While Valparaiso probably isn’t going to inject a heart-stopping challenge, the Horizon League team did in fact make an appearance in last year’s Tourney. Valpo played a respectable game against Michigan State in the first round of the 2013 Tourney, but in the end lost by a closer-than-you’d-expect margin of 65-54.
The Crusaders are also 2-0, and are hoping for their first 3-0 start since 2006-2007. They are coming off of a high-scoring win over North Park, 113-50. I have to assume that this is the North Park University in Chicago, which I have driven by many times and never knew they had an athletic program. Turns out they do, and the basketball program is Division III. So Valpo scoring 113 points is less of a big deal.
Similarly to the fact that we haven’t faced anyone challenging yet, Valpo hasn’t either. This means that tonight’s game will be a new experience for both of us. Both teams actually have five freshman on the roster, but Illinois also has newbies Jon Ekey and redshirt junior Rayvonte Rice (both of which will most likely start). The rest of the Valpo roster is made up of juniors and seniors, at least four of which are returners from last year. Interestingly enough, many of the Valpo players are also transfers from other schools. In terms of newbies and vets, the teams may be on even ground.
Though the Crusaders are two-time defending Horizon League regular season champions and won the league tournament title last season, they were picked to finish 6th in the Horizon League. So basically it sounds like the Illini shouldn’t have too much trouble tonight.
Valpo has never beaten an Illini team, and I don’t think tonight is the night for that to happen.
Return of the Rev!
Roger Powell Jr. will be at the game tonight, but sitting on the wrong bench, since Powell is in his third season as assistant coach at Valpo. Powell was actually wearing Orange and Blue the last time Valpo and the Illini faced off on Dec. 19, 2004. He had 14 points and 4 rebounds in the 93-56 victory.
Despite coaching tonight’s enemy, I expect a loud round of applause when Powell’s name is called tonight in the intros.
- Illinois leads the all-time record against Valpo at 5-0
- Groce vs. Valparaiso at Illinois: First meeting
- Groce vs. Valparaiso All-Time: 1-0
- Illinois won its 24th straight non-conference game at home agasint Jacksonville State, extending the home court winning streak in regular-season non-conference games to 35 in a row
- Illinois is now 10-0 in November under head coach John Groce, and overall has won its last 21 games in the month of November
The game will air on BTN at 6:30 PM.