Max Joseph as the only seniors, but they are playing well together. Valparaiso shoots the ball well at almost 49% from the floor and averages only 14 turnovers per game. They ranked 43rd nationally in Adjusted Defense on KenPom, so they are not afraid to defend.
This should be an entertaining game because Valparaiso has nothing to lose, is rested, and would love to get a huge win for their profile. Two years ago they won 25 games, but were left at home on selection Sunday. You can bet they’ll be going for it here with a chance to prove themselves against a “name” opponent. Purdue 72, Valparaiso 65