Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2011

Jimmy Lemke is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

A Look Back

Everyone thought that Cleveland State had asserted its dominance on the conference; their first four victories yielded four blowouts. We should have known, by looking at the Power Rankings, that the teams CSU smashed into the ground were the teams that sit in the bottom half of the rankings.  It should have been no surprise, then, that the Vikings were blown out at Butler and then dropped a close one against Valparaiso at the ARC in their trip through Indiana, never an easy trip for any Horizon League team.  Butler destroyed the Vikings in the battle of the top teams in the Horizon League, and they’re back to their customary #1 spot in the Power Rankings.  In one of the conference’s biggest rivalries, Milwaukee shot poorly and couldn’t go over the top of seven-footer Alec Brown in the post, dropping a 69-64 decision in Green Bay.

Power Rankings

1. Butler (12-5, 4-1) – The Bulldogs took a licking at Milwaukee last Monday, ending their 22-game conference winning streak, a Horizon League record.  They responded just as a Brad Stevens-coached team is expected to — by destroying first-place Cleveland State in front of a crowd of 7,071.  The Bulldogs changed their lot with that victory; had they lost, they’d stand at 2-2 headed into the game against Youngstown State that was too close for comfort.

2. Cleveland State (15-3, 4-2) – Any dominance the Vikings had asserted over the conference was dashed this past week.  Gary Waters‘ crew learned, as every team does, that it’s extremely difficult to win on the road at a Horizon League school.  The Vikings were blown out at Butler before dropping a decision at Valpo.  They get an easy week to recharge before their rivalry game at Youngstown State on Saturday.

3. Valparaiso (12-5, 4-1) – If the Crusaders dominated Cleveland State, they may have even overtaken second.  But the Crusaders have six road games left in the conference, a tall order in the H-League.  Should they get back to scoring in the high sixties and beyond on a consistent basis, they’ll be a tough out the rest of the way.

4. Detroit (10-7, 4-1) – Tommy Titan has got to be a happy camper.  His Detroit squad went to Chicago and came back unscathed, although the UIC Flames definitely put a scare into Ray McCallum‘s crew.  The Titans have a showdown with Butler on Friday night.

5. Wright State (11-6, 4-1) – To date, the only blotch on the Wright State resume in conference is a road loss at Detroit, one they suffered at the beginning of December. Since then, the Raiders have gone on an absolute tear through the Horizon, with only one truly close game (Green Bay, decided on a buzzer beater by Vaughn Duggins).  Still, Wright State’s four wins have come against four of the bottom five teams in the conference. We’ll have a better idea of where they’re at when they welcome Valparaiso and Butler to the Nutter Center this weekend.

6. Milwaukee (8-9, 3-3) – It’s hard to figure out the Panthers, who have excellent wins against Butler, Northern Iowa and Detroit but also quizzical losses to Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic and a blowout at Wright State.  The Panthers will continue to be a middling Horizon League team until they can figure out how to put together a consistent 40 minutes of basketball.

7. Green Bay (8-9, 2-3) – Until Saturday, the Phoenix did not have a notable victory.  Once again, though, Green Bay defended the home court against a well-traveled Milwaukee program, separating themselves (for now) from the bottom of the pack.  A pair of games against Loyola and UIC should give an idea as to whether or not they’re truly above the cellar.

8. Loyola (10-7, 1-5) – An excellent non-conference record has been buoyed once again by the poor level of talent.  Jim Whitesell‘s team scheduled as though they were hoping to get to 15 victories.  Their lone conference win is a blowout 30-point schellacking at Youngstown State.

9. Youngstown State (6-9, 1-5) – Boy, did they come close.  A Penguins squad that’s been blown out by nearly every team they played in the conference season came to Hinkle Fieldhouse and nearly stole one from the Bulldogs.  It’s unlikely that YSU will replicate that effort for every game the rest of the season, so look for Cleveland State to clean up in the rivalry game.

10. UIC (5-12, 0-5) – The honest truth is that the UIC faithful were expecting a season like this.  You don’t have the turnover the Chicago school has weathered without going through some transition, and this season hasn’t been much of a surprise.  The Flames have an opportunity to win in Wisconsin this weekend, but a road victory is a difficult thing to obtain in the conference.

A Look Ahead

The Horizon League has been ridiculously unpredictable in the beginning of the conference season; only two teams, Detroit and Wright State (not Cleveland State and Butler) have avoided blowout losses.  From December 30th through January 5th, no game was decided by less than 16 points and more than 3.  This week has it all; Big time teams go on the road (Butler to Detroit and Wright State, CSU to Youngstown State), rivals jockey for position (UIC and Loyola invade Wisconsin), and big offense runs into big defense (Valpo heads to Dayton to take on Wright State).

  • 1/14 – Butler at Detroit, 7 p.m. ESPNU
  • 1/15 – Cleveland State at Youngstown State, 7 p.m. Horizon League Network
  • 1/15 – Loyola at Milwaukee, 2 p.m. Horizon League Network
  • 1/16 - Valparaiso at Detroit, 1 p.m. Horizon League Network
  • 1/16 – Butler at Wright State, 7 p.m. Horizon League Network (WNDY 23 in Indianapolis)

YouTube Clip of the Week

The fact is, it’s tough for ANYONE to travel in the Horizon League.  Just ask Butler, who lost for the seventh time in their last ten trips to Milwaukee:

Brian Goodman (755 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.


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