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GORCHES: Valpo’s tourney success hinges on turnovers

Valparaiso's Bobby Capobianco waits sideline enter inti game against Oaklduring their game held Valparaiso University February 10 2014. | Charles

Valparaiso's Bobby Capobianco waits on the sideline to enter inti the game against Oakland during their game held at Valparaiso University on February 10, 2014. | Charles Mitchell/for Sun-Times Media

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Horizon League Tournament

Tuesday’s first round

UIC (6-24, 1-15) at Valparaiso (17-14, 9-7)

Detroit (13-18, 6-10) at Milwaukee (17-13, 7-9)

Youngstown State (15-16, 6-10) at Oakland (12-19, 7-9)

Friday’s second round at Green Bay

Wright State (18-13, 10-6) vs. Youngstown-Oakland winner

UIC-Valpo winner vs. Detroit-Milwaukee winner

Saturday’s semifinals at Green Bay (games on ESPNU)

Cleveland State (21-10, 12-4) vs. Friday’s first-game winner

Green Bay (24-5, 14-2) vs. Friday’s second-game winner

Tuesday, March 11 — Championship at highest remaining seed (ESPN)

Gorches’ predictions — Valparaiso, Milwaukee and Youngstown State will win first round games. Wright State and Valparaiso will prevail in the second round. Cleveland State beats Wright State, while Green Bay edges the Crusaders. It will be close, but will come down to a key turnover in the final minutes. In the championship, CSU will upset Green Bay, though the Phoenix could still get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Updated: April 5, 2014 6:34AM



Being repetitive is something I’ve been accused of frequently. I can definitely hammer a point into the ground, then keep hammering until it’s buried six feet under.

Sounding like a broken record is one way to put it.

With this year’s Valparaiso men’s basketball team, it’s all about the turnovers.

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers … it’s a broken record that I will not stop mentioning because it’s the main reason the Crusaders finished fourth in the Horizon League regular season with seven losses, instead of first with two or three losses.

This team can shoot with anyone else in the conference, from newly-named all-freshman team member Alec Peters and his range, to 6-foot-10 Bobby Capobianco and his propensity to hit timely 3-pointers.

This team is as athletic as any in the Horizon League. Postseason award winners LaVonte Dority (first-team all-conference) and Lexus Williams (all-freshman team) could be the best backcourt in the league.

This team can bang in the post and rebound with anybody, including some of the better non-conference opponents on the schedule — such as nationally-ranked St. Louis (which escaped the Athletics-Recreation Center in December with a 67-65 victory). Vashil Fernandez and Moussa Gueye are a potent post combo, and Capobianco throws some weight around, too.

But the biggest reason for losses has been those dreaded turnovers. I won’t go through too many games this season to show specifics. Let’s just look at the last three games.

Against Youngstown State on Feb. 22, everything was pretty equal statistically — rebounds, field goal percentage, free-throw percentage — except for one thing. VU pulled out a two-point victory with just nine turnovers, but 18 assists. Any basketball coach in the world will take a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Three days later at Wright State, most stats were equal again (free-throw percentage was exactly the same at 83.3), but the Crusaders had 20 turnovers and 12 assists, and they lost by nine.

This past Saturday, more of the same in a loss to Cleveland State. The teams each missed six free throws, each shot between 44 and 45 percent from the field and were close in rebounds for most of the contest (CSU pulled away late for a seven-board advantage, but those came with VU forcing shots after falling behind by double-digits). It came down to CSU having more assists than turnovers, while the Crusaders had 18 turnovers and 11 assists.

Some people says stats can lie. In this case, stats couldn’t be more truthful. Just ask one of Valparaiso’s four seniors who has not only seen plenty of basketball as a student of the game, but is also pretty smart away from the court as he works on finishing a masters degree.

“As a senior, you have more foresight into how turnovers affect games,” Capobianco said. “I’ve tried to mentor (the freshmen) into making sure they play older than they are. I’ve seen so many examples of being successful, and in college every single possession is key to the outcome. In high school, there might be 30 possessions in a game that don’t matter.”

That’s been the most difficult part of coach Bryce Drew’s job — convincing young players that possessions are different at this level. They’re your livelihood, the difference between winning and losing; simply put, assist-to-turnover ratio might be the most important stat at the college level.

“We’ve definitely stressed turnovers,” Drew said. “It’s better to get shots up and have the chance to get an offensive rebound than to have a turnover. But I still want our guys to be aggressive and not be tentative. We’ll stress more about turnovers in the offseason with the guys coming back.”

Far be it from me to disagree with a former NBA player who has made more money than I’ll ever see in my lifetime and has a 10-year contract as head coach, but harping on the importance of eliminating turnovers should never be stopped. The ultimate goal should be zero turnovers in a game.

Vince Lombardi is known for his legendary success as a football coach, but he also coached basketball at lower levels, and one of his famous quotes applies with this Valparaiso squad and turnovers: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

Winning the Horizon League Tournament may seem like a pipe dream for this group of fairly young, frequently mistake-prone Crusaders, but the stats don’t lie. If they can take the advice of one of their senior leaders, Capobianco, and value every possession like their lives depend on it for just one week starting Tuesday night — and everything else being equal — games will be won and a season can be salvaged.



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