See the 3MW Preseason Preview here.
Best call(s): I am writing this in place of my colleague Matthew Cox, as he is just not very interested in Horizon basketball. Just kidding, he’s finishing up another project for the site, so I’m tagging in – and I get to talk about Valpo being awesome! He nailed that, and really didn’t miss badly on any teams – Youngstown snuck up from 10th to 7th, but it was a pretty clear bottom 4 in the league.
Worst call(s): As good as Alec Peters is, I’m pretty stunned Matt didn’t pick Kay Felder for POY - he was a dynamo last year, but I guess Matt went the best player on the best team route. Darien Walker as a first-teamer didn’t end up looking so hot – he was probably the 5th-best player on his own team (and the second-best guy named Walker). And while I loved the balls to say Jordan Fouse would lead Green Bay in every stat, Carrington Love put that notion to rest by averaging 18.3ppg.
This tournament is HOT AND READY for some action!! I know, that sucked, I’m sorry.
Who I want to win: I would really love to see Kay Felder get a shot at the tournament, but I was reminded while doing this preview that he’s only a junior (!!!!). Felder could make a run next year at the NCAA career assist record held by Bobby Hurley, and a senior stud PG leading the Golden Grizzlies to the Tournament would be a nice story. So I’ll go with by far the best team, Valpo. They have a top 5 adjDE in the country, per kenpom.com, led by the nation’s best shot-blocker (by rate) in Vashil Fernandez, and a ton of versatile and skilled length. They have the weapons on both ends of the floor to give teams hell in the tournament (despite what the losses to Wright St twice and Ball St would tell you), and I’d love to see them frustrating the hell out of in-state big brother Indiana. (Side note: The team’s best player, Alec Peters, is a junior, like Felder. Here’s hoping one of these two teams can put together an at-large resume next year).
Who I think will win: Valpo. The Crusaders are suffocating on the defensive end, and the only chance they would face Wright State again (who beat them twice) would be a scenario where the Raiders are on their 4th game in 4 days. The Wisconsin teams could give the Crusaders a challenge, especially Milwaukee with Panoske/Tiby’s abilities to bring Fernandez away from the rim, but in the end, I think Bryce Drew gets the job done.
Chance to make a run in the NCAA Tournament: Really, really good. Valpo would probably only be a 1-2 point underdog in the first round, depending on the opponent, and their defense will be a tough riddle to solve. If they get matched up against a coach I don’t trust (Crean? Prohm? McCaffrey?), I will be all over Valparaiso in the first round. My absolute DREAM – a Baylor/Valpo 6/11 or 5/12 matchup where Bryce Drew coaches circles around his brother repeatedly.
How I think it will play out:
(4) Green Bay defeats (9) Cleveland St.
(5) Milwaukee defeats (8) Northern Ketnucky
(3) Wright St. defeats (10) UIC
(6) Detroit defeats (7) Youngstown St.
(5) Milwaukee defeats (4) Green Bay
(3) Wright St. defeats (6) Detroit
(1) Valparaiso defeats (5) Milwaukee
(3) Wright St. defeats (2) Oakland
(1) Valparaiso defeats (3) Wright St.
Valparaiso gets a 12-seed and suffocates some poor large conference team in a beautiful (to my eyes) 60-50 first round upset. They hang on again in the second round to get to the second weekend, earning a Sweet 16 berth and becoming a tournament darling. We get to see Bryce Drew's shot 40-50 times.