VALPARAISO | Bryce Drew has preached for two years that every game in the Horizon League counts the same.
That logic will be tested this week as the Valparaiso men’s basketball team has the opportunity to run away from the rest of the conference given its opponents.
Wins at Wright State on Tuesday and at home against Detroit on Saturday would give the Crusaders a share of the conference title. Add in Green Bay losing at any point, and Valparaiso would host the Horizon League tournament for the second consecutive year.
Lose either of the games and the Crusaders fall back into a crowded field with three conference games left after this week.
Drew isn’t taking any time to learn the scenarios.
“We’ve got Wright State and they’re in second place,” Drew said. “They are such a huge challenge for us. We’ve got five conference games left and they are all very good teams.”
The Raiders came to the Athletics-Recreation Center on Jan. 19 and forced the Crusaders to play an unfamiliar brand of basketball. It wasn’t until Valparaiso scored on its final 10 possessions of the game that it was able to pull out a 69-63 victory. Valparaiso’s 69 points represents its lowest total in a conference win this season.
“If you look at all the conference games, only one team has scored 70 or more against them,” Drew said. “They really work the ball on offense. They control the overall tempo. Every team presents different challenges.”
The Crusaders (19-6, 9-2) will be entering the game as weary road warriors. Valparaiso got back from Cleveland late Saturday night and then left for Dayton on Monday morning. Practice time has been scarce as of late, and it's hurting Valparaiso given all its recent injuries.
Lavonte Dority (ankle) will be a game-time decision and there are still questions about the effectiveness of Matt Kenney (back) and Kevin Van Wijk (back).
“We got guys with some injuries that were on the bus for 10 hours two days ago and then almost four and a half hours today,” Drew said. “That’s almost 15 hours. I think travel catches up with you at some point. When that point is, you never know."