Horizon League Tournament PreviewPosted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010
John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.
The Horizon League finished its regular season on Saturday. The first round matchups for the tournament are all set. Of course the favorite to win the conference tournament is Butler. The Bulldogs went a perfect 18-0 in conference. The Bulldogs played without star forward Gordon Hayward – the assumed Horizon League Player of the Year – and still managed to defeat Valparaiso on the road on Friday. Butler will be playing at home and receives a double-bye into the semifinals. The team joining Butler with the double-bye on the other side of the bracket? Wright State. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. Much more on the Horizon League Tournament, the season that was, and everything else.
How did they/I do? Here is the media’s preseason poll compared with what actually happened this season in the Horizon League. For fun, I’ve also included what I said in preseason.
- 1/1. Butler
- 2/2. Wright State
- 3/4. Cleveland State
- 4/3. Milwaukee
- 5/5. Green Bay
- 6/8. Detroit
- 7/9. Youngstown State
- 8/7. Valparaiso
- 9/10. UIC
- 10/6. Loyola
- Wright State
- Green Bay
- Cleveland State
- Youngstown State
Everyone knew who the top two teams were going to be coming into the season. Wright State returned a veteran team and Butler is a monster with its talent. After that it gets murky. Apparently both the media and I overrated Cleveland State just a smidge. I’m happy though that I had every school within two places of where the actually finished. Green Bay outperformed expectations a bit and since the Phoenix get Youngstown State at home to start, expect to see them in Indianapolis.
More about the HL Tournament
Those standings mean that Green Bay, Milwaukee, Cleveland State and Valparaiso will host first round games in their respective gyms. The match-ups:
- #3 Green Bay versus #10 Youngstown State – Green Bay is tough at home, so expect the Phoenix to win this relatively easily. Also, Green Bay got its wake-up call last Thursday night when they lost a stunner to UIC. The Phoenix won’t be taking the Penguins lightly.
- #4 Milwaukee versus #9 UIC – The Flames struggled all season, but they’ve played Milwaukee tough. These teams played on the final day of the regular season and Milwaukee won at UIC 78-74 in a game that was in doubt until the final seconds.
- #5 Cleveland State versus #8 Loyola – The two games these two teams played were decided by a total of eight points during the regular season. This is another game that could go down to the wire. This might be wishful thinking from a guy that wants Chicago’s Horizon League season to continue past Tuesday, but Loyola might be able to steal this one.
- #6 Valparaiso versus #7 Detroit – This is the game everyone wanted to avoid. Two completely different styles here as Detroit is all defense and Valparaiso is all offense. They split during the regular season with each holding serve on their home court. Detroit is the hot hand having won three in a row.
Considering how close conference play has been there is no reason to suggest that most, if not all of these games will come down to the final few possessions. You can watch the entire thing on Horizon League Network.
The HL Tournament continues on Friday with the four winners playing two quarterfinal games. Then those winners take on the top two seeds in the semifinals on Saturday. Finally the champion will be crowned next Tuesday, March 9. Basically to win this tournament as anything other than one of the top two seeds you have to have some serious luck and some solid depth.
Statistical Leaders from conference play (all courtesy of StatSheet.com)
- Points Per Game: Rahmon Fletch – Green Bay – 17.1
- Rebounds Per Game: Randy Berry – Green Bay – 8.6
- Assists Per Game: Spencer Stewart – UIC – 4.7
- Assist/Turnover Ratio: Bryquis Perine – Green Bay – 1.9
- Steals Per Game: Woody Payne – Detroit – 2.4
- Blocks Per Game: Eli Holman – Detroit – 2.4
Tempo Free Musings
- Butler earned where it is in conference. The Bulldogs had a +.20 per possession efficiency margin. Butler had the #1 defense and #1 offense in conference.
- Detroit appears to be the team that is underseeded according to efficiency margin. The Titans were third at +.04, but it’s because of their defense. There were nights when the offense just didn’t show up and Detroit couldn’t get a victory. Both sides will have to be present for the Titans to take down Valparaiso in their first round match-up.
- Loyola (-.10), Youngstown (-.12) and UIC (-.15) pretty much got what they deserved in conference. Those three have been the bottom three for the majority of conference play. Those numbers are all clouded a bit by blowouts. All three of these teams can be run out of a gym if they’re having an off night. They’ll all have to be focused on the road in the first round.
Team I Don’t Want To Play Right Now
Besides Butler the hottest team in the league right now is probably Milwaukee. The Panthers have won eight of their last nine games. The last loss came versus Butler. That group of wins includes four road victories, including a sweep in Chicago on the final weekend. Head coach Rob Jeter has the Panthers finding a way to win each night. Forward Anthony Hill gives them a post presence. Three-point shooting, 310-pound forward James Eayrs (a.k.a. Big Lumber) gives them an inside-outside guy. Then they have Ricky Franklin, an all-conference caliber point guard. They’re going to give teams fits.
Let’s get this party started! The postseason begins on Tuesday.