Valparaiso Crusaders men's basketball

The Valparaiso Crusaders men's basketball team represents Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana. The basketball team competes in the Missouri Valley Conference, having joined that league in 2017 after 10 seasons in the Horizon League.[2][3] The Crusaders play in the Athletics-Recreation Center, which has a nominal capacity of 5,432. The record capacity 5,444 was reached on March 23, 2016 in the NIT Quarterfinal. The team last played in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament in 2015.

Valparaiso Crusaders
2019–20 Valparaiso Crusaders men's basketball team
UniversityValparaiso University
Head coachMatt Lottich (3rd season)
ConferenceMissouri Valley
LocationValparaiso, Indiana
ArenaAthletics-Recreation Center
(Capacity: 5,432)
ColorsBrown and Gold[1]
NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen
NCAA Tournament Round of 32
NCAA Tournament Appearances
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2013, 2015
Conference Tournament Champions
Mid-Continent Conference
1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004

'Horizon League
2013, 2015
Conference Regular Season Champions
Mid-Continent Conference

1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

Horizon League
2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017
Butler–Valparaiso rivalry
SportMen's basketball
  • Butler Bulldogs
  • Valparaiso Crusaders
First meeting1934–35
Butler 41, Valparaiso 25
Latest meetingMarch 3, 2012
Valparaiso 65, Butler 46
Meetings total103
All-time seriesButler leads, 67–36
Largest victoryValparaiso, 85–49 (1945–46)
Longest win streakButler, 15 (1957–1964)
Current win streakValparaiso: 4 wins (2011–12)


The beginning

The Crusaders' first game was in 1917 as an independent school.

The tallest team

Valpo's "World's Tallest Team" was actually a collection of teams that gained Valparaiso national recognition during World War II and began in 1942 when a pair of Michigan City, Indiana brothers, Don and Wally Warnke, joined Valpo when their high school coach, Loren Ellis, was hired as head coach.[4][5] At 6'10" tall, the Warnke brothers were ineligible to be drafted into the service. Ellis found several other tall players, including Milt Schoon. Valparaiso did well the Warnke brothers before Wally was able to enlist and fight in World War II. In 1943, his brother, Don, stayed and was joined by a group of newcomers, including Schoon, Bob Dillie, John Janisch and Alvin Schmidt, as they finished with 17 wins including a win over No. 1 DePaul where Schoon held George Mikan to nine points.[4]

Warnke would graduate following the season, but would return as an assistant coach and later the head coach after Ellis left. In the 1944–45 season. The team won its first 11 games, including a program-defining victory over Long Island at Madison Square Garden. Despite finishing 21–3 on the season, the Crusaders were held out of the National Invitation Tournament, with their spot likely going to Midwest powers DePaul and/or Bowling Green.[4]

The iconic photograph of Valparaiso's players standing outside Madison Square Garden is displayed just outside the Athletics-Recreation Center court to this day. The team was inducted into the Valparaiso University Hall of Fame in 2004.[4][5]

Success in the 1950s and 1960s

The Crusaders joined the Indiana Collegiate Conference for the 1950–51 season. The Crusaders advanced to the Division II NCAA Tournament for the first time in 1962.

In 1964, Gene Bartow took over as head coach at Valpo and led the Crusaders to their greatest stretch of basketball in school history. They would advance to the Elite Eight that season before losing to Sacramento State. In 1966, the Crusaders returned to the NCAA Division II Tournament, losing in the Regional semifinals.

In 1967, Valpo returned to the NCAA Division II Tournament, beating Southern Colorado (now Colorado State–Pueblo) and again advancing to the Elite Eight before losing to Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State). In 1969, they hosted a Division II NCAA Tournament game for the first time, beating Concordia (IL) before losing to Illinois State.

In 1970, Bartow would leave Valpo to coach Memphis State. In 1973 under Bill Purden, the Crusaders notched their final appearance in the Division II Tournament, advancing to the Regional finals before losing to Kentucky Wesleyan.

Division I

The Crusaders joined Division I before the 1978–79 season. After four years as an independent, they became charter members of the Association of Mid-Continent Universities, which would go on to be known as the Mid-Continent Conference before becoming The Summit League. Valpo struggled mightily in their early years of Division I play, never having a winning record until 1994.

Homer Drew and sons' Valpo dynasty

In 1988, Homer Drew took the job as head coach. That first season included a win over 19th-ranked Notre Dame in a game that came to be known as "The Lutheran Miracle."[6] After struggiling early under coach Homer Drew, the Crusaders became a conference power beginning with the 1993–94 season where they finished second. The Crusaders won their first Mid-Continent championship in 1995, led by star player Bryce Drew. However, the team was not invited to the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders won the 1996 conference championship and received their first invitation to the Division I NCAA Tournament. In the 1998 Tournament, the Crusaders won their only Tournament games, defeating Ole Miss on a last second shot by Bryce Drew. The shot would go on to be an iconic play in NCAA Tournament history. The Crusaders won their second round game against Florida State before losing in the Sweet Sixteen to Rhode Island.

