Loyola Marymount proves an interesting match up for the Valparaiso Crusaders. I'll take a look at how LMU's top players will compare to Valpo's and what Valpo will need to do in order to win the game.
Anthony Ireland, SR, Guard, 5'10", 170 lbs
19.0 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.9 RPG
If there's going to be one key to this game it's how Anthony Ireland goes. In losses his Efficiency per Possession drops from 0.29 to 0.195. In the losses he puts up six more shots per game and averages three less assists. His scoring goes up, but only 3.5 points per game. He even sees less trips to the free throw line in losses.
Valpo perspective: Its going to be a tough match up if Valparaiso decides to man up against LMU, with freshman Lexus Williams and senior LaVonte Dority handling the point guard duties. If they do, then Ireland could end the game shooting 20 free throws. Valpo ran a 1-3-1 zone against Evansville to try to slow down D.J. Balentine, but he scorched them to a tune of 32 points and Evansville had a 25 point lead going into the half. The majority of the time Valpo will run a 2-3 zone, with 7'1" Moussa Gueye patrolling the paint. If Ireland wants to try to face that, he'll be hard pressed to get a clean shot off.
Gabe Levin, FR, Forward, 6'7", 230 lbs
12.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG
Levin will look quite familiar to Valparaiso fans, as they have their own super Freshman in Alec Peters. I would very much enjoy watching a game of 1 on 1 with these two, but we will probably see Levin playing more against inside of a 2-3 zone than against Peters. The key to stopping Levin is keeping him off the offensive glass. He's averaging 3.7 OBoards per game and has 4 double doubles already this season.
Valpo perspective: Levin has yet to face a true 7 footer, and when he played a true big in Damian Jones of Vanderbilt, he was held to 10 points and 5 rebounds. Valparaiso's bigs of Moussa Gueye, Bobby Capobianco and Vashil Fernandez had led the Crusaders to a +6.5 reb/game margin. Levin will have tough sledding on the boards, but Valpo is susceptible to the back door pass, especially on the dribble drives. If Valpo doesn't stay home defensively Levin could have a career game.
Evan Payne, FR, Guard, 6'2", 180 lbs
12.8 PPG, 51.7% 2P FG%, 83.9% FT
A freshman guard playing well? Again Valpo has one of those in Lexus Williams. I'll admit that I haven't seen LMU play but looking at the numbers it looks like this team like to play in the lane. When you shoot 51% from inside the arc and 31% from downtown that just shows you're not a shooter, you're a penetrating guard who will pop the open three every now and then.
Valpo perspective: Again this plays to Valpo's strength. You can't get inside on them.
I think Valparaiso has the depth, size and strength to outlast any athleticism advantage that LMU might have. Teams haven't been able to run on Valpo like you would think they would, and the big totals given up to individuals this year have been shooters who can pop it over the zone. LMU doesn't have the big time shooter that will put up 15-20 points. If Valpo can hit their shots and not turn the ball over as much as they do on offense, they should win this by double digits. I don't see Valpo hitting enough of their shots to overcome their turnover, but I do think they'll be able to pull off a close victory.