Checking In On… the Horizon League

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2009


John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

Current Standings:

  1. Butler (3-0)
  2. Detroit (3-1)
  3. Loyola (3-1)
  4. Wright State (3-1)
  5. Green Bay (4-2)
  6. Milwaukee (4-2)
  7. Youngstown State (3-2)
  8. Cleveland State (3-3)
  9. UIC (1-2)
  10. Valparaiso (1-2)

Top Storylines:

  • Horizon League regular season:  the regular season for the Horizon League kicks off on the first weekend of December.
  • Close calls, not breakthroughs:  no Horizon League team — besides Butler — has managed to knock off a power conference team.  The Bulldogs’ only power conference victory was over Northwestern and even Butler has a loss to Minnesota on Thanksgiving.
  • Youth will be served:  there are a lot of young Horizon League teams leading to a variety of results thus far.

Team Breakdowns:

Butler — The Bulldogs are the class of the Horizon League, but they’ve struggled at times this season.  Everyone has their sights set on taking down the mid-major squad that was tabbed for the Final Four before the season even began and thus Butler got a good game in Evansville, a 64-60 Butler victory.  The non-conference schedule just keeps getting harder with Georgetown, Ohio State and Xavier still to come.

Detroit — The Titans lost badly in their first game of the season against California, but since then they’ve rebounded to defeat four decent teams from a variety of mid-major conferences.  Detroit still has to play DePaul and Michigan in the non-conference schedule.  The game against the Blue Demons on Saturday should be a good match-up.

Loyola — The Ramblers sit at a surprising 3-1 to start the season.  This is still a very young team, but the offense has been better than expected and Loyola has held up well under pressure in two absolute thrillers in their last two victories.  The Ramblers defeated Holy Cross on a last-second three-point shot by senior guard Aric Van Weelden and then pulled out a gritty victory at home over Western Michigan.  Loyola wasn’t supposed to gel this fast, but there’s a lot of talent on the team with a rotation that easily goes eight deep and they could be a sleeper in the league this season.

Wright State — The Raiders lost a close game at Washington to start the season.  That game was probably their best chance to get a marquee victory which would help their at-large NCAA bid chances at the end of the year.  Wins over Portland State, Belmont, and Central Mchigan are nice but nothing the committee will care about.  There’s one more chance for a big win at Mississippi State on December 16th.  Preseason all-conference selection Vaughn Duggins returned against Central Michigan and scored 21 points in 31 minutes along with 5 assists, so it’s obvious why the Raiders are very happy to have him back.

Green Bay — It has been an up-and-down start to the season for the Phoenix.  An overtime victory over Kent State was nice but losses to UAB and Long Beach State have put a damper on things.  Green Bay has a trip to North Dakota coming up where they’ll play both NDSU and UND so they’ll be getting two games for the cost of one trip over the weekend.

Milwaukee —  The Panthers will probably be a mystery for the rest of the Horizon League until they play UIC on December 3 to open the conference slate.  UWM lost a close game to Western Kentucky and got blown out by Indiana State but rebounded to win 3 in a row.  The Panthers have one more game at Bowling Green before UIC and Loyola come to town on the first weekend of Horizon League play.

Youngstown State —  The Penguins have struggled against their Ohio brethren with losses at Xavier and against Kent State.  They have another tough game on Saturday against Pittsburgh and even keeping the game close would be a positive step.  Youngstown was blown out in its opener at Xavier as five Musketeers scored in double-figures.

Cleveland State —  The Vikings were shocked by St. Bonaventure in their opener, 72-62.  That loss was a tough fall for a team that lost a lot from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad.  Cleveland State rebounded with three victories before losing to two power conference teams in the Cancun Challenge.  The Vikings were no match for John Wall and Kentucky, but led Virginia at the half before losing 76-65.

UIC —  The Flames are a young team and it’s being displayed in inconsistent play.  When UIC is on, the team can be a very competitive ball club.  The Flames gave Illinois State a great run on the 23rd before ultimately falling short.  When they’re off, though, things look ugly — as was the case in their loss at Central Michigan when the Flames failed to hit a 2-point basket during the entire first half.  It is going to be an up-and-down season for the Flames.  UIC goes to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois on Saturday before opening up Horizon League play.

Valparaiso —  Taking on the big boys has led to a number of noble losses, but not much in terms of real results for the Crusaders thus far this season.  Valparaiso has high-profile losses to North Carolina (by 11), Michigan State (by 30), and a not-so-good loss to Ball State (by 10).  The one victory came against IU-South Bend, and that’s not another name for Notre Dame.  The Crusaders have an easier schedule coming up so hopefully they can get some victories against NCAA Division I opponents.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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