#131 Valparaiso Men's Basketball Preview

Valparaiso Crusaders

Overall Rank: #131
Conference Rank: #5 Horizon
Valparaiso Logo
Valparaiso Team Page

2010-11: 23-12, 12-6
2010-11 postseason: CIT
Coach: Bryce Drew (First year at Valparaiso, 0-0 overall)

The reigns, again, have been passed on from Homer Drew to his son. This time it is Valparaiso legend Bryce Drew taking over the program. After six years on the sidelines, the transition will be extremely smooth. The Crusaders are hoping to build off of a relatively successful campaign in 2010-2011, but three of their top four scorers are gone. The success of the team may well fall on the oft-injured Kevin Van Wijk. Rebounding and defense win games and Valpo needs the 6-8, 230 pound big man to be able to play 20 to 25 minutes per game and make it difficult for the opposition to get to the basket. Without an experienced big body in the paint, the Crusaders defense could be in big trouble.

Who’s Out:
Cory Johnson averaged 14.1 points per game last year and added 4.4 rebounds. Howard Little was another multi-faceted player who could do plenty of scoring and hit the glass effectively. He was also a solid defender. Even losing Michael Rogers will hurt the team’s overall depth a little bit even though he averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game. The biggest departure of them all is that of Brandon Wood. Wood, a 6-2 shooting guard, is opting to play his final season at Michigan State and will be eligible to play with the Spartans immediately since he has graduated from Valparaiso. His outside shooting and 16.7 points, 3.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest will sorely be missed.

Who’s In:
However, Valpo has taken advantage of the same NCAA rule and nabbed an immediate contributor of their own who graduated early. Former Mississippi guard Will Bogan actually has two years of eligibility remaining since he graduated in three years. Bogan never saw too much playing time with the Rebels, but he is a good shooter and will certainly provide quality depth to the backcourt. He could even turn into the starting point guard. Tommy Kurth could fill in that spot too after sitting out last season. Ben Boggs will give Valpo even more options on the perimeter once he is eligible in December after transferring from Virginia Tech. Boggs is a more polished scorer and do not be surprised if Bogan moves to the point and Boggs fills in off the ball once he is eligible. The backcourt logjam is nice, but the frontcourt is where this team needs help. Dino Jakolis could be a good player in time, but he needs to add weight if he is going to be an interior threat. Vashil Fernandez is a great athlete and, at 6-11, has plenty of size, but he is extremely raw. If the coaching staff can spare him, Fernandez would be better off redshirting this year. The best answer among the newcomers is junior college transfer Richie Edwards. He has enough size to bang around in the paint and grab some boards. That is what this team needs their frontcourt to do and Edwards should be able to do it.

Who to Watch:
The other frontcourt options are pretty much non-existent. Hrvoje Vucic and Cameron Witt barely played last year and it would be a stretch to expect one of them to step into a major role. Ryan Broekhoff has some size, but he cannot be as effective at the power forward position. Broekhoff is mostly a shooter and over half of his shots last year came from beyond the arc. That is not a bad thing, especially since he connected on 44.8 percent of his attempts from long range last year, but how long could he last playing defense against a much stronger power forward? That is why the health of Van Wijk is so important. Even if Broekhoff needs to spend some time at the four spot, where he can grab plenty of rebounds and block some shots, Van Wijk is the big body this team has to have under the basket.

Final Projection:
The backcourt returns three key contributors. Erik Buggs is a true point guard in every way possible. He is not an offensive threat at all and that makes him very easy to guard. If he can at least be a threat to shoot the long ball, it would really open up the offense. Buggs does play good defense and will find his teammates, but Bogan may take his job away allowing Buggs to be a defensive spark off of the bench. Jay Harris had a decent freshman campaign last year and could turn into a pretty good shooter off of the bench. Matt Kenney is a solid all-around player who can do some scoring, rebounding and passing. If he does come in off of the bench, the Crusaders have a lot of talent sitting on the sidelines. The other option is to give up on the big guys and play small, which will certainly happen at times, but bringing Kenney into the starting lineup and sliding Broekhoff to the four spot will not work against most competition for an extended period of time.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Erik Buggs, Junior, Guard, 2.8 points per game
Will Bogan, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Ryan Broekhoff, Junior, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Richie Edwards, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Kevin Van Wijk, Junior, Forward, 5.1 points per game

Check out another article about Valparaiso men’s basketball.