Valparaiso (21-5, 11-2) at Oakland (19-7, 9-4)
When: Friday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m.
Where: The Blacktop at the O’rena, Rochester, Mich.
Key Storylines: The teams’ second meeting of 2016-17 and the Crusaders’ fourth national broadcast (airing on ESPN 2)… Oakland won on the road by a commanding double-digit margin (78-66) on Jan. 6 at the ARC… Valpo currently leads Horizon League by two games with Oakland in second… A win from the Crusaders would bring them very close to a third-straight regular season conference championship, giving them a three-game lead with just four games left to play.
About the Opponent: Led by long-tenured head coach Greg Kampe, the Grizzlies once again appear to be one of the Crusaders’ top challengers in the Horizon League this year. Kampe has been at the helm since 1984 and holds a 577-422 career record. His 577 career wins ranks fourth among active coaches at current schools, trailing only the likes of Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Duke’s Mike Krzyewski and Belmont’s Rick Byrd.
Valparaiso Marquee Player: Guard Lexus Williams has emerged as a key contributor as of late, scoring 11 points off the bench in Saturday’s win over Youngstown State. He’s also been playing well defensively, averaging 1.4 steals per game. In the teams’ last meeting on Jan. 6, Williams scored 7 on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting.
Oakland Marquee Player: Forward Isaiah Brock is putting together a nice resume for conference Freshman of the Year. He’s already claimed Freshman of the Week honors three times this season, and on Feb. 6 he was named Horizon League Player of the Week. Brock has tallied two double-doubles over his last three games, including a 16-point, 18-rebound performance in a win over Youngstown State Feb. 2.
The Quote: “These are the games you want to coach and these are the games you want to play. I want our young men to enjoy it. I don’t want them to be too tight. I want them to play loose, let their talent shine... We really, really, really are looking forward to it and I think we’ll have a lot of fun.” - coach Matt Lottich
Valparaiso (21-5, 11-2) at Detroit Mercy (6-19, 4-9)*
*Records as of Thursday, Feb. 16.
When: Sunday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m.
Where: Calihan Hall, Detroit, Mich.
Key Storylines: Second meeting between Valpo and Detroit in 2016-17…Detroit kept it close last time out, but fell 81-74…Valpo has won last three meetings…Last Titans victory came on Feb. 25, 2015.
About the Opponent: Detroit hasn’t had a winning record in conference play since it finished second behind the Crusaders in 2012-13. 2016-17 has been a season to forget, as the Titans have lost five of their last seven games. Valpo will be a tall task.
Valparaiso Marquee Player: Last season at Detroit, Alec Peters had one of his finest performances as a Crusader, scoring a career-high 39 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Detroit Marquee Player: Junior forward Jaleel Hogan leads the Titans in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game and has heated up in the month of February, scoring more than 20 in three of his last four outings.
The Quote: “We’re gonna have to be ourselves. We’re gonna have to enjoy the game. It’s a lot of pressure on us because we’re first right now, but we can’t let that creep into our minds when we’re on the floor. We have to enjoy every moment. A lot of times when teams have a lot of pressure on themselves they don’t enjoy the game and that’s what you need to do first and foremost. Always enjoy the game and always respect it.” - junior guard Lexus Williams.