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Mid-Continent Finals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-Continent Conference Finals Preview

Preview by Matthew Moll

(1) Valparaiso vs (2) IUPUI
Three times. Three seasons. Two teams. One NCAA bid.

The best way to describe the Mid-Con Tournament Final is repetitive. The two best teams that were the two best teams during the regular season for the past three seasons will battle again.

During the regular season the clubs split their contests. The Jan. 5 contest IUPUI defeated the Crusaders on their home court 79-67. Their next, meeting 10 days later, Valpo returned the favor 70-66 in Indianapolis.

Odell Bradley and Matt Crenshaw are they keys to the Jag’s offense and will need to break down the Valpo zone and use their perimeter games to find holes and not have a 1-17 three-ball performance like they did in the regular season loss.

Valpo must have Dan Oppland and Jaoquim Gomes own the paint and someone must stop Bradley. VU’s 2-3 will only be affective if the guards get out on IUPUI’s shooters and Oppland and Gomes can figure a way to not allow offensive rebounds.

Ron Hunter believes his team is on a “mission” and he and the rest of the Mid-Con knows that the road to the NCAA and ruling the Mid-Con goes through Valpo. Ten years of dominance by the Crusaders earns that type of respect.

But IUPUI has turned Kemper Area into a second home. Steming back to last season’s tourney run the Jags are 5-0 including a win over mighty Valpo.

The first match-up in 2002 went to the perennially dominant Valpo 88-55. Last year IUPUI danced after a thrilling 66-64 battle. This year’s game will establish further a rivalry over which team that occupies Interstate 65 is superior.

Two teams from a state that breathes basketball and breeds drama, from Milan’s 1953 state runner-up to their championship in 1954, to Larry Bird and Indiana State’s run to the Final Four, to Indiana Undefeated, to Brice Drew’s buzzer beater, and now Indiana rules the Mid-Con.

Rivalries grow more bitter when things that one team wants the other has. When championships are won and lost. This rivalry will reach is building and will be further fueled by an advantage. One team will have the record 2-1 while playing the other team for the conference bid. The other will have to sit, wait, watch, and grow bitter.

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