Predicting the star of the game for Wright State is like playing Plinko on the Price is Right. You would be better off throwing a dart at a roster and seeing what name you hit.
Jerran Young and Miles Dixon have stepped up in the tournament, but Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew knows his team can’t just focus on one or two guys in the Horizon League championship game at Valparaiso at 9 tonight.
“They have a deep bench, and we consider all of them starters,” Drew said. “At any time, a different five can finish the game, and someone can get it going during the game that maybe didn’t have it going the game before.
“That’s what made them good all year. They’re literally the definition of a team on defense and offense. Our preparation will be the same. We know they have a lot of capable scorers. We’ll try to defend the best we can.”
Valparaiso scored under 70 points only four times in conference play, and two of those games were against Wright State. The Crusaders won 69-63 on Jan. 19 at Valparaiso and 68-61 on Feb. 12 in Fairborn.
“They’re very physical on defense,” Drew said. “They do very well on the help side.”
Wright State leads the all-time series 11-10, but Valparaiso has won five of the last six games. The Crusaders could erase some of the pain caused by last season’s 70-50 loss to Detroit in the championship game at Valparaiso, though Drew said that game isn’t something he or the players talk about.
“If they are thinking about it, it’s something inside of them,” Drew said. “We don’t bring it up. It’s a new season. We have new players. It’s a different team. We’re playing Wright State, not Detroit. It’s kind of irrelevant right now.”
Drew famously hit a last-second shot for Valparaiso in the 1998 NCAA tournament, and if the Crusaders win tonight, it would be his first trip to the NCAA tournament as a head coach. Still, he wants to win for his players more than anything.
“We care about the players,” he said. “They’re the ones who put the work in. When we recruit them, we want them to have a memorable experience. This is something they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”
Bus trip: Several buses carrying Wright State students will leave for the game from the university at 2 p.m. today and return after the game. The bus ride and tickets are free to the Wright State community, the university announced.
Watch party: For Wright State fans who can’t make the trip to Valparaiso, the university is hosting a party at the Nutter Center in the Frickers’ Above the Rim and Alumni Zone for fans to watch the game on ESPN.
Entry is free, and food and drinks will be available for purchase. Alumni Association members get normal member discounts with their membership card. The first 100 people will receive a free gift.