Valparaiso (2-0) at Nebraska (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 15, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Devaney Sports Center (13,595) -- Lincoln, Nebraska. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Valparaiso 2-0, Nebraska 1-0. Away Record: Valparaiso 0-0, Nebraska 0-0. Neutral Record: Valparaiso 0-0, Nebraska 0-0. Conference Record: Valparaiso 0-0, Nebraska 0-0. Series Record: Nebraska leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Bryce Drew and his Valparaiso Crusaders are set to invade Big Ten territory for a non-conference bout with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic at the Devaney Sports Center.
The Crusaders are going to be a difficult opponent every time they step on the floor this season. Valpo went 22-12 and won the Horizon League regular-season title in Drew's first season as the program's head coach in 2011-2012. Drew has already guided his alma mater to two early season wins this year. The Crusaders ran past Northern Illinois for a 69-46 on Tuesday morning. They had equally impressive success in their season opening, 85-54 victory over Georgia Southern.
Nebraska's administration hopes it can turn its program into a competitor in the Big Ten. To make that happen, Nebraska lured Tim Miles to Lincoln from Colorado State soon after he led the Rams to the NCAA Tournament. Miles coached the Cornhuskers to a 66-55 victory over Southern University in his first appearance on the bench. His team shot 52 percent from the field and led by as many as 16 points. The Cornhuskers' strong offensive performance in Miles' debut is very encouraging after they finished last in the Big Ten in scoring a year ago under Doc Sadler.
This will be the third meeting in history between these schools. Nebraska won both of the prior encounters, but the series has been idle since Feb. 28, 1920.
The Crusaders are one of the toughest mid-major teams in the nation this season due to their dynamic one-two punch at forward. Valpo returns Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff (14.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Kevin Van Wijk (14.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Broekhoff recorded his first double-double of the season versus NIU with 20 points and 13 boards. Van Wijk posted 16 points in the season opener before a quiet four-point performance on Tuesday. Although it is early, the Crusaders have hinted they may be the best 3-point shooting team in the nation this season. Valpo has made 52.5 percent of its shots from distance, while Jordan Coleman (5-of-5) and Alex Rossi (4-of-4) are both perfect from long range. Erik Buggs's playmaking ability (16 assists) is a big reason for the high conversion rate.
Senior forward Brandon Ubel may be the go-to-guy for Nebraska this season. He set career-highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds in the team's season-opening win over Southern. Dylan Talley (17 points) and Ray Gallegos (16 points) showed they are both capable scorers as well. The Huskers have an interesting piece to the puzzle in David Rivers. The sophomore swingman was one of the key reserves on the team last season, but he has worked his way into the starting lineup in 2012-2013. Rivers is an excellent passer and defender, but his shooting touch could stand to see some improvement.
Although Miles has a bright future ahead of him in Lincoln, the present is a little dim. Nebraska is the only team from a power conference on Valpo's schedule this season. The Crusaders will be sure to keep their resume blemish free this year after being denied an at-large bid to last season's NCAA Tournament.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 72, Nebraska 65
11/15 10:34:19 ET