The Crusaders won the Mid-Continent Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament every year from 1996 through 2000. In 2001, though the Crusaders won the regular season championship, they lost to Southern Utah in the conference tournament. Valpo returned to the NCAA Tournament the following year, losing to Kentucky in the First Round. Homer Drew resigned the following season and his son, Scott Drew, an eight-year assistant under his father, was named head coach.

Scott would lead the Crusaders to another regular season championship, but failed to win the conference tournament and settled for an NIT appearance. After one year as head coach, Scott was hired to take over as coach at Baylor following that school's basketball scandal. Homer Drew returned to coach the team to the NCAA Tournament again in 2004. In 2007, Valparaiso became a member of the Horizon League.

The Crusaders played in the title game of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament every year between 1995 and 2004. After three more years as head coach, Drew resigned again and his son and former Valpo star Bryce Drew was named head coach. In five years as coach for the Crusaders, Bryce led them to a postseason appearance every year, including the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and 2015. Following the 2016 season, Bryce was hired to take over at Vanderbilt.[7]

Under Homer, Scott, and Bryce Drew, the Crusaders won 13 regular season conference championships and 10 conference tournament championships. The Crusaders appeared in nine NCAA Tournaments, three NITs, two Postseason Tournaments, and one College Basketball Invitational in 26 years.

The post-Drew years

On April 7, 2016, the school promoted former assistant coach Matt Lottich to the head coach position following Bryce Drew accepting the head coaching position at Vanderbilt on April 6, 2016.[8][9][10] For the first time since 1988, a Drew was not the head coach at Valpo. In Lottich's first season, the Crusaders earned a share of the Horizon League regular season championship, but lost in the Horizon League Tournament. They received a bid to the NIT where they lost in the first round.

Following the season, Valparaiso agreed to join the Missouri Valley Conference after 10 years as a member of the Horizon League. The Crusaders were invited to replace Wichita State which left the league to join the American Athletic Conference.[11]

