VU glad ‘business trip’ closer to home than in previous years
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or email@example.com March 20, 2013 7:44PM
Former Lake Central standout Glenn Robinson on the court at The Palace in Auburn Hills Wednesday afternoon. Michigan plays in the second round or the NCAA Tournament Thursday. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
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For more photos and video from Wednesday’s practices in Auburn Hills, Mich., vist posttrib.suntimes.com/sports
Updated: April 22, 2013 12:25PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — In its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2004, Valparaiso has been trying to soak up the atmosphere, absorb the experience.
But to a point.
“It’s great because it’s close and it’s easier for our fans to travel, but it’s definitely a business trip,” Erik Buggs said on Wednesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills, before the No. 14 seed Crusaders play No. 3 Michigan State on Thursday.
“You enjoy the moment off the court, and when you step on the court, it’s all about business.”
In their first seven tournament appearances, the Crusaders’ opening games were in: Tempe (1996), Salt Lake City (’97), Oklahoma City (’98), Orlando (’99), Cleveland (2000), St. Louis (’02) and Seattle (’04). So they welcomed this destination.
“We’re extremely excited that we’re only four hours from home so our fans can drive and see the game,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “Historically, we’ve always been sent out west or far away where our fans can’t come. So it will be refreshing to hopefully have some yellow in the stands tomorrow.”
Of course, the Spartans will be playing practically in their backyard, about 80 miles and less than an hour-and-a-half from East Lansing. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said the setup is 99 percent upside with only one percent — an increase in potential distractions — downside.
“The NCAA Tournament never gets old, No. 1,” he said. “And to have the ability to play in your home state in a great facility like The Palace, it’s special for me, for the fans, for our university, for our team.”
The Crusaders aren’t strangers to playing in the Detroit area, if not this particular venue.
“We have some bad memories here and obviously some good ones,” Kevin Van Wijk said. “Having to play here, we don’t need to think about the past; we need to think about what’s ahead of us.”
Said Ryan Broekhoff: “The closer the games come, the more I’ve seemed to enjoy it. It’s kind of sunk in that we have completed one of our goals. Obviously, we still have goals in mind that we set at the start of the year. It is a business trip in the end. We’ll enjoy the experience, but once you walk over those lines and the ball’s thrown up, it’s all about business and we’re out here to not just make up the numbers, but to really give it a good effort and give our best. Anything can happen in games like this.”
Making the rounds: Even Izzo made a reference to “The Shot.”
“I know enough about Valparaiso to know that, somewhere in his repertoire, Bryce has that shot from way back in there,” he said. “And I hope that’s not in the game plan.”
Down the middle: Michigan State point guard Keith Appling, for one, reached out to Brandon Wood, who played for Valparaiso before transferring to Michigan State, part of the Spartans’ Sweet 16 team last season. The two talked right after it was revealed the Spartans and Crusaders would play each other.
“It didn’t seem that he was on either side,” Appling said of Wood, who plays professionally in Hungary. “He just wanted us to go out there and play well. He asked me to tell the other guys that he said hello.”
Izzo said he and Homer Drew are “good friends,” and that Homer encouraged Izzo to take Wood, after Izzo initially wasn’t going to.
“Homer called me back and said, listen, he wants to go,” Izzo said. “He’s going to go somewhere, and I’d love to have him go to your place. So there was an amicable deal there.
“We know how good Valpo is and our guys have heard of Valpo. ... The Brandon situation even maybe brings it a little closer.”
LC’s Robinson excited for NCAA debut: Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III will be among the players making his NCAA Tournament debut this season, as the No. 4 seed Wolverines play No. 13 South Dakota State.
“Just coming into it, I’ve just been excited the whole week, and I thought that myself and the team did a great job preparing for it, and I’ve just heard a lot of things about the Tournament,” the Lake Central graduate said. “It’s my first time, so I’m just excited to get there playing and get going.”
Cheering his countrymen: Broekhoff watched with interest as Saint Mary’s defeated Middle Tennessee in a First Four game on Tuesday. The Gaels have four Australians on their roster — standout point guard Matthew Dellavedova, as well as Jorden Page, Mitchell Young and Matt Hodgson — and he knows all of them, having spent two years at the Australian Institute of Sport.
No. 11 seed Saint Mary’s plays No. 6 Memphis in Thursday’s second game at The Palace, with the winner playing the Valparaiso-Michigan State winner in the Round of 32.
“I was excited to see them win,” Broekhoff said. “If all things go well, we might end up playing them in the next round. We don’t look too far ahead, but to have more Australians be represented at good colleges over here, it really speaks volumes of how basketball in Australia is going and how it’s building.”