Happy Holiday! College basketball has "officially" returned with the start of normal practices today. I say normal because teams have been able to practice throughout the school year on a limited time basis. The Valparaiso men's basketball team was on the court on Wednesday and Thursday, so today's practice doesn't come with much fanfare as far as I'm concerned.
That won't stop me however from trying to predict a starting lineup for the first game of the season. This would've been a pretty simple exercise last year with all the returning seniors, but this season represents a different challenge.
Center -- Moussa Gueye -- Gueye didn't transfer to Valparaiso to sit on the bench. The word out of preseason camp is that Gueye is a dominant player in spurts. I believe he'll be a strong force in the Horizon League, but it will be curious to see how many minutes he logs in each game. Gueye averaged 15.4 minutes per game last season and never topped more than 25 minutes in a game. When Gueye comes out, both Vashil Fernandez and David Chadwick will have to pick up the slack.
Forward -- Alec Peters -- One of the freshmen is going to have to start (unless Chadwick earns a spot) and my money is on Peters. Clay Yeo and Jubril Adekoya will get plenty of minutes as well, but Peters seems to have the most-prepared body. Yeo tweeted that he has put on 18 pounds since arriving on campus. Peters may start the first game, but I expect this spot in the lineup to be a revolving door through the non-conference slate.
Forward -- Bobby Capobianco -- The slimmed-down Capobianco will start at one of the forward positions, but I'm not sure if he'll play in the post (power forward) or on the wing (small forward). We all know that Capobianco likes to shoot the 3-pointer and he can be a matchup nightmare for the opposition if his shot is on. Capobianco could be in line for a monster season if he can stay healthy.
Shooting Guard -- Jordan Coleman -- Bryce Drew will go with experience at the beginning of the season and will give Coleman the opportunity to earn valuable minutes. Coleman brings raw athleticism to the team and he can jump out of the gym. I don't believe he's the 3-point threat that the Crusaders are accustomed to from the two-guard, but Coleman can break down defenders and get to the basket with ease.
Point Guard -- Lavonte Dority -- Dority will be a starter for the entire year, it's just a matter of where on the floor. There seems to be mixed reviews coming from camp as to whether Keith Carter will run the point for Valparaiso (I believe he will) or work as the shooting guard. Wherever Carter is, Dority will be at the other guard spot once conference play begins. Once Carter is eligible, Coleman could slide to a wing forward and Capobianco into the post, eliminating the need for a freshman to start. Expect Lexus Williams to get a lot of minutes as a backup point guard in the non-conference and you could even see someone like Yeo bring the ball up the floor in certain situations.
All of these projections should be taken with a grain of salt. I've seen a handful of open gym practices and it's hard to take any concrete observations out of scrimmages. Drew will bring along the freshmen as slowly as he can (which is to say he won't have much of a choice) and will rely on the upperclassmen in the non-conference. Valparaiso may be the toughest team to gauge in the Horizon League standings simply because of the amount of newcomers. This should be a fun ride.