Valparaiso guard Erik Buggs speaks at the 2012 Horizon League Chamiponship (Jon L. Hendricks, Flickr)
With the Michigan State Spartans set to oppose the Valparaiso Crusaders Thursday afternoon in Round 2 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, The Detroit Sports Site asked Mike Osipoff of the Post-Tribune based in Northwest Indiana to help us break down the match up.
Osipoff will also be our second guest on The Detroit Sports Show on Blog Talk Radio, beginning Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET.
The Detroit Sports Site: Who is the one Valparaiso player Michigan State should be worried about?
Mike Osipoff: Ryan Broekhoff. He was the Horizon League Player of the Year last
season, and probably should have won that award again this season. He can score from the perimeter off jumpers, and by driving. And at a rail-thin 6-foot-7, he is a surprisingly effective rebounder, a skilled guy who is not afraid to do the dirty work. He’s one of those mid-major players who could open some eyes on this stage.
The Detroit Sports Site: Can Bryce Drew match X’s and O’s with Tom Izzo?
Mike Osipoff: I wouldn’t want to compare Bryce Drew to Tom Izzo, obviously one of
the elite coaches in the country and a Hall of Famer. But Drew is an excellent coach in his own right. He has a great feel for the game, able to change defenses at key times. And Valparaiso’s offense usually is sharp, fun to watch when it’s clicking. He’s in only his second season as a head coach, but he’s clearly someone who is on the rise in the profession, and will have other opportunities, probably sooner rather than later.
The Detroit Sports Site: What’s Valparaiso’s advantage?
Mike Osipoff: Well, I’m not sure it’s an out-and-out advantage, but Valparaiso is the most experienced team in the country, with six seniors (two fifth-years), including all five starters, and two juniors (one fourth-year) in its eight-man rotation. But not one of those players has any NCAA Tournament experience. I wouldn’t think they’d be in awe of the moment; for most of these players, it’s going to be their only Tournament appearance, so if they play with a sense of urgency and take full advantage of their only shot, then they could do something special. Also, Valpo does essentially play four guards with one post player, so the Crusaders could spread out Michigan State to a degree, but it’s not as if they have better athletes than the Spartans.
The Detroit Sports Site: How can Valparaiso best deal with Michigan State’s size (Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne) down low?
Mike Osipoff: With great difficulty. Again, Valparaiso starts only one post player
in 6-8 Kevin Van Wijk, with four perimeter players. Bobby Capobianco, who goes about 6-9 or 6-10, is Valpo’s one and only big off the bench. The Crusaders could conceivably play both of them together, but they have not used that bigger lineup much this season. They also could attempt to play zone (though they’re primarily a man-to-man defense team), but that would complicate an already difficult rebounding task
for them, and Michigan State has the players (Gary Harris, Keith Appling, etc.) to knock down those available jumpers.
The Detroit Sports Site: What has to happen for the Crusaders to pull the upset?
Mike Osipoff: A lot. They’re going to have to shoot the ball very well, something
they’re more than capable of doing, especially from 3-point range. They’re going to have to prevent Michigan State from demolishing them on the glass, and limit the Spartans’ transition opportunities. In addition to Valparaiso having to play at the top of its game, Michigan State probably would have to have an off game. Other than that …
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax