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Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Valparaiso Crusaders



Crusaders bullets:

  • 2009 record of 9-22; 5-13 in the Horizon League.
  • 2009 Kenpom ranking: #216.  Adjusted offensive efficiency: #225.  Adjusted defensive efficiency: #201.
  • Return only 2 of 5 starters from last year's team.  But that team was pretty balanced: 10 players averaged at least 10 minutes/game and only one scored more than 10 points/game.
  • Record of 1-2 thus far in the new season.  Win was against IU-South Bend, an NAIA team.
  • But they did hang with North Carolina for a bit, eventually losing by 11 points.
  • Leading scorer is 6'2" RS sophomore guard Brandon Wood, who's averaging 22.3 points/game and dropped 30 on the Tarheels.  Wood has knocked down of 9 of his 19 three-point attempts to date.
  • 6'1" 5th-year senior guard Brandon McPherson can also shoot the ball: 18.7 points/game on 10-16 three-point shooting.
  • 6'7" RS junior Cory Johnson is the Crusader's primary interior player: 14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
  • The legendary Homer Drew is the Valparaiso head coach.  You may remember him from the 1998 NCAA Tournament, when his son Bryce (currently an associate coach with the team) hit a last-second 3-pointer off a long inbound pass to upset the 4th-seeded Mississippi in a first-round game.  That team won another game to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
  • The rest of the story that you may not know (since I didn't): Drew retired as head coach after the 2002 season.  He was replaced by his son Scott, who was then hired away by Baylor after just one season--at which point Homer returned as head coach.
  • Drew hasn't quite matched the success he had prior to the 2002 retirement (6 NCAA appearances in 7 years), but the 2009 team was the first Valparaiso team not to win at least 15 games in 15 years.  So it's entirely possible this season's version of the Crusaders may turn out to be a decent squad.
  • It's hard to get a good reading on this team looking at their tempo-free data.  Last year's team was slightly better on the defensive end of the court.  They forced quite a few turnovers (DefTO%=22.2%) while fouling quite a bit and forcing a lot of 3-pointers.  They play some sort of zone defense (using it exclusively against North Carolina)--perhaps with a trapping component?

    Through three games this season, though, the Crusaders look quite a bit better on offense.  They've posted over a point per possession in all three games and are turning the ball over on only 12.7% of possessions.

    Put all that together with the 3-point shooting ability Wood and McPherson have displayed and this match-up has me a tad more anxious than the Toledo game did.  MSU will need to continue the efficient ball-handling they displayed Friday night and perhaps pump up the shooting percentage from beyond the arc (just 27.8% to date).

    Defensively, this game is another chance for Durrell Summers and Chris Allen to show they can guard good opposing wing scorers.  Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious will look to disrupt the Crusaders' rhythm in running their offense as smoothly as they have in previous games, and Roe/Green/Nix need to make sure that what looks like a healthy rebounding advantage on both ends of the court on paper actually materializes on the court.