2009-10 Conference Primers: #11 – Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2009


John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Butler (17-1)
  2. Wright State (14-4)
  3. Milwaukee (12-6)
  4. Cleveland State (11-7)
  5. Green Bay (10-8)
  6. Loyola (8-10)
  7. Valparaiso (7-11)
  8. Detroit (5-13)
  9. Youngstown State (4-14)
  10. UIC (2-16)

All-Conference Team:

  • Vaughn Duggins (G), Wright State – 13.8 ppg, 2.7 apg in 2008-09 season.
  • Troy Cotton (G), Green Bay – 12.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
  • Norris Cole (G), Cleveland State – 13.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg
  • Gordon Hayward (F), Butler – 13.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg
  • Matt Howard (F/C), Butler – 14.8, 6.8 rpg (last season’s Horizon League Player of the Year)

6th Man. Jordan Hicks (G/F), Loyola-Chicago

Impact Newcomer. Milos Milosevic (F), Valparaiso. The 6’7″ Croatian junior college transfer should give the Crusaders a paint presence.

HL logo

What You Need to Know.

  • There’s more to the Horizon League than just Butler. Whether it’s Cleveland State – which upset Syracuse and Wake Forest last season – or Green Bay and Milwaukee, the Horizon League has quality teams throughout. Someone in the top half of the league is going to rise up and not only challenge the Bulldogs, but compete for an NCAA at-large berth.
  • This is only the beginning for the Bulldogs. Butler is going to be good for a long time. Young talent like Gordon Hayward (soph.), Matt Howard (jr.), Shelvin Mack (soph.) and incoming center recruit Andrew Smith mean the Bulldogs will be strong for many seasons to come, not just 2009-10.
  • UIC was expected to be a pretty good team in 2009-10, even with the losses of Josh Mayo and Scott VanderMeer, but the team was gutted when two frontcourt starters – Rob Eppinger and Tori Boyd – decided not to return along with the indefinite suspension of guard Spencer Stewart. Now the roster seems to contain more questions than answers. The Flames will rely heavily on guard Robo Kreps.
  • Is he healthy again? That’s the question Wright State fans are asking about guard Vaughn Duggins. He missed all but four games with finger and ankle injuries and his return will be a key for the Raiders. Duggins averaged 13.3 points per game two seasons ago.
  • They start real early. The Horizon League is one of the few conferences that plays league games in early December. December 3rd and 5th feature full slates of league games before it goes back to it’s non-conference business.

Predicted ChampionButler (NCAA Seed #5). The Bulldogs start the season ranked in the Top 20 and are a great collection of talent. Last season was supposed to be a rebuilding season, but it didn’t end until the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a heartbreaker to LSU. This season the non-conference schedule is even tougher and the Bulldogs will be trying to advance even farther.

Top Contenders.

  • Wright State – The Raiders are a solid team with three straight 20-win seasons. Vaughn Duggins returns to a team that had to learn to win without him last season. The Raiders will be on the bubble this season and are the most obvious contender to take the conference’s automatic bid away from the Bulldogs.
  • Milwaukee – The Panthers are nearing the end of a rebuilding process since Rob Jeter took over for current Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. Milwaukee should make an impact in the conference and has the opportunity to notch some big non-conference victories as well.
  • Cleveland State – The Vikings will look to Norris Cole – the lone returning starter – to lead them to postseason success. Still, a lot of talent that was seasoned during last season’s NCAA Tournament run returns and the Vikings should be competitive in the league after going 12-6 last season.

Top 10 RPI Boosters.

  • Nov. 11, 2009. Detroit vs. California (Coaches v. Cancer) – ESPNU, 11 p.m.
  • Nov. 13, 2009.  Wright State @ Washington (AIA Basketball Classic) – 10:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 15, 2009.  Valparaiso @ UNC – Fox Sports South, 4 p.m.
  • Nov. 24-25, 2009.  Cleveland State in Cancun Challenge (Kentucky and Stanford or Virginia)
  • Dec. 8, 2009. Butler vs. Georgetown (Jimmy V Classic) – ESPN, 7 p.m.
  • Dec. 8, 2009.  Milwaukee @ Marquette – 8 p.m.
  • Dec. 9, 2009.  Wisconsin @ Green Bay – 8 p.m.
  • Dec. 12, 2009. Ohio State @ Butler – ESPN, Noon.
  • Dec. 13, 2009.  Oregon State @ UIC – 8 p.m.
  • Dec. 19, 2009.  Xavier @ Butler – ESPN2, 2 p.m.

