VALPARAISO | Bryce Drew isn’t worried about the perception that the current version of the Valparaiso men’s basketball team isn’t living up to lofty preseason expectations.
The Crusaders are 9-4 after a challenging non-conference slate that included tough road games at St. Louis, Nebraska and New Mexico. For as much as Drew’s squad has struggled on the road, the Crusaders are just two possessions away from an 11-2 start.
Valparaiso faces perhaps its biggest challenge of the season this afternoon when the Crusaders travel to Murray State to face the 9-2 Racers.
“On the inside I’m happy with our team,” Drew said. “Obviously you want to win every game, but our schedule has been pretty difficult. I’m not really frustrated with the preseason. I’m thankful we were able to win a couple of road games. It’s very difficult to win on the road.”
The Crusaders may not play a tougher team than Murray State all season and they certainly won’t compete against a better player than All-American candidate Isaiah Cannan. The senior guard averages 20.9 points per game and is shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line.
“Cannan is a First Team All-American and after watching film you can see why,” Drew said. “He’s very explosive, can shoot the ball very well and is very difficult to guard. We’re going to do what we normally do on defense. Some guys are excited for the opportunity to stop a player as good as him.”
Valparaiso guards Erik Buggs and Lavonte Dority will get the call to shut down Cannan, but Ben Boggs and Matt Kenney will also be utilized as Murray State generates much of its offense through ball screens. Buggs and Dority spent extra time after practicing on Friday working with Drew.
“I like the challenge,” Buggs said. “(Cannan) is a great player. He has a great feel for the game, a great shot and he leads a really good team. It’s going to be fun and I’m looking forward to it.”
Buggs shrugged off any concerns about being demoted out of the starting lineup and also didn’t blink when asked about the perception that the Crusaders haven’t played up to their potential this season.
“I don’t think anyone listens to (outside criticism)," Buggs said. “We believe in ourselves in the locker room and that’s the most important thing. We know what this team is capable of and with conference around the corner the biggest thing is get some momentum heading into conference, because that’s really what’s going to count.”