VALPARAISO — Finally, Valparaiso knows when and where it will take the court for all 31 regular-season games this season.
The Crusaders men's basketball program announced its nonconference schedule last week and the Missouri Valley Conference released the league slate Tuesday. Valparaiso will host 13 regular-season home games and one preseason exhibition contest.
One of the non-league home games comes against NAIA opponent Trinity Christian, while Valparaiso will host North Dakota on Nov. 17 and Central Michigan on Dec. 8 — both Sunday afternoon games that land in the middle of the NFL season.
It isn't an ideal home schedule. Rounding out the slate took extra effort after Vanderbilt and George Washington bought out of trips to the Athletics-Recreation Center in August.
“The schedule was hard this year just because of some of the games we didn't get, having been bought out,” coach Matt Lottich said.
North Dakota will be Valparaiso's first buy game in program history, as the Crusaders paid an undisclosed sum to bring in the Fighting Hawks. Valparaiso added home-and-home series with Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Charlotte in addition to previously known ones with SIU-Edwardsville, High Point and Toledo.
The Charlotte and High Point trips take place on the same trip in December, and Lottich said such convenience made Charlotte an attractive home-and-home partner.
Valparaiso will take money to play one-off games at Saint Louis on November 9 and against Arkansas on December 21 in North Little Rock, Arkansas. When the Crusaders assessed their options for subsidized road trips against strong opponents, both teams fit their criteria.
“Understanding where teams are at (competitively), and it's hard playing buy games you've got to travel a long way for — things like that,” Lottich said. “These are semi-regional, and for Arkansas it works out that it's gonna be the tail end of that North Carolina trip and a game before Christmas. It just worked out.”
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Last season, Valparaiso made trips to the Charleston Classic in South Carolina, West Virginia, UNLV, George Washington and Texas A&M. Athletic director Mark LaBarbera has said the program hopes to cut down on travel going forward.
That's why Lottich said the first thing he looked at on the MVC slate was when visits to far-flung Missouri State and Northern Iowa come. Both are mid-week games this season, which poses challenges.
“It's a far travel day, so if we're playing them mid-week, we've got to make accommodations to try to get down there, probably on a charter,” Lottich said. “Our big thing is, can we keep our young men in class as much as possible, as opposed to taking these really, really long trips?”
Valparaiso opens MVC play by hosting Loyola on December 30 and hosts likely league favorite Missouri State on Senior Night, February 25. The only two-game road trip without a return to campus in between comes in early January, when the Crusaders will swing by Evansville and Southern Illinois.
“The conference does look exciting,” Lottich said. “You look at (the schedule), and every game is gonna be a tough game. And that's the way it should be.”
New athletic trainer incoming
LaBarbera said last month that athletic trainer Zach Creighton had departed, which left the Crusaders without a trainer for their preseason trip to Canada. Valparaiso's preseason conditioning workouts start Wednesday with the “Crusader Mile,” but help is on the way.
“My expectation is we'll have someone hopefully at the start of next week,” Lottich said.