Season-by-season results

Season Coach Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Sidney Winters (Independent) (1917–1919)
1917–18 Valparaiso 7–2
1918–19 Valparaiso 1–2
Sidney Winters: 8–4 (.667)
George Koegan (Independent) (1919–1921)
1919–20 Valparaiso 12–8
1920–21 Valparaiso 19–5
George Keogan: 31–13 (.705)
Earl Goheen (Independent) (1921–1923)
1921–22 Valparaiso 15–7
1922–23 Valparaiso 15–5
Earl Goheen: 30–12 (.714)
William Shadoan (Independent) (1923–1925)
1923–24 Valparaiso 24–4
1924–25 Valparaiso 9–5
William Shadoan: 33–9 (.786)
Millard Anderson (Independent) (1925–1926)
1925–26 Valparaiso 6–13
Millard Anderson: 6–13 (.316)
Conrad Moll (Independent) (1926–1927)
1926–27 Valparaiso 10–10
Conrad Moll: 10–10 (.500)
Earl Scott (Independent) (1927–1929)
1927–28 Valparaiso 11–4
1928–29 Valparaiso 11–20
Earl Scott: 22–14 (.611)
Jake Christiansen (Independent) (1929–1941)
1929–30 Valparaiso 4–11
1930–31 Valparaiso 16–2
1931–32 Valparaiso 12–12
1932–33 Valparaiso 14–2
1933–34 Valparaiso 9–9
1934–35 Valparaiso 2–13
1935–36 Valparaiso 8–8
1936–37 Valparaiso 9–9
1937–38 Valparaiso 13–6
1938–39 Valparaiso 5–10
1939–40 Valparaiso 6–14
1940–41 Valparaiso 4–12
Jake Christiansen: 102–108 (.486)
Loren Ellis (Independent) (1941–1947)
1941–42 Valparaiso 4–13
1942–43 Valparaiso 17–5
1943–44 Valparaiso 17–8
1944–45 Valparaiso 21–3
1945–46 Valparaiso 17–11
1946–47 Valparaiso 11–20
Loren Ellis: 87–60 (.592)
Emory Bauer (Independent) (1947–1948)
1947–48 Valparaiso 8–15
Emory Bauer: 8–15 (.348)
Don Warnke (Independent) (1948–1949)
1948–49 Valparaiso 8–17
Don Warnke: 8–17 (.320)
Sonny Allen (Independent) (1949–1951)
1949–50 Valparaiso 15–8
Sonny Allen (Indiana Collegiate Conference) (1951–1952)
1950–51 Valparaiso 12–105–33rd
Sonny Allen: 27–18 (.600)5–3 (.625)
Kenneth Suesens (Indiana Collegiate Conference) (1951–1958)
1951–52 Valparaiso 12–126–42nd
1952–53 Valparaiso 9–152–86th
1953–54 Valparaiso 10–137–53rd
1954–55 Valparaiso 13–118–42nd
1955–56 Valparaiso 12–148–42nd
1956–57 Valparaiso 11–146–64th
1957–58 Valparaiso 7–144–96th
Kenneth Suesens: 74–93 (.443)41–88 (.318)
Paul Meadows (Indiana Collegiate Conference) (1958–1964)
1958–59 Valparaiso 12–115–75th
1959–60 Valparaiso 12–138–43rd
1960–61 Valparaiso 7–163–96th
1961–62 Valparaiso 17–87–53rdNCAA Elite Eight
1962–63 Valparaiso 7–161–117th
1963–64 Valparaiso 9–152–107th
Paul Meadows: 64–79 (.448)26–46 (.361)
Gene Bartow (Indiana Collegiate Conference) (1964–1970)
1964–65 Valparaiso 12–125–73rd
1965–66 Valparaiso 18–107–54thNCAA Regional finals
1966–67 Valparaiso 21–87–52ndNCAA Elite Eight
1967–68 Valparaiso 11–153–96th
1968–69 Valparaiso 16–124–4T–2ndNCAA Regional finals
1969–70 Valparaiso 13–132–65th
Gene Bartow: 91–70 (.565)28–36 (.438)
Bill Purden (Indiana Collegiate Conference) (1970–1976)
1970–71 Valparaiso 13–134–4T–2nd
1971–72 Valparaiso 15–114–43rd
1972–73 Valparaiso 17–118–4T–1stNCAA Regional finals
1973–74 Valparaiso 15–118–4T–3rd
1974–75 Valparaiso 14–118–4T–2nd
1975–76 Valparaiso 12–147–53rd
Bill Purden: 86–71 (.548)39–25 (.609)
Ken Rochlitz (Indiana Collegiate Conference) (1976–1978)
1976–77 Valparaiso 13–125–53rd
1977–78 Valparaiso 6–191–43rd
Ken Rochlitz (Division I Independent) (1978–1980)
1978–79 Valparaiso 4–21
1979–80 Valparaiso 8–18
Ken Rochlitz: 31–70 (.307)6–9 (.400)
Tom Smith (Division I Independent) (1980–1982)
1980–81 Valparaiso 12–15
1981–82 Valparaiso 9–18
Tom Smith (Association of Mid-Continent Universities) (1982–1988)
1982–83 Valparaiso 13–154–96th
1984–85 Valparaiso 8–204–107th
1985–86 Valparaiso 9–195–96th
1986–87 Valparaiso 12–164–106th
1987–88 Valparaiso 12–163–118th
Tom Smith: 84–138 (.378)20–49 (.290)
Homer Drew (Association of Mid-Continent Universities/Mid–Continent Conference) (1988–2002)
1988–89 Valparaiso 10–194–8T–5th
1989–90 Valparaiso 4–241–117th
1990–91 Valparaiso 5–222–149th
1991–92 Valparaiso 5–222–149th
1992–93 Valparaiso 12–167–9T–6th
1993–94 Valparaiso 20–814–4T–2nd
1994–95 Valparaiso 20–814–41st
1995–96 Valparaiso 22–1013–51stNCAA First Round
1996–97 Valparaiso 24–713–31stNCAA First Round
1997–98 Valparaiso 23–1013–31stNCAA Sweet Sixteen
1998–99 Valparaiso 23–910–4T–1stNCAA First Round
1999–2000 Valparaiso 19–1310–6T–2ndNCAA First Round
2000–01 Valparaiso 24–813–31st
2001–02 Valparaiso 25–812–21stNCAA First Round
Scott Drew (Mid-Continent Conference) (2002–2003)
2002–03 Valparaiso 20–1112–21stNIT first round
Scott Drew: 20–11 (.645)12–2 (.857)
Homer Drew (Mid-Continent Conference) (2003–2007)
2003–04 Valparaiso 18–1311–51stNCAA First Round
2004–05 Valparaiso 15–1610–63rd
2005–06 Valparaiso 17–128–84th
2006–07 Valparaiso 16–159–53rd
Homer Drew (Horizon League) (2007–2011)
2007–08 Valparaiso 22–149–94thCBI second round
2008–09 Valparaiso 9–225–139th
2009–10 Valparaiso 15–1710–84th
2010–11 Valparaiso 23–1212– first round
Homer Drew: 370–306 (.547)159–95 (.626)
Bryce Drew (Horizon League) (2011–2016)
2011–12 Valparaiso 22–1214–41stNIT first round
2012–13 Valparaiso 26–813–31stNCAA Second Round
2013–14 Valparaiso 18–169– first round
2014–15 Valparaiso 28–613–31stNCAA Second Round
2015–16 Valparaiso 30–716–21stNIT runner-up
Bryce Drew: 124–49 (.717)65–19 (.774)
Matt Lottich (Horizon League) (2016–2017)
2016–17 Valparaiso 24–914–4T–1stNIT first round
Matt Lottich (Missouri Valley Conference) (2017–present)
2017–18 Valparaiso 15–176–1210th
2018–19 Valparaiso 15–187-11T-8th
Matt Lottich: 54–44 (.551)27–27 (.500)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


