The BYU Cougars and the Valparaiso Crusaders have only meet twice in the history of the basketball programs and it has been almost seventy years since they met last time. Each team won a game with Valparaiso winning in 1945 and BYU winning in 1949.
The Cougars are coming off a big win in the Marriott Center that sent them to the final four in the NIT. The Cougars were without a fully healthy Kyle Collinsworth as he was trying to recover from the flu. Because of his health he only managed 20 minutes and wasn't near 100%. However, the other Cougars picked up the slack and shot 51% from the field, and 38% from the three point line. Scoring 88 points without their top player bodes well for the Cougars as they face a tremendous challenge in the top seeded Crusaders.
The Cougars free throw shooting was a key in the win over the Creighton Bluejays. Although Collinsworth missed some late free throws, the Cougars still made 22 of 29 on the night for 76% as a team. In fact, the Cougars made as many free throws as the Bluejays attempted. With good free throw shooting the Cougars proved that they can win even when things aren't perfect.
The Cougars struggled a bit in the rebounding game as they only grabbed two rebounds more than the Bluejays. The key area they failed in was giving up the offensive rebounds. The Bluejays pulled down 11 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second chance points. The Cougars will need to do a much better job on the boards if they want to make it to the finals in New York.
The Keys to Watch
When the Crusaders have the ball:
Watch for Valparaiso to spread the ball around as they average 76 points per game, but only have two players that average double digits. Alec Peters leads the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game while also pulling down a team high 8.4 rebounds. Keith Carter is the other player in double digit scoring as he averages 10.3 points per game. Carter not only scores but he is the floor general as well. He averages 4.4 assists per game, well above anyone else. Watch for Peters to make his presence known inside and out as he has taken the most shots, both inside and outside, of any player on the team.
Watch for the Cougars to neutralize Peters with physical play from Corbin Kaufusi, Nate Austin, and Kyle Davis. The Cougars will look to force the ball out of his hands and hopefully into turnovers. The Crusaders average 13 turnovers per game so if the Cougars can force bad passes instead of good shots, the Cougars defense could help the offense in the transition game. Watch for the Cougars to go after the rebounds as they try to prevent second chance points for the Crusaders, and limiting their possessions.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to be back at full strength and ride into Madison Square Garden with confidence. The Cougars will continue to run their offense and shoot quickly as they try to dictate the pace of the game. Zac Seljaas had a great game starting in place of Collinsworth and should come into the game ready to hit his shots and make a difference. Watch for the extra pass to the open man when they are forced into a set play, causing problems with the Crusaders defense.
Watch for the Crusaders to slow the pace of the game. This is a team that held Saint Mary's to 44 points in the last game and so they aren't afraid of putting their body on the line and playing defense. Overall they only allow 63 points and will be happy to limit the Cougars possessions. Watch for Vashil Fernandez to make a difference in the paint as he averages five blocks per game. The Crusaders will look to limit the Cougars inside play and will let them shoot the long ball as they play the percentages.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 5 pm MST
Where: Madison Square Garden-New York City, New York
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here