Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2009

checkinginon

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

Horizon League Standings

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

Top Storylines

  • The Phoenix are rising. Green Bay has turned into one of the best teams in the Horizon League and is set to challenge Butler. In fact, it can be argued that Green Bay’s victory over Wisconsin is the biggest non-conference win for the league thus far this season.
  • Howard if off track. Reigning Player of the Year Butler’s Matt Howard has struggled in the post during the non-conference schedule. He hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm and has more fouls this season than field goals made (36 to 24).
  • Detroit suffers a bad loss at home. A lot of people think the Titans have the talent to compete with early leaders Green Bay, Butler and Wright State. Detroit may be up there now in the standings, but the Titans still have a long way to go. It showed in a home loss to Tennessee State this week.
  • Final chance to pull some big upsets. The Horizon League has a number of chances this week to improve its overall profile by pulling upsets at major conference venues. The best chances seem to be Detroit at Michigan and Wright State at Mississippi State.

Team Breakdowns

Butler – The Bulldogs have slid from 10th in the country to the verge of unranked after failing in almost every one of their marquee non-conference games. Brad Stevens’ team has fallen so far that if the Bulldogs were to lose during the Horizon League tournament they wouldn’t be assured an at-large NCAA bid. The injury to Evan Turner has made Saturday’s contest against Ohio State a lose-lose proposition for the Bulldogs. If Butler wins it’s a victory against an Ohio State team that was without Turner. If the Bulldogs lose it’s a bad loss to a team that might struggle in the Big Ten without their star player.

Detroit - The aforementioned loss to Tennessee State, 70-69, cost Detroit a bit of momentum. The Titans have a chance to regain it real quick as they travel to Ann Arbor to take on a struggling Michigan team on Sunday. Eli Holman is averaging a double-double with 14.5 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Loyola – Loyola was the only squad in the Horizon League to get a road victory during the first weekend of conference play. The Ramblers then promptly took a week off for exams and finally return to action on Saturday at the Gentile Center against San Francisco. Loyola also plays a key non-conference game at Bradley on Wednesday in a return game for the Bracket Buster game played between the two last season. The Braves won last year 86-75 in Chicago.

Wright State – The Raiders are riding a three-game winning streak after sweeping their opening weekend of conference play and then going to Toledo. Wright State let up a bit during the second half against Toledo and made the game closer than necessary after enjoying a 13-point halftime lead. With road games this week at Miami (OH) on Sunday and streaking Mississippi State on Wednesday the Raiders can’t afford a let down.

Green Bay – Green Bay is now on a five-game winning streak, has moved into the Top 100 in the RPI and is a team that many major conference teams would dread facing right now. Horizon League player of the week Rahmon Fletcher played another great game against the Badgers with 18 points and 5 steals in the 88-84 overtime victory. The Phoenix have just one game this week, at Oakland on Sunday.

Milwaukee - The Panthers are now 0-37 against their crosstown rival Marquette after a 71-51 loss at the Bradley Center on Tuesday. The Panthers once against struggled shooting and scored 19 points in the first half. It was Milwaukee’s second straight loss. The first was a home conference loss to Loyola. The Panthers were expected to contend for a league title this season, but big man gunner James Eayrs can’t seem to get on track and the offense has suffered as a result. Milwaukee ranks 237th in adjusted offensive efficiency this season compared to 147th last season.

Youngstown State – The Penguins are on a three-game losing streak, but they won’t be able to do anything about it this week. Youngstown State is off this week and doesn’t play against until December 16 at St. Francis (PA).

Cleveland State – Another team that has had a lot of time to think about its long losing streak. The Vikings didn’t seem to have any answers during a rough five-game stretch (one that includes games against Kentucky and Virginia). On Saturday Cleveland State gets the super-tough Wilberforce Bulldogs from the NAIA. Tuesday is a mid-major conference clash as the Vikings take on Robert Morris.

Valparaiso – The Crusaders really love getting picked on by elite major conference foes. How else to explain a schedule that includes games against North Carolina, Michigan State and Purdue. That’s half of Valparaiso’s six losses right there. Of course the the young, injured Crusaders also lost to Ball State and Troy, so don’t expect too much. Sophomore Brandon Wood is the leading scorer in the Horizon League at 21 points per game. On Saturday he and his teammates take on Toledo at home before taking a week off.

UIC - The Flames haven’t won since November 14 in their season opener. They’ve had eight days off since a rough opening weekend in the Horizon League in which they lost a winnable game against Milwaukee and then got thrashed at Green Bay. Last year’s starting point guard Spencer Stewart returned for the Green Bay game and played 12 minutes, so he should start contributing immediately. He’ll have to because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Flames this week with games against crosstown Big East rival DePaul at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. and Oregon State coming to the Pavilion on Wednesday.

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