Valparaiso at Wright State (Horizon)
Ervin J. Nutter Center - Dayton, OH
7:00 PM EST
An embarrassment of small-conference league-game riches tonight. Among other contests, we've got Sacred Heart at CCSU in the NEC, ambitious Morehead State will take on league champs Austin Peay in the OVC, and South Dakota State -- a team we like -- will begin its life in the
Badlands Conference tonight at surprising Centenary. But this one's got serious early-season implications in a conference that could very well send two (or more) teams to the party in March.
Tonight we welcome Valparaiso, one of the classic mid-major schools for its late-Nineties Tournament heroics, to the Horizon League. The Crusaders spent their last season in the ex-Mid-Continent building and tooling towards the type of team that will do well in this conference, and the result of a 16-15 shakeout season is a big, tough, defensively-skilled team that could very well win the league in its first try. Valpo has already beaten two potential NCAA teams in Peay and the MAC's Western Michigan, and are ranked second nationally in 3-point field goal defense (22.2 percent). And with a scoring frontcourt of Urule Igbavboa and Shawn Huff (23.4 ppg combined), these 'Sada Boys are definitely going to "crank dat."
Wright State won this conference despite all the Butler hubbub last season, remember? And, perhaps, the reason why people aren't talking too much about them is because they've only played three games. The Raiders started late (Nov. 19), plowed Coastal Carolina and Marshall, then lost badly to rebuilding Marist. And Wright is in transition as well, having lost focal point Dashaun Wood (19.6 ppg) over the summer to the cap-and-gown team. But two sophomore guards -- Vaughn Duggins and Todd Brown -- served in key roles as frosh during the championship campaign, and have stepped up to take Wood's points. Duggins and Brown are scoring 33 points combined, and will be the keys if the Horizon League ends up experiencing Wright repetition.VALPO 71, WRIG 66