NCAA Tournament results

The Crusaders have appeared in nine NCAA Tournaments. Their combined record is 2–9.

Year Seed Round Opponent Result
1996No. 14First RoundNo. 3 ArizonaL 51–90
1997No. 12First RoundNo. 5 Boston CollegeL 66–73
1998No. 13First Round
Second Round
Sweet Sixteen
No. 4 Ole Miss
No. 12 Florida State
No. 8 Rhode Island
W 70–69
W 83–77OT
L 68–74
1999No. 15First RoundNo.2 MarylandL 60–82
2000No. 16First RoundNo. 1 Michigan StateL 38–65
2002No. 13First RoundNo. 4 KentuckyL 68–83
2004No. 15First RoundNo. 2 GonzagaL 49–76
2013No. 14Second RoundNo. 3 Michigan StateL 54–65
2015No. 13Second RoundNo. 4 MarylandL 62–65

NCAA Division II tournament results

The Crusaders have appeared in the NCAA Division II Tournament five times. Their combined record is 7–5.

Year Round Opponent Result
1962Regional semifinals
Regional finals
Elite Eight
Kentucky State
Concordia (IL)
Sacramento State
W 75–61
W 75–72
L 54–61
1966Regional semifinals
Regional finals
Saint Procopius
North Dakota
W 107–76
L 82–112
1967Regional semifinals
Regional finals
Elite Eight
Colorado State–Pueblo
Indiana State
Missouri State
W 89–52
W 80–77
L 72–86
1969Regional semifinals
Regional finals
Concordia (IL)
Illinois State
W 91–81
L 87–103
1973Regional semifinals
Regional finals
Kentucky Wesleyan
W 69–64
L 66–74

NAIA tournament results

The Crusaders have appeared in the NAIA Tournament two times. Their combined record is 1–2.

Year Round Opponent Result
1938First Round
Second Round
Western Oregon
Central Missouri
W 57–48
L 24–44
1943First RoundEastern WashingtonL 42–45

NIT Results

The Crusaders have appeared in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) four times. Their combined record is 4–4.

Year Round Opponent Result
2003Opening RoundIowaL 60–62
2012First RoundMiamiL 50–66
2016First Round
Second Round
Championship Game
Texas Southern
Florida State
Saint Mary's
George Washington
W 84–73
W 81–69
W 60–44
W 72–70
L 60–76
2017First RoundIllinoisL 57–82

CBI Results

The Crusaders have appeared in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) one time. Their record is 1–1.

Year Round Opponent Result
2008First Round
W 72–71
L 67–91

CIT Results

The Crusaders have appeared in the Postseason Tournament (CIT) two times. Their combined record is 0–2.

Year Round Opponent Result
2011First RoundIonaL 77–85
2014First RoundColumbiaL 56–58


All Crusader games are broadcast for free on the Valparaiso website at WVUR-FM, the student-run campus radio station, also broadcasts select Crusader games on 95.1 FM and on the station's website.

Retired jerseys

Two players have had their jerseys retired by the school.

Valparaiso Crusaders retired jerseys
No. Player Years played
24Bryce Drew1994–1998
Bruce Lindner1967–1970

Crusaders in the NBA


  1. "Color Palette and Typography | Valparaiso University Brand". June 20, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  2. Wessler, Kirk. "Valparaiso accepts invite to join the Missouri Valley". Journal Star. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  3. Technologies, Streamline. "Valparaiso University to Join Missouri Valley Conference". Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  4., Paul Oren. "Getting to know the "World's Tallest Team"". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  5. Correspondent, Paul Oren Times. "Crusaders following in the footsteps of "World's Tallest Team"". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  6. Technologies, Streamline. "The Lutheran Miracle – 25 Years Later". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  7. "Vandy hires coach Bryce Drew from Valparaiso". Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  8. "Sources: Vandy, Bryce Drew reach 6-year deal". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  9. "Commodores hire Bryce Drew to lead basketball program | Vanderbilt Official Athletic Site – Basketball". Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  10. Tribune, Chicago. "Valparaiso promotes Matt Lottich to be its men's basketball coach". Post-Tribune. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  11. "Valparaiso to join Missouri Valley Conference". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
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