Getting a better handle on a basketball team can be difficult when they run out the score on their opponent. Styles will change; it won't be the same personnel on the floor that would normally be used.
It just makes things difficult.
So watching Valparaiso torch Milwaukee 76-54 Saturday probably didn't give the most accurate read of what the Crusaders are capable of in the Horizon League. That kind of drubbing isn't the scouting report you want prior to a team's biggest game.
Valpo will next travel to face Detroit in what is supposed to be the first of two meetings to determine the lead dog in the conference. For a moment, you will have to ignore that interloper Wright State who has built itself out to a 4-0 league start behind the hot shooting of Reggie Arceneaux. That wasn't supposed to happen, and we can't yet be sure that it is for real.
No, this Milwaukee game was supposed to be a tuneup for the real showdown, a chance for Valpo to prove its worthiness.
It accomplished that. The Crusaders proved they can still shoot the ball, scoring 1.17 points per possession in the win. Ryan Broekhoff reclaimed his own alpha status with a 26-point barrage that featured everything from inside looks to 3-point shots.
Milwaukee had nothing to offer in return (Jimmy Lemke has more on that at Brew City Ball).
There are still some questions about this Valpo team that continued to nag all game. While they shoot the ball well, they struggle with turnovers, giving the ball away 11 times to the Panthers, most of those coming in quick succession in the first half. Had Milwaukee had any offensive ability early on -- they gave the ball right back more than they attempted shots in that period -- the Crusaders would have been the ones trying to dig out of a hole.
You have to wonder if it is a lack of a true point guard that is stopping this Valpo team from being truly great in the league. Every player on the squad can pass, and they work together as a team well to run the offense.
But there isn't that singular player who can help to distribute and limit the bad passes that are causing the Crusaders to give the ball away.
They make up for it well. They play defense impressively -- the Panthers can testify to that. Broekhoff and Matt Kenney each slapped away three shots, and Erik Buggs walked away with three steals.
There is just a nagging feeling that this lack of a central point could come back to haunt them, say when they face the league's top guard Thursday.
It wasn't needed against Milwaukee, but then again, this wasn't the typical game you would scout for Valpo.