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Crusaders out to show mettle

Amid hot streak, Valparaiso faces No. 3 Spartans

– Valparaiso’s name had barely popped up on the television screen as a No. 14 seed against No. 3 Michigan State in the Midwest Region when some of the CBS analysts were already removing the Crusaders from the tournament picture.

“I think it will be interesting to see if Michigan State can withstand the pressure and athleticism of a Memphis team,” studio analyst Doug Gottlieb said, looking ahead into the next round.

First must come the second round, when the Crusaders (26-7) and Horizon League regular-season and tournament champions face Michigan State (25-8) on Thursday at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich. The game time will be announced today.

It seems as though Valpo has a history over being overlooked.

See 1998, “The Shot,” Bryce Drew, No. 13 seed Valpo 70, No. 4 Mississippi 69.

In his second season as the Crusaders’ head coach, Drew has taken over the reins from his father, Homer, and kept the beat going.

By entering the tournament on a six-game winning streak, having won 10 of its last 11 and 16 of its last 18, Valpo is one of the hotter teams in the NCAA tournament.

Its 26 victories are the most in the school’s Division I history.

The Crusaders needed a buzzer-beating three-pointer from 6-foot-7 senior forward Ryan Broekhoff to defeat Green Bay 70-69 in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament, then beat Wright State in the championship game, 62-54.

It marks the first time that Valparaiso, formerly of the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), has reached the NCAA tournament under the Horizon League banner.

Valparaiso ranks fourth among Division I teams in field goal shooting at 56.1 percent.

Broekhoff leads the team in scoring (15.9 average) and rebounding (7.3), and Kevin Van Wijk, a 6-7 senior, adds 12.7 points per game.