As the Horizon regular-season champs, it was only fitting that the Valparaiso Crusaders also punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament as winners of the Horizon League Tournament after outlasting Green Bay, 54-44, on Tuesday night.
The Crusaders will enter the NCAA Tournament at 28-5 after going 13-3 in conference play. Valparaiso will no doubt be one of those mid-major darlings that no power-conference team will want to play. They have now won 10 out of their last 11 games and are surging heading into the Big Dance.
You know how a lot of people are up in arms about Murray State possibly not being selected for the NCAA Tournament? Well, Valparaiso beat them by 35 back in November. So, that should begin to tell how good a team we are talking about.
The Crusaders are coached by one of March’s most memorable all-time heroes in Bryce Drew. If you don’t recall his legendary heroics, check out this video clip.
Drew has been at the helm for the Crusaders for the last four years and has done a fantastic job of carrying on his father’s (Homer Drew) legacy. Drew is now 93-41 in his four seasons at Valparaiso, and this is his second time guiding the Crusaders to the NCAA Tournament after appearing back in the 2013 Tournament.
And he has a team that is more than capable of making a splash in the NCAA Tournament once again.
The Crusaders presently have three players who average in double-figures in scoring. Leading the way is 6’9” sophomore forward Alec Peters, who averages a team-high 17 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while connecting on .499 percent of his field goals, .838 percent of his free throws and .479 percent of his three-point filed goals. Those are some stellar and consistent numbers across the board from one of the better big men in the country. Be sure to get to know his name.
Complementing Peters are a couple of exciting guards in Darien Walker (11.1 ppg), Tevonn Walker (10.5 ppg) and Keith Carter (8.5 ppg and team leading 3.5 assists per game).
Carter, in particular, is a gifted guard who can stuff the stat sheet. In the title game vs. Green Bay, Carter registered eight points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block in the win.
As you would expect from a Drew-named coach, the Crusaders are a very smart and fundamentally sound team that won’t beat themselves. They have flown under the radar all year, but there is a good chance that won’t be the case come next week.
While Drew won’t be nailing a last-second shot as a player, he may leave his mark as a coach this time around.