Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship:
(3) Detroit at (1) Valparaiso, 9pm ET – ESPN
VALPARAISO, Ind. – A lengthy NCAA Tournament drought will come to an end on Tuesday night when Detroit and Valparaiso square off for the Horizon League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament (ESPN, 9pm ET).
For third-seeded Detroit (21-13), the layoff stretches back to 1999; meanwhile, No. 1 Valparaiso (22-10) is looking for its first trip to the NCAAs since 2004 but first as a member of the Horizon League.
Tuesday’s game represents the addition of two programs to be reckoned with in the Horizon League - for the first time since 2002, the League Championship does not feature Butler or Milwaukee. The Bulldogs and/or Panthers had been part of 15 of the last 16 Horizon League Championships before Tuesday.
However, to those who watched the League throughout the last two months, Tuesday’s final is consistent with how both Valparaiso and Detroit closed the year. The teams enter Tuesday as the hottest in the Horizon League, with Detroit having won nine of its last 10 contests and Valpo going 8-2 in its last 10. Given the way the teams finished, it was not surprising to see both squads recognized in the postseason awards balloting. Three First Team All-League players will start the game, with Ray McCallum representing Detroit and Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk donning Valpo uniforms.
McCallum and Broekhoff nicely bookend the awards balloting, as the sophomore was voted the Preseason Player of the Year, while Broekhoff took home Player of the Year honors.
Both players have starred throughout the tournament, as McCallum has averaged 24.0 points and 6.0 assists in two games at the ARC, helping Detroit become just the third team seeded third or higher in the current format of the League Tournament to reach the championship game. With 58 points in three games, McCallum sits 35 points from matching the League Tournament record and just 28 from 1,000 in his career.
Due to the double-bye format, Broekhoff has played just one game in the Tournament, but made it a memorable one, recording a dominant 19-point, 16-rebound effort in Valpo’s 65-46 victory over Butler that propelled the Crusaders into the League championship.
After a Horizon League regular season noteworthy for its taut finishes, only one of the first eight games in the Horizon League Tournament has been within a single possession in the last minute. However, Valparaiso and Detroit played two of the 36 Horizon League games to be within one possession in the last minute of regulation this year, with the Crusaders winning both contests.
At Calihan Hall on Jan. 6, Erik Buggs’ coast-to-coast drive beat the buzzer and gave Valpo a 73-71 win; Will Bogan led the Crusaders with 23 points, going 7-for-8 from three-point range, while Ray McCallum had 22 for the Titans.
On Feb. 2, Valpo overcame a 10-point second half deficit to take a 78-73 win at the ARC. Ryan Broekhoff cemented his League Player of the Year credentials with 26 points in the victory, while Richie Edwards added 16 off the bench. McCallum shared team-high honors with 14 points as five Titans finished in double figures.
Valparaiso is appearing in its first Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship game, having joined the conference in 2007. Detroit is appearing in its eighth League Championship and first since 2005; the Titans last won the League Tournament title in 1999 and are 2-5 all-time in the League Championship.