Osipoff: Only one goal for Valparaiso men
By Michael Osipoff firstname.lastname@example.org or 648=3137 November 6, 2012 11:18PM
Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff tries to block the shot of Robert Morris' Baye Samba at Valparaiso University on Saturday November 3, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 8, 2012 6:40AM
NCAA Tournament or bust.
That’s Valparaiso’s 2012-13 season stripped down to its essence.
That’s the brass-tacks situation.
The Crusaders tasted the sweetness of a regular-season Horizon League championship in 2011-12, two games clear of the field with a 14-4 record. They then tasted the bitterness of coming up short in their bid to win the tournament title, losing handily to Ray McCallum and Detroit after having earned the right to host at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Then, perhaps they were a season ahead of schedule, having entered in something of a state of transition (they were picked fifth in the preseason).
Now, they clearly have arrived, the overwhelming conference favorite (voted first on 40 of 44 preseason ballots).
Now, anything less than the Crusaders’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004 would have to be considered a disappointment for them.
Without question, they have the team to make it a reality.
Valparaiso returns virtually every central player — six in all (Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff, all-conference first-teamer Kevin Van Wijk, Erik Buggs, Will Bogan, Ben Boggs and Matt Kenney), all seniors, and all carrying that extra morsel of motivation — from last season (with all due respect to Wagner transfer Jay Harris and Arizona State transfer Richie Edwards).
The top four in minutes played, and six of seven. The top two scorers, and six of eight. The top four rebounders. The assists leader, and three of the top four.
And the Crusaders will unveil a multi-dimensional crop of five players (Bobby Capobianco, Vashil Fernandez, Jordan Coleman, Alex Rossi and LaVonte Dority) set to make their respective debuts with the team this season.
To the point, their roster has quality from top to bottom.
They have more than five players worthy of starting (for the record, they return all five starters from last season, and the six players who made the most starts), and more than five players worthy of finishing — all of those machinations surely will shake out as the season unfolds.
They have skill, size and athleticism. With all of the talent, seemingly the biggest question could be: How are all the pieces going to fit together?
There’s no reason to think second-year coach Bryce Drew won’t figure out the puzzle, probably sooner rather than later.
Come March, the Crusaders could be celebrating more heartily than they have in almost a decade.
Or they could be bumming way more harshly than last season.
Probably the former.