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Updated: December 9, 2013 10:40AM
1. Youth is served: Only four of this year’s Crusaders played minutes last season and eight have never put on a Valparaiso uniform. Getting as many players experience before conference play is key.
2. Chemistry building: A by-product of all that youth is trying to find the right lineup combinations and for players to build chemistry together. The coaching staff will earn its money this season.
3. Follow the leader: Every team needs a leader to succeed, but who will be that player or those players this season? VU lost seven seniors to graduation, so the leadership position is up for grabs.
4. Balance: The last couple years the Crusaders were a deadly outside-shooting team. When guys like Broekhoff and Bogan and Kenney were on target, the opponent was in trouble. That will change this year with plenty of size inside.
5. Inside touch: Since the trees inside will be getting a lot more touches, it’s up to them to develop some touch around the basket. It was common to see missed layups last year, where 3-pointers made up for the bricklaying.
Five key games to the season
1. Nov. 8, vs. Murray State: The season opener isn’t an easy game against a team that was a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament in 2012. Horizon League champ banner ceremony before the game could be distraction.
2. Nov. 13, at Illinois: The Crusaders travel to Illinois’ Assembly Hall for the first time since 2004. The Illini are the Big Ten version of VU — young and trying to find a new identity.
3. Jan. 4, at Oakland: It’s a reunion of former Mid-Continent Conference/Summit League rivals. It will also be an early barometer on how good the Crusaders are since Oakland should be very good.
4. Jan. 10, vs. Wright State: It’s a rematch of last year’s Horizon League Tournament championship game. This game is scheduled to be televised on ESPNU.
5. Jan. 29, vs. Green Bay: If VU has any hopes of winning the Horizon regular season title, beating the preseason No. 1 Phoenix would be a pretty good start.