2012-2013 Overall Rank: #97
Conference Rank: #1 Horizon
Valparaiso Team Page
Valparaiso had to settle for the NIT after winning the Horizon League regular season title last year. This time around the Crusaders will not settle. With versatile 6-7 forward Ryan Broekhoff leading the way, Valpo is the obvious favorite in the Horizon League. Broekhoff led the squad with 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds last season. He is a consistent outside shooter who can also use his size to finish in the paint. Ideally Broekhoff is a big three guard, but he will have to spend a lot of time at the four spot again if Coach Bryce Drew wants to get his best players on the floor. Either way, Broekhoff is a matchup nightmare for the opposition. He can shoot over smaller defenders from the three spot or get around slower defenders. The frontcourt also returns Kevin Van Wijk, a traditional post player who tallied 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 2011-2012. That is the extent of returning frontcourt, but those are two of the best players in the conference and the news in the frontcourt gets better.
2011-12 Record: 22-12, 14-4
2011-12 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Bryce Drew
Coach Record: 22-14 at Valparaiso, 22-14 overall
The loss of Richie Edwards, who transferred to Arizona State, is a blow. The forward averaged 9.4 points per game in just 17.8 minutes off of the bench. He made things happen off of the bench, as did Jay Harris, who is off to Wagner after averaging 9.0 points per game. Harris found quality minutes in what was, and still is, an extremely crowded backcourt. Hrvoje Vucic never made much of an impact and has also opted to transfer. However, Vucic did provide some depth in the paint. It would have been nice to keep Edwards and Harris, but they knew minutes would be tougher to come by this year. The only graduations come from a pair of walk-ons, Nick Shelton and Nathan Stegelmann.
Valpo has five newcomers eligible this season and all of them have some experience. The big name is Bobby Capobianco, a 6-9 junior who spent two seasons at Indiana. Capobianco made a few starts as a freshman, but saw his playing time diminish as a sophomore. Yet, Capobianco is a big, bruising forward who may be way too talented to leave out of the starting lineup. Coach Drew may not have the luxury of starting him with the talent on the perimeter and the obvious need to have Broekhoff and Van Wijk on the floor as much as possible. Vashil Fernandez will add some length to the frontcourt and a shot blocking presence, but he will need to be a surprise to see minutes this year. The backcourt adds a trio of transfers who will have to battle for minutes. Jordan Coleman comes from the junior college ranks after spending a little time at Hawaii. LaVonte Dority will be eligible mid-season after transferring in from USF. The most intriguing perimeter player among the newcomers could be Alex Rossi. Rossi never saw quality minutes at California due to injuries, but he is a solid player. At 6-6, Rossi is a big wing who can shoot lights out from long range and play good defense. If he is healthy, Coach Drew has even more work to do to figure out how he is going to play all of the talent he has on the perimeter. It is a good problem to have.
Who to Watch:
The one thing that is pretty much set in stone in the backcourt is that Erik Buggs will be running the point. Dority will provide backup once he is eligible. In the meantime that job will fall to junior Tommy Kurth. Buggs, a 5-11 senior, is not much of a scorer, but he is the leader on the floor. As long as he keeps the turnovers down and keeps the Crusaders moving at the proper pace, he is doing his job. What that pace is remains to be seen, as Valpo could easily pick up their tempo at times this year thanks to their depth. Matt Kenney, Will Bogan and Ben Boggs can all make great arguments to be in the starting lineup. Kenney is the most versatile scorer and player of the bunch. On top of his 7.3 points per game, Kenney averaged 2.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds. When Valpo needs another player who can handle the ball or some help on the glass, Kenney is the man. Bogan is the shooter. He knocked down nearly 41 percent of his attempts from long range last season and will get plenty of quality looks while the opposition worries about the scorers in the frontcourt. Boggs may be the odd man out on paper, but he started 20 games in 24 appearances last season and is now an experienced senior. Keeping him out of the starting lineup is one thing, but he will find minutes.
So the big question becomes who plays where. Due to a probable lack of frontcourt depth and the wealth of talent on the perimeter, Broekhoff will likely see most of his minutes at the four spot again. He has proven that he can play there. But leaving Capobianco out of the starting five seems wrong. But he will have to earn it. Yet, it really does not matter who starts as long as the team can buy into their roles. Coach Drew gets paid to figure these things out and there are many coaches around who would love to have Capobianco and Boggs and Coleman and Rossi and Dority coming in off of their bench. That is an amazing bench and this is a Valparaiso team that should dominate the Horizon League.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Erik Buggs, Senior, Guard, 4.4 points per game
Will Bogan, Senior, Guard, 7.2 points per game
Matt Kenney, Senior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Ryan Broekhoff, Senior, Forward, 14.9 points per game
Kevin Van Wijk, Senior, Forward, 14.1 points per game