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Mutka: Valpo’s basketball future includes downsizing

Valparaiso v Michigan State

Valparaiso v Michigan State

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Updated: April 27, 2013 6:18AM



Basketball games aren’t won on paper, but Michigan State slammed Valparaiso’s window of opportunity shut — at least temporarily.

Minus six seniors, including bigs Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk, the Crusaders will be looking up at five other Horizon League teams who qualified for postseason play. Seventy-six percent of coach Bryce Drew’s offense and a big chunk of his rebounding vanished with that lopsided loss in Auburn Hills, Mich.

His only experienced returning rebounder will be IU transfer Bobby Capobianco, who suffered an early setback (hernia surgery), had trouble finishing plays and never really got untracked. Unless Vashil Fernandez develops, the downsizing Crusaders will be even more perimeter oriented next year.

Valparaiso could be the youngest team in the league with six incoming recruits, none bigger than 6-foot-7, hoping to contribute. What intrigues me most is Triton’s Clay Yeo, a 6-5 swingman who will be making a quantum leap from Class A high school to Division I. Yeo put up some monster numbers, averaging 26.7 points and 7.9 rebounds. In a career that includes four sectional titles and two state runner-up finishes, he broke the Marshall County scoring record with 1,992 points.

His senior contributions included 32 of the Trojans’ 47 points in the sectional championship game, 35 of their 51 in the regional and 26 points and seven rebounds in the title game. Yeo and Andrean’s Nick Davidson, plus four incoming players from Illinois, will provide VU with its strongest Midwest flavor in years.

The list starts with St. Louis transfer Keith Carter, who hails from Proviso East where he scored more than 2,000 points and led the Pirates to a 32-1 record and 4A state runner-up honors. He’ll be eligible at the end of the fall semester.

Here’s what VU’s incoming talent will be up against next season:

On paper, senior-less Wright State and Green Bay loom as preseason Horizon League favorites. Defensive-minded Wright State surged to a 22-12 record and bopped Tulsa 72-52 in one of those postseason tournaments nobody cares about.

Coach of the year Bill Donlon’s Raiders dive deeper than a cruising Beluga whale, their roster stocked with seven players who received double-figure starts and three others who toiled significant minutes. They advanced to the Horizon League Tournament title game without a go-to-guy, but Reggie Arcenaux and Miles Dixon, who ousted Detroit with a buzzer-beating basket, emerged.

Size-wise, the Raiders can rely on 6-10 A.J. Pacher and 6-9 Tavares Sledge to clean the glass.

Green Bay (18-16) returns four starters, including seven-footer Alec Brown (13.8 ppg), 6-7 Jordan Fouse, their leading rebounder; 6-9 Greg Mays and all-conference point guard Keifer Sykes, who was the highest scoring sophomore in the history of the program. All but Mays started every game for the Phoenix. Their only departing senior is 6-9 Brennan Cougill.

Detroit (20-13), which exited with an NIT loss to Arizona State, loses a chunk of its offense in 6-9 Nick Minnerath, who averaged 14.6 points and was the Titans’ leading rebounder, and Doug Anderson (12.1 ppg). But the runners and gunners retain plenty of firepower with Ray McCallum Jr. (18.7 ppg) and Jason Calliste (14.4). Evan Bruinsma, a 6-8 junior who was hampered by injuries, could be a board sweeper. Transfers abound in the Horizon so it’s no surprise that the Titans will be breaking in Carlton Brundage, who appeared in 15 games in his freshman year at Michigan.

UIC (18-15) will regroup with Valparaiso’s Hayden Humes, a 6-7 forward with a high basketball IQ. The Toledo transfer averaged 10.4 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Flames, who also received a postseason invitation.

Three starters will depart, but the Flames will rally around transfer Kelsey Barlow, a nifty point guard who started 40 games in three years at Purdue before being kicked off the team after his second suspension.

Youngstown State (18-15) celebrated its first postseason success since 1977 with a 99-87 victory over Oakland in the College Insider.Com tournament behind Kendrick Perry, who will be a strong candidate for preseason player of the year recognition. Perry missed four games with an injury, but led the Penguins in scoring (17.2), steals and assists.

Kamren Belin, a 6-7 forward who averaged 11 points, is a strong second banana. Guard Shawn Amiker (19 starts) adds seasoning and 6-10 Bobby Hains had a solid rookie year.

Big East bias? All year long we’ve been hearing about how strong the Big Ten is. Top-ranked conference in the country, so on and so forth.

Apparently the NCAA selection committee didn’t get the message. Eight Big East teams received invitations to the Big Dance, one more than the Big Ten.

Is their collective face red? It should be. Five Big East teams bit the dust right out of the gate. And Marquette barely missed being six, narrowly escaping No. 14 seed Davidson.

None of the first-round exits were more humbling than Georgetown, one those rare No. 2 seeds to receive an early Sayonara, or Notre Dame, which upheld its reputation for underachieving in the tournament.

Iowa State, feeling disrespected according to Korie Lucious, took the Irish to the woodshed. The Cyclones may have benefited from blackboard material provided by Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley. He compared them to floundering DePaul, an annual Big East bottom feeder. Cooley was mostly invisible during the 76-58 loss.

Contrast the ‘Big Least’ with the Big Ten’s selected citizens, who jump-started at 6-1 in the first round, the only loser being Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Iowa (23-12), which was snubbed by the NCAA, advanced to the NIT quarterfinals with victories over Indiana State and 25-game winner Stony Brook.

Four teams will carry the Big Ten banner into the Sweet 16, giving the league a 10-3 showing in the first week.

Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast and LaSalle also thumbed their noses at the NCAA sages with multiple major upsets.

As Desi once said to Lucy on their long-lived TV series, the selection committee has “got some ‘splaining to do.”



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