Challenging week ahead for Valparaiso men's basketball team

2014-02-24T21:00:00Z 2014-02-25T16:45:09Z Challenging week ahead for Valparaiso men's basketball teamPaul Oren Times Correspondent
February 24, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

While the seeding scenarios remaining for the Horizon League tournament are incredibly complicated, the situation is really quite simple for the Valparaiso men’s basketball team.

If the Crusaders win both of their remaining games, beginning with tonight’s road contest at Wright State, Valparaiso will earn the No. 2 seed and a double bye into the conference semifinals.

Wins against the Raiders tonight and Cleveland State at home in the regular-season finale on Saturday would set up the Crusaders nicely for a possible third straight trip to the Horizon League title game and a chance for consecutive NCAA appearances for the first time since the turn of the century.

“It’s nice to know that we have a chance if we can win our last two to be able to get the double bye,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “A bye is something that everyone is shooting for right now. It’s definitely going to be a big challenge, but you always at least want to have a chance.”

The challenge in front of Valparaiso is the chance to avenge its two toughest Horizon League losses this year. The Raiders came into the Athletics-Recreation Center on Jan. 10 and handed the Crusaders their worst home loss of the season (62-45).

“Our team is a lot different than the first time we played them, but they are different as well,” Drew said. “We’re playing different rotations. Both teams are playing better. They had just gotten (Chrishawn) Hopkins when we played them and now he’s playing really well. It’s going to be a challenge.”

A win tonight would give the Crusaders no worse than the No. 3 seed in next week’s conference tournament and set up a winner-take-second battle with Cleveland State on Saturday. A loss tonight would almost assure the Crusaders of finishing in fourth place unless Valparaiso beat the Vikings and winless UIC knocked off the Raiders on Saturday. In that case, the Crusaders would still finish second.

“We haven’t really talked about any of the scenarios in depth with our guys,” Drew said. “There are a variety of different options and we want to be able to get byes. I think our players all know the magnitude of the games we have coming up.”

If the Crusaders (17-12, 9-5) are to beat Wright State (16-13, 8-6), they’ll need a better performance the second time around from Lavonte Dority. The senior guard scored a conference-low six points against the Raiders as he battled through a back injury, the same injury that flared up last week against Green Bay. Drew expects Dority to play at full speed tonight.

“He’s responded great to everything,” Drew said. “His back has been a lot better today and we’ll hopefully have him ready to go.”

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