No. 4 seed Maryland opens the 2015 NCAA tournament against No. 13 seed Valparaiso (28-5, 13-3 Horizon League) March 20 at 4:40 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio. Crusaders head coach Bryce Drew held a conference call March 16 to talk about the matchup.
Here’s what he had to say:
Our guys are really excited to have the opportunity to be in the NCAA tournament. Anytime you have a chance to get your name in the bracket it’s a great blessing. We knew whoever we played was going to be a tough draw. Obviously Maryland is one of the better teams in the country.
We thought they were a three seed pretty much, locked in the whole time. We didn’t anticipate being in the range to play them. But, you know, 14-4 in the Big Ten is a remarkable year in the conference. Being ranked in the top 10 during the course of the year is an awesome accomplishment.
We know it’s a big challenge, they have a lot of good players, a lot of players with experience who have been in college for awhile. And, you know, Coach [Mark[ Turgeon has a lot of experience in the NCAA tournament. So we know it’s going to be a difficult challenge for us.
On the Expectations Facing Valpo At Season’s Outset
We’ve had several injuries. Our starting point guard tore his ACL in August. Our other point guard who played great got hurt and missed over a month. And we had a 6-8 player playing the point who had two hip surgeries in the offseason, and we didn’t even know if he was going to be able to play this year.
So I’m in awe with what guys have done with this team this year with all the adversity we’ve had to face. We were the least experienced team in our league this year and we have a lot of new guys. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year we’d be in this position right now, I’m now sure I would’ve believed them, just because of our inexperience and the youth we have.
On How Playing Michigan State Two Years Ago In NCAA Tournament Will Help Valpo This Time Around
From a players’ perspective we only have one guy on our team that was even dressed out for that [MSU] game. In two years we have a completely different team that will be going through it for the first time.
As a coach this team has a different feel than the [last Valpo tournament team]. That team had six seniors and it was their last time around. This group, we start a couple underclassmen and play a lot of younger guys. It’s kind of a different outlook going at it from a coaching perspective.
The second time you go through some things, you learn some things you may have changed the first time. We made a couple adjustments to our schedule and our preparation this week.
On How Much Of A Teaching Environment This Is With So Much Youth On Squad
We have a lot of young guys, but they play well beyond their years and they’re very mature and they’ve been very focused all year. I don’t anticipate any changes in that this week. They make it easy.
From a learning point, there’s really not a lot we have to teach them, because they’ve been so focused. I think they all know what’s at stake being in the NCAA tournament, and they’re all just really excited for the opportunity.
On Whether Or Not Bryce Drew’s Iconic 1998 NCAA Tournament Shot That Helped Valpo Upset Ole Miss Has a Positive Or Negative Effect On His Current Team
From a players’ perspective I don’t think it has any bearings on the game at all. Maybe every kid on our roster didn’t even know about that play until they got here. And I’m sure the Maryland players are the same way. Maybe from a fan that followed the NCAA tournament they might think a little better of us, but from a players’ perspective I don’t think it will matter at all.
On The Attention Bryce Drew’s Shot Gets And If He Ever Gets Annoyed Hearing About It At This Time Of Year
You know, it really doesn’t get brought up that much until this time of year … And our team really doesn’t even hear much about it. They don’t really get that many questions, and, again, they were too young to even see it when it happened.
So I don’t think it’s a distraction for them. It’s not even in our recruiting presentation we put out …. For myself, I don’t get tired of talking about it, because it was such a special time and a special blessing. I’ve always been a huge NCAA tournament fan, so to at least have that highlight in there sometimes, it does bring back good memories.
On How Valpo Is Within Driving Distance Of Columbus And Maryland Has To Fly In. Advantage For Valpo?
The Committee takes some of that into consideration with distance. Maybe we were the one in the Midwest in that 12 [seed] or 13 [seed] spot that fit. But, you know, I think you’re only allotted so many tickets…. I don’t anticipate a huge difference in the crowd. I know Maryland travels well and they’re going to have a lot of people there.
On The Thought Process Behind A Potential Baylor-Valpo Matchup What With BU’s Head Coach, Scott Drew, Being Bryce Drew’s Brother
I talked to my brother and we prayed – we definitely did not want it to happen. Basketball is so competitive and we’re very close. We just didn’t want to be in that situation. So thank god it didn’t happen. So then they [the Committee] gave us Coach Turgeon, who coached against my brother so many times….
On Valpo Fan Support
It’s been tremendous. Our crowds have been maybe the loudest I can remember ever in our gym the last couple home games. And our administration, everyone really, is really excited for the opportunity.
I think from when I played in college until now, the NCAA tournament has only grown with all the TV coverage and social media, and all the media at the game and TV coverage.
It’s even bigger than when I played, and I think our campus feels that. They know the national attention schools can get from being in the tournament.
On Health Of Team
Everyone looks good now. We practiced and everyone was able to practice. Tevonn [Walker, starting point guard] was able to go full speed, which he could not do last Tuesday in our game. We are happy we go on Friday [March 20] to give us an extra day to hopefully make sure everyone is ready to go.
On Playing Against Dez Wells and Melo Trimble
They’re tremendous players and I think they do a lot of things well. It’s not just one thing you can take away. Trimble’s ability to score in different ways, whether it’s shooting floaters, tough layups, free throws – he just does a tremendous job. What I was really impressed with, at his age, was his unselfishness on film. He really gets them in the offense, takes what the defense gives him, and then is aggressive at certain times. So I’m really impressed with him.
And obviously Wells is a tremendous athlete and plays extremely hard. So they’re both tough matchups. They’re bigger than a lot of guards we’re used to defending, and stronger. It’ll definitely be a big challenge for our perimeter defenders.
On Strength Of Valpo
Two years ago going into the tournament we kind of knew who we were. With this team, we’ve come such a far way this year with all the injuries and kind of reinventing ourselves a couple times. I’m anxious to get into the game and see how our guys know. We’re playing different combinations now, playing a little differently than we did at the beginning of the year against Missouri and New Mexico.
So our team is different than we were then. I’m kind of curious to get out there against a team with the types of athletes that Maryland has. I’ll be curious to see how we respond.
On The Need For Strong Guard Play in Today’s Game
I definitely think so. You definitely need guards who can break you down off the dribble. There’s so many good defenses out there, and sometimes it boils down to who can get an angle or who can create a shot for themselves or someone else.
That’s a scary thing with Maryland. They have several guys that can do that. Wells does it in different ways in transition and the post. Trimble does it more like a pure point guard; he can break you down and score. And I think [Jake] Layman can break you down with his speed. I definitely think you need that in today’s game.
Concerned That UMD Has A Chip On Its Shoulder After Getting A Four Seed?
I can’t speak for their team. I’m sure everyone probably thought they were going to be a three seed; a lot of people thought we would be a 12 seed. Coach Turgeon is too good of a coach and they have too good of players – they’re going to be ready to go [March 20] regardless of their seed or where they’re playing.
Any Connection To Maryland players In Recruiting?
No we do not. They have one player from overseas [Ivan Bender] and we have one player who went to the same school as him, but that’s the extent of it.
Valparaiso Coach Bryce Drew Talks UMD Matchup
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