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Valparaiso releases its nonconference men's basketball schedule
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Men’s basketball

Valparaiso releases its nonconference men's basketball schedule

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Matt Lottich

Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said, “We had more restrictions that we’ve ever had (in putting together the schedule)."

VALPARAISO — Navigating COVID-19’s impact on the upcoming college basketball season is going to be a challenge, but the Valparaiso men’s basketball team now has a blueprint to work from.

The Crusaders released their nonconference schedule for the 2020-21 season on Thursday afternoon, just eight days before the start of the season.

Valparaiso will open the year at Vanderbilt next Friday, a game that is on the schedule as a result of Bryce Drew leaving for the Nashville-based school in 2016. The nonconference schedule is also highlighted by a game on Dec. 4 at Purdue.

“We had more restrictions that we’ve ever had (in putting together the schedule),” Valparaiso men’s basketball coach Matt Lottich said. “Normally, we get into this and it’s tough to find games because teams aren’t really eager to play us. That, in and of itself, is always a challenge. Then you throw in (COVID-19) restrictions by our institution and by other institutions, and it was a challenge.”

The inability to fly to games is one restriction that forced the rearrangement of some previously scheduled games this season. Charlotte was due for a game at the Athletics-Recreation Center, but that game has been pushed back to the 2021-22 season because of travel restrictions. The Crusaders will open their home slate on Nov. 29 against Trinity International and will also host Judson (Dec. 6), SIU-Edwardsville (Dec. 9) and Eastern Michigan (Dec. 16) during the nonconference portion of the schedule.

With Porter County recently moving to “red,” Valparaiso is still examining protocols as it pertains to allowing spectators at games this season.

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“We want to be out there with our community and our institution supporting us,” Lottich said. “People that are smarter than me are making those decisions and we’re going to do what we’re told. Basketball is going to be fun. Whether we’re playing one another or another team, whether there are fans in the stands or not, we’re grateful to be able to play.”

Lottich confirmed on Thursday that the program has experienced some COVID-related shutdowns. The Crusaders are back practicing this week and are using KINEXON SafeZone technology to assist in contact tracing.

“We went a long stretch where we got a lot of work in and then right when we were starting to focus on game prep, boom, we’re shutdown and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Lottich said. “We’re active right now. I like the mentality of our guys. There’s a bigger picture out there. If the administration tells us that we need to do something to help out, we’ll do that. Our guys did a good job and we’re fortunate to have another practice days to get us ready.”

The Missouri Valley Conference announced its schedule earlier this fall and the Crusaders will open conference play at Indiana State on Dec. 30. Arch Madness is currently slated for the first week of March, although everything on the schedule could still be considered a moving target.

“It comes down to our goal of making sure we’re playing games,” Lottich said. “If you’re not ready to be proactive and think and prepare for what might be an inevitability — cancelled games — you’re probably not doing your job.”

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Paul Oren has been a correspondent reporter for The Times since 2005. A member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, Paul has spent more than 15 years covering Valparaiso basketball.

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