NCAA tournament team previews: Valparaiso Crusaders
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 28-5 (13-3 in Horizon)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 103.8 (29th)/94.3 (31st)
Seed: No. 13 in Midwest
Impact player: Alec Peters, sophomore, forward: 16.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 125.4 offensive rating
The Case For: Bryce Drew has guided the Crusaders to the NCAA tournament in two of his four seasons as head coach. The last time Valpo made the field, in 2013, it lost by 11 points to No. 3 seed Michigan State. While the Crusaders’ resume might suggest they'll have a hard time pulling an upset this year—they had zero wins against teams ranked in the RPI top 50 this season—their performance in the Horizon League should not be overlooked. Of the three games Valpo dropped during against conference foes en route to both the regular season and tournament titles, two were decided by three or fewer points, one ended in overtime and all three took place on the road. While Peters is a skilled scorer who can space the floor by knocking down three point shots adn the team makes 38.1 percent from beyond the arc overall, the Crusaders' strength is their defense. They led the Horizon League in opposing two-point field goal percentage and kenpom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency during conference play.
The Case Against: Valpo suffered some bad losses in the non-conference. On Nov. 16 the Crusaders lost by 15 at a Missouri team that finished 9-23, and on Dec. 5 they lost at home to a New Mexico club that finished 15-16. While Valpo should be commended for blowing out Murray State on a neutral court in November, the Racers are one of only two teams currently ranked in the top 90 on kenpom.com that the Crusaders beat this season. Valpo turned the ball over on more than 20 percent of its possessions during Horizon League play, which ranked ninth in the conference, and ranks 198th nationally in free throw percentage.