VALPARAISO | The lights were out, doors were locked and all was quiet at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Wednesday afternoon.
Men's basketball players spent the day with their families, soaking in Tuesday’s Horizon League championship win over Wright State that will send the Crusaders to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.
Valparaiso typically has a “midnight rule,” meaning the players and coaches have until the end of the night to celebrate or stew over a game. Second-year coach Bryce Drew extended that deadline by telling the players to relax until practice resumes on Friday.
“I want them to be able to enjoy this for a couple of days,” Drew said on Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve been working so hard for this."
Drew got about four hours of sleep on Tuesday night and woke up saying of prayer of thanks. Whether it was Ryan Broekhoff’s miracle shot on Saturday night, Kevin Van Wijk contributing with one healthy leg or Erik Buggs putting the team on his back and Valparaiso pulling out a victory despite 25 turnovers in the championship, Drew felt a greater power at work.
“How everything happened for us to be in this position is a tremendous blessing,” Drew said.
Drew sat in the dimly-lit Schrage Hall on Wednesday afternoon, fulfilling national radio interviews and doing a little of his own “Bracketology” research. Without an opponent to prepare for until next week, Drew started to familiarize himself with where the Crusaders may end up when their name is called on Selection Sunday.
Schererville native and CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm currently has Valparaiso as a 14 seed traveling to Dayton to take on No. 3 Florida. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Crusaders as a 13 seed taking on No. 4 Oklahoma State in San Jose.
“They are a high 14 seed, but I think it would take a MAC or WAC tournament upset to get a chance to move up,” Palm said. “Teams that are kind of behind them (in the RPI) need to win in order for Valpo to move up. I don’t think there are a whole lot of opportunities there.”
Regardless if the Crusaders earn a 13 or 14 seed (12 or 15 is unlikely), they are going to face one of the top 15 teams in the country. Valparaiso’s only experience with a team on that level this season is New Mexico, a squad that Palm currently has as a three-seed.
“If you’re a 14, you’re playing someone that’s nine to 12 (in the country),” Palm said. “Right now that looks like Florida, Miami or Arizona, teams like that. New Mexico is probably the type of team that Valpo is going to get.”
The Crusaders lost a pair of 13-point games to New Mexico and St. Louis this season, the only ranked teams that Valparaiso played this year.