Key Conference Games.

  • Dec. 3, 2009.  Cleveland State @ Wright State ESPNU, 9 p.m. – The opener of the conference includes two of the top rivals to Butler’s throne.
  • Jan. 2, 2010.  Cleveland State @ Youngstown State 7 p.m. – The Penguins look to start the new year off right with a victory over the in-state rival Vikings.
  • Jan. 8, 2010.  Butler @ Wright State 7 p.m. – The Bulldogs’ first key Horizon League road test.
  • Jan. 15, 2010.  Loyola @ UIC ESPNU, 9 p.m. – The two Chicago teams face off in front of a national television audience.
  • Feb. 6, 2010.  Wisconsin-Milwaukee @ Wisconsin-Green Bay (ESPN2 – possible), 8 p.m. – The Panthers lost two close ones last season to the Phoenix, this could possibly be a chance for revenge on a national stage.
  • Feb. 26, 2010.  Butler @ Valparaiso ESPNU, 9 p.m. – Butler’s final conference game and a chance for the young Crusaders to show how much they’ve developed during conference play.

Digging Deeper.

  • The Detroit Titans finished last in the Horizon League last season and have a very young team. Four starters are returning and the team also got some extra time to bond with an 11-day trip to Spain in August. From dolphin shows to playing actual exhibitions, it seems like a positive experience that could pay dividends as the Titans try to rise out of the league’s cellar.
  • The players at Youngstown State might not be playing at the Final Four, but they’ll be shooting on the rims that were used last season at Ford Field. The Penguin athletic department purchased the four rims to have them installed at the Beeghly Center where Youngstown State plays its home games.

Fun With Kenpom. Butler got all the hype in 2008-09, and deservedly so for its great season, but there were four HL teams in Pomeroy’s top 100 last year – Butler, Green Bay, Cleveland State, and Wright State.  The problem is that there were also four teams rated in the 200s as well – Youngstown State, Loyola-Chicago, Valparaiso and Detroit.  If the bottom of the league could progress to even a mid-100s level, the Horizon would undoubtedly rate as a two-bid conference almost every year.

NCAA Tournament History. The Horizon League is 21-37 (.362) in its history, with Butler and Xavier (formerly of this conference) holding the majority of the wins.  Still, whether it was UIC (2002), Milwaukee (2005 and 2006), Wright State (2007) or Cleveland State (2009), nobody looks forward to playing teams from this conference in the postseason.    The teams consistently compete hard and make life very difficult for the higher seeded teams they’re facing.

Final Thoughts. The Horizon League promises to be a conference worth keeping an eye on all season, not just during the conference tournament in Indianapolis. It’s possible another Horizon League team besides Butler could potentially find itself on the NCAA bubble if things break right. Of course the Bulldogs should be ready for a deep tournament run come March. No matter what, the league consistently provides some of the best basketball available in the Midwest region and should be competitive from top-to-bottom this season.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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4 responses to “2009-10 Conference Primers: #11 – Horizon League”

  1. nvr1983 says:

    Just a FYI to the Butler fans on the Yuku board. After discussing the RPI boosters with John, we switched the Butler-NW game to Butler-OSU. Thanks for your feedback. I would have posted on a follow-up on your board, but I’m still waiting for approval from the moderators there to do so.

  2. Jack says:

    Didn’t Dickie V lead Detroit to a sweet 16 berth one year? Fell like that would be a significant part of their tournament history.

  3. My Horizon League preview is up at Rush the Court – http://bit.ly/7coE1

  4. jstevrtc says:

    Yes. Dick Vitale coached Detroit to the 1977 Sweet 16 where they lost 86-81 to a Johnny Orr-coached Michigan team.

    I think John (Templon, the piece’s author) just wanted to hit on some more recent tournament appearances by Horizon members. Also, the Horizon has had a few Sweet 16 appearances, including some more recent than 1977 (Butler ’03 and ’07, UWM ’05, others). Definitely speaks to the point that he was making, that you don’t want to overlook any Horizon team in the Dance, whether they’re seeded above or below you.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for the input. I’ve only met him a couple of times, but I’d say Dick Vitale thanks you, too!

    John Stevens

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