The Horizon League is about to have a new star. After two straight years of the Butler Bulldogs being the dominating team out of this conference, either the Valparaiso Crusaders or the Detroit Titans are going to be the team that is heading to March Madness to represent this league after Tuesday’s finale.
Detroit has more or less flown under the radar in the Horizon League this year, as all eyes were really on Butler, Valpo, and the Cleveland State Vikings. Of course, all of that was put to rest on Saturday for Cleveland State, as the Titans were able to take them down with a gritty 63-58 victory. Now, the attention turns to the Crusaders, another team that has only had to play one game to reach the finale. Every year, we see players that come out of nowhere from these small conferences to play a huge role in the madness, and Detroit’s star very well could be Ray McCallum. Don’t think that McCallum has been an unknown to Horizon League fans, though. He is averaging 15.5 points per game this year, and he also is good for 4.5 boards and 4.0 assists per game. Since this tournament moved to Valpo though, McCallum has been on fire, coming up with 22 points in the win against the Youngstown State Penguins and then coming up with 26 points in 39 minutes against Cleveland State.
It feels like forever ago that Bryce Drew knocked down the biggest shot in Valparaiso history to win at the gun against the Ole Miss Rebels in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. The three pointer has become lore not just for Valpo, but for all college basketball fans. At the time, Valpo’s coach was Bryce’s father, Homer, but now, it is the son of Crusaders basketball that is at the helm for yet another potential run at success in the NCAA Tournament. With Cleveland State out of the way, the thought has to be there that this should be a cakewalk, but we know that this just isn’t the case. The Crusaders are going to have to be efficient on the offensive side of the court, where they shoot 47.2 percent from the field. The temptation to try to run with Detroit already nearly got the Crusaders into some trouble twice in the regular season, though they did survive both games without any hassle.
The Final Word: This Valpo team isn’t as strong as that team was that knocked off Ole Miss, and everyone in the Horizon League knows it. That being said, this is now a great opportunity for the Titans to put on their dancing shoes, and the few days off should really come in handy when it comes time to lace ‘em up on Tuesday night. Don’t be surprised if McCallum comes up with another sterling effort to put down the Crusaders on their home court, especially knowing that the two games in this series this year were decided by a total of just seven points.
Detroit Titans @ Valparaiso Crusaders Pick: Detroit Titans
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.