Everything will be on the line Tuesday night as the Valparaiso Crusaders and Green Bay Phoenix meet for a chance to head to the NCAA Tournament. Here is everything you need to know to prepare for what will surely be an epic finale.
Head to Head Recaps:
In the regular season the Phoenix and Crusaders battled twice, splitting the games. In the first matchup played in Green Bay, the Phoenix came out on top with a 51-50 victory. Keifer Sykes and Alfonzo McKinnie were the leading scorers with 11 for Green Bay, as the Phoenix pulled out a win in a low scoring affair.
In the second game at Valparaiso, the Crusaders were victorious 63-59. Tevonn Walker scored a game high 20 points and the Crusaders defense was able to hold Sykes to just seven points. Valparaiso controlled the game for 35 minutes of the game and had the lead up to 15 points, but they missed five free throws in a row down the stretch to make it interesting.
Valparaiso will have the advantage of playing in front of a sold-out, home crowd after winning the conference regular season. The Crusaders are undefeated at home in conference (9-0) and 14-1 overall at the ARC this season. Led by sophomore Alec Peters (17.0 ppg) the Crusaders rely heavily on playing together as a team. Each game has seemingly had a different hero as multiple players have stepped up when their number has been called. Valparaiso was awarded three different regular season awards last week: Coach of the Year, Bryce Drew; Defensive Player of the Year, Vashil Fernandez; and Sixth Man of the Year, Jubril Adekoya.
Injuries have played a major role this season for Valparaiso as they lost starting point guard Lexus Williams before the season even started. Keith Carter went down with a toe injury just a few games into the conference season missing more than a month, and Tevonn Walker became the latest victim Saturday night (knee). Valpo will have to continue to be as resilient as they have been all season long to win Tuesday's title game.
Green Bay will hope to give two-time Player of the Year Keifer Sykes the opportunity of his life to shine in front of a national audience. The likely NBA-bound guard leads the Phoenix in scoring with 18.9 points per game, while adding 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Green Bay, much like Valparaiso, plays eight players deep, all with the ability to find ways to score.
Although they split the season series, Sykes has been relatively quiet in both matchups, shooting a combined 6-for-30, well below his season shooting percentage of 46 percent. On the other end, the Phoenix have found ways to make Valparaiso turn the ball over a total of 30 times in the two games.
These two teams played in the 2013 Horizon League semifinals, a game that was as dramatic as it can get. The Crusaders moved on to the finals that season when Ryan Broekhoff sank a buzzer-beating, fade-away 3-pointer to give Valparaiso a 70-69 win.
WHEN: Tuesday, March 10, 7 p.m. Eastern
WHERE: Athletics Recreation Center, Valparaiso, Ind.
TICKETS: 877-MY-VU-TIX, or Online