The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team officially embarked on a new journey in late December, beginning its first season of league play as a Missouri Valley Conference member institution.
The move to The Valley unites a stable program with a consistent track record and a conference that holds those same traits.
The Crusaders have won 14 league regular season titles during the past 23 years and made nine trips to the NCAA Tournament. Throughout the last three seasons, they have won 82 games — a total that ranks among the top 15 nationally.
“Joining The Valley is something our institution strongly desired,” Head Coach Matt Lottich says. “The overall commitment to winning in The Valley is high, and we’re excited about the challenge of meeting that expectation.”
The conference transition allows Valpo to reignite old rivalries with the likes of instate foes Evansville and Indiana State, two of the four most common opponents in the history of Valpo men’s basketball. The Crusaders will host Evansville on Wednesday, Jan. 24, and Indiana State on Wednesday, Jan. 31.
“One of the things that makes college sports special is the history and rivalries,” Athletic Director Mark LaBarbera says. “When you have the opportunity to nurture that, you do it. To be able to go back to some important aspects of our heritage and tradition is special. This will help connect our fan base from one generation to the next.”
Upcoming Game Promotions
The games themselves are reason enough for fans to flock to the Athletics-Recreation Center in the coming weeks as the Crusaders restore old matchups and battle new foes. But there’s even more to be excited about as the University has a number of exciting promotions slated for the season’s duration.
When the Crusaders welcome nearby Valley foe Loyola on Sunday, Jan. 21, it’s a “gold-out” at the ARC, with the first 1,000 fans receiving a gold T-shirt and the first 500 fans receiving a Valpo rollabana. In addition, the Crusaders will wear gold shoelaces to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. After the game concludes, players will be available to autograph posters for fans.
The promotions continue as Valpo welcomes Evansville on Jan. 24 and Indiana State on Jan. 31, as those games will feature foam finger and rally towel giveaways, respectively. Another “gold-out” and T-shirt giveaway will be held on Sunday, Feb. 11, as Illinois State comes to town for a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
The final two home games of the regular season feature celebrations of Valpo standouts past and present. Hall of Fame Night will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17, against Bradley, while Senior Night is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 20, against UNI.
When the regular season concludes, it’s on to Arch Madness, where the Crusaders will join their MVC peers in St. Louis to compete for the right to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
“Our goal is not to be in the NCAA Tournament; our goal is to win in the NCAA Tournament,” Director LaBarbera says. “Clearly, being a member of the Missouri Valley Conference will prepare us well to win in the NCAA Tournament. Our goal is to be one of the top mid-major athletic programs in the country.”
Mini pack and single game tickets are available for purchase at valpoathletics.com/tickets or by calling 877.MY.VU.TIX.