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Alec Peters, Kenneth Lowe

Valparaiso's Alec Peters drives to the basket against Green Bay's Kenneth Lowe during the second half of Monday's Horizon League tournament semifinal game. Green Bay defeated Valparaiso 99-92 in overtime.

What is the point?

It's the one question that keeps circulating through my mind as I ponder Valparaiso's NCAA tournament snub on Sunday evening. I've been told that the word "snub" may be exercising some editorial license, but when the NCAA states Valpo is one of the First Four Out and the NIT gives the Crusaders a No. 1 seed, I'm inclined to think it's a snub, particularly when there are a few teams in the tournament that defy understanding. 

Michigan. Vanderbilt. Syracuse. Tulsa. 

Does Valparaiso beat those four teams? Does St. Mary's? Does Monmouth? I don't know. We had the chance to see that in the First Four, but the committee chose to go in another direction. We have the chance to see those games in the regular season, yet the high major programs chose to go in another direction. 

What is the point?

Valparaiso did what the committee asked during the non-conference. Bryce Drew called every top program out there and got crickets on the other end. Nothing from Indiana. Purdue. Notre Dame. Kentucky. Fan bases that are complaining about seeding yet when it came to the non-conference slate they rarely played true road games and rarely brought a team with a pulse into their building. 

The Crusaders on the other hand did almost nothing but play true road games. Valparaiso started the season with eight games in 16 days, playing on the east coast (Rhode Island) and the west coast (Oregon, Oregon State). The Crusaders were 6-2 in those games, including 2-1 against NCAA tournament teams. They beat No. 7 seed Oregon State on the road and played within six points of No. 1 seed Oregon. They also did that without one of their key rotation players (David Skara). It was in the Oregon game that Tevonn Walker got hurt. He gutted it out against Oregon State and then missed the Ball State game. Playing its eighth game in 16 days and without two key contributors, the Crusaders lost a true road game to a MAC Division Champion by three points...and got killed for it by everybody.

What is the point?

Valparaiso won its next four games before losing a tough road contest at Belmont by four points. The Crusaders and Bruins split two games this season. Belmont went on to win the Ohio Valley Conference. That's three losses in the non-conference against three division or conference champions.

The Crusaders have been encouraged by the Horizon League to become "built for at-large." Valparaiso took the games that teams would give them and played a schedule that generated a RPI of 20 at the end of the non-conference slate. The problem for Valparaiso is that the Oregon State win was the only flashy victory.

Call it what you want, but the high-major programs have colluded against talented mid-majors to keep them from breaking into the upper echelon. Teams like Indiana and Purdue schedule soft in the non-conference to avoid a damaging defeat while then getting the opportunity to beef up its resume in the conference season (unless you're Indiana who played the weakest Big Ten schedule in the history of the world this season). Teams like Valparaiso have to take whatever scraps the high-majors throw at them and then it has to begin a conference season knowing it can really do nothing but damage its resume. Wins mean nothing and losses are crippling.

What is the point?

The Crusaders delivered the most dominating season in Horizon League history this year. Ok ok, maybe some hyperbole there, but depending on the metric you look at, the fact remains: Valparaiso dominated the Horizon League (minus one pesky Wright State team). 

While the Crusaders didn't finish undefeated in league play like Butler did in 2009-10, Valparaiso did set the league scoring mark for margin of victory, beating teams by an average of more than 15 points per game. Bryce Drew's team won its first six conference games by double digits, including a 84-67 beatdown of eventual second-place finisher Oakland on the road. It was Valparaiso's fifth true road win of the year. There would be seven more to follow.

If you struggle with math like Charles Barkley struggles with touch screens, that's 12 true road wins, or two more than Michigan and Tulsa combined. (Indiana and Purdue combined for 11 true road wins) In an era of college basketball where home teams are victorious in 70 percent of their games, Valparaiso won 75 percent of their games on the road. Was that impressive enough for the committee? Not one bit. 

What is the point?

So the Crusaders cruised through the Horizon League slate short one bad road loss to Wright State and one late game collapse at home against the Raiders. Leading by six points with 78 seconds left, Valparaiso was somehow able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Crusaders responded by winning five straight games including a pair of nationally-televised contests against Oakland and Milwaukee. The Milwaukee game was a gutsy road victory that came in overtime. 

For years the Horizon League has rewarded its champion with homecourt advantage in the conference tournament. This was never a problem when Butler won the league on a regular basis. The time for growth came however and the league entered into a five-year agreement with Olympia Entertainment to host the tournament in Detroit. The league kept the double bye intact and while teams raced throughout the conference season to secure the precious extra two days of rest, the signs of peril were in plain sight for teams (un)lucky enough to gain the double bye. In three straight years from 2012-14, the No. 2 seed in the league received a double bye and failed to win its first game on a neutral floor, falling to a team that had already gotten used to the postseason pressure and atmosphere of the building. With the tournament moving to a 100 percent neutral site, there shouldn't have been any surprise this season that the teams with double byes struggled in their first games of the tournament while the teams that had experienced victory twice over were used to the building and the atmosphere. 

Valparaiso dominated the conference from day one, beating Oakland twice and yet the Crusaders and Grizzlies were given the exact same reward.

What is the point?

So now you're Bryce Drew and the big schools come calling with job offers again. The high-level search firms and athletic directors are smart enough to see what the selection committee apparently can't: Drew is a fantastic coach who led his team to an outstanding 26-6 season. Your name is worthy of being up for nearly every job in the country. Maybe it will be for St. Louis of the three-bid Atlantic 10 or maybe it will be for TCU of the seven-bid Big 12. Why continue to toil away in a one-bid league when the big boys come calling with offers to double your salary and triple or more the amount of your chances at getting to the Big Dance? 

So now you're Alec Peters and the big schools come calling with the offer to play your final season in a power conference. You've dominated at the mid-major level and they start selling you on the idea that you need to play against top-flight competition night in and night out in order to get the NBA scouts to look at you. You've done what was asked of you, graduated college in three years and you've earned the right to shop around. Maybe to a program that doesn't have to hinge its entire season on two days in March. 

So now you're Valparaiso director of athletics Mark LaBarbera and you just lost your head coach and your best player because they dominated for 60 days and then went through one bad 45 minute stretch and all of their dreams came crashing down because 10 people in a room in New York decided that your team didn't have good enough wins against teams that wouldn't schedule them in the first place because your team was too good. 

Seriously, what is the point?

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