Friday, December 09, 2011

Crusader Preview....

The Falcons travel to Vaparaiso Saturday to take on the Crusaders in a return visit from the Bracket Buster game played at Anderson Arena a couple of years ago.

There's one notable change for Valpo, which is that Dr. Homer Drew is no longer coaching the team after 21 years.  He has been replaced by his son Bryce, who, in addition to being a Drew, is the best player Valpo over had.  He was a first-round NBA draft pick and played six seasons in the league.  He's 37 years old.  (His brother coaches Baylor).

Valpo is off to a surprising 6-3 start.  Because they had heavy losses and a young team (they have only one senior getting serious minutes), they were picked to finish 5th in the Horizon league this year.  Now, that 6-3 might be a little bit over-stated, as they have 2 non-D1 wins among the 6.  On the other hand, they did beat Akron (with Abreu) and Duquesne (a team BG has struggled to compete with), both games at home.  They also won @Butler (though they are rebuilding).  Their losses are to Arizona, OSU, (both high quality opponents) and IPFW, a poor loss, though on the road.

On offense, they appear to play a style very much like Bowling Green's, in that they don't shoot a lot of 3s.  They are shooting almost 48% for the year overall, and that will be the first issue for the Falcons to deal with.  They don't rebound especially well on the offensive end, but they are in the top 10% of the teams in the country thus far in getting to the free throw line and converting.  At 1.06 points per possession, they are a pretty effective offensive team.  They are scoring 74 a game.  The turn the ball over only on 21% of their possessions.

Defensively, they are very good on the boards, ranking among the top teams in D1.  They are only allowing .96 points per possession.  Teams are shooting about 42% against them and 34% from beyond the arc.  They do not force a lot of turnovers (19%), so it appears they most play solid shooting defense with few second chances.  They do foul a lot.  They average 17 fouls a game and their opponents average 21.

They have 4 regulars in double figures for scoring, two of them inside guys.  6'7" JR Ryan Broekoff  is scoring 14.8 points to go with 9 rebounds a game, and 6'8" Jr Kevin Van Wijk is scoring 14.2 points and 7 rebounds. They have 2 other regulars averaging 11 points, and one of those guys is 6'7".   So, while they are not tall per se, they have very effective long guys who are clearing scoring in the paint to be effective.

If you like tempo-free individual stats, all of those guys have offensive efficiency ratings over 100, or 1 point per possession.

This is a team BG beat two years ago at Anderson.  To win this one, the Falcons are going to have to play strong defense, which will mean both defending the shot and not fouling.  The Crusaders appear happy to take either one.  On offense, they are going to shoot better than they typically have been.  Valpo appears to be strong in the paint, so the Falcons may need to go inside-out to get the points they need.  Obviously, winning on the road is always tough and Valpo is 4-0 at home.  This is a good test for the Falcons, and a chance to mark the team's pre-MAC progress.  A win would be a quality win.

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