Valparaiso (22-11) at Miami-Florida (19-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 14, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: BankUnited Center (8,000) -- Coral Gables, Florida. Television: ESPNU. NIT Record: Valparaiso 0-1, Miami 6-10. Series Record: Valparaiso leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Valparaiso Crusaders take to the postseason for the 11th time in the last 17 seasons when they travel to Coral Gables as the seven seed to square off against the seconded-seeded Miami-Florida Hurricanes in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Awaiting the winner will be either La Salle or Minnesota in a second-round matchup.
Valparaiso captured the regular-season crown in the Horizon League by going 22-11 and 14-4 in conference play, earning home court advantage through the league tournament. After earning a double-bye and defeating Butler in the semifinals, the Crusaders coughed up a halftime lead in the championship game to lose handily to Detroit, 70-50, and thus missing out on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Valpo is hoping for better fortunes in its second NIT after losing its first-round bout to Iowa in 2003, 62-60.
Miami performed very well in a crowded ACC this year, going 19-12 overall and 9-7 in conference, which included impressive wins at Duke and versus Florida State, although after defeating Georgia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tournament, it dropped a rematch with the Seminoles in the quarterfinals, 82-71. The Hurricanes were considered to be a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, but were ultimately left out of the field, partially because of their poor non-conference performance, with their best win coming at home against Massachusetts.
The teams met once before way back on Dec. 28, 1956, with Valparaiso winning, 81-76.
Valparaiso had the Horizon League's most proficient scoring attack, shooting 47.1 percent from the floor while scoring 68.9 ppg. A big reason for its success is due in large part to the efforts of Ryan Broekhoff, who earned the Horizon League Player of the Year honors. The junior finished the season fourth in the league in scoring (14.8 ppg) and tops in rebounding (8.6 rpg), while shooting well both from the field overall (.495) as well as three-point range (.400). Joining Broekhoff on the All-League First Team was Kevin Van Wijk, who chips in 14.4 ppg on a sensational 62.5 percent field goal shooting. While no other player tallies double figures in scoring, the Crusaders get ample production elsewhere, as four other players average between 7.3 and 9.2 ppg.
Miami is no stranger to putting up big point totals either, as it ranked fourth in the ACC with 71.2 ppg. It was especially potent from three-point range, as its 236 long-range buckets ranked behind only Duke for the conference's top spot. The Hurricane's also rely on a balanced scoring attack, but they will likely be without their top scorer Durand Scott (12.9 ppg) for this game. Scott was declared ineligible prior to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament for receiving impermissible benefits and he is out indefinitely, though he is seeking his immediate reinstatement from the NCAA. In his probable absence, Miami will to turn to Kenny Kadji (12.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Malcolm Grant (11.3 ppg) and Reggie Johnson (10.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) to help pick up the slack.
Playing without Scott would surely be a detriment, but Miami has enough talent to make up for his loss at home, where it has lost just three of 16 games this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Florida 73, Valparaiso 67
03/14 10:34:20 ET