Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League correspondent for Rush The Court
A Look Back
- How They Fared: The Horizon League, unlike most conferences, begins its conference season the first week of December; most teams play two games, with a couple playing only one game and competing non-conference the rest of the week. Easily the most impressive team of the week was Cleveland State, who rolled through Wisconsin and preserved their undefeated record. Norris Cole has the inside track on Player of the Year, and coach Gary Waters has assembled a dominant team behind him.
- Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot: Fans unfamiliar with the Horizon League would assume that Butler is the team to find at #1 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25. They’d be wrong. Butler has given way to Norris Cole and Cleveland State, who are all the rage as they take no prisoners. The Vikings absolutely dominated a Milwaukee team at the U.S. Cellular Arena, where the Panthers are almost unbeatable.
- Tip Of The Cap: This week’s TOTC goes to Matt Howard of Butler, who tied Bobby Plump (you might know him better by his fictional likeness, Jimmy Chitwood of Hoosiers) for 11th on the Butler University all-time scoring list. Our friends at Victory Firelight were happy to see that.
- Cleveland State (10-0, 2-0 Horizon) – For the past decade, the Vikings were 1-19 in the state of Wisconsin – 1-9 in Green Bay and 0-10 in Milwaukee. In the week leading up to the games, coach Gary Waters called it “Revenge Week.” Mission accomplished. The other mission accomplished? Putting Norris Cole in the driver’s seat for Player of the Year.
- Valparaiso (6-2, 2-0) – Coach Homer Drew‘s Crusaders made the short trip to Chicago and calmly walked out 2-0 with a nail-biting victory at UIC and a commanding performance at Loyola. Winning the latter pushes Valpo past Butler in our conference power rankings for the week.
- Butler (4-3, 1-0) – Shelvin Mack and the Bulldogs sweated out a victory on Chicago’s near north side, beating Loyola 65-63. A strong showing against Duke should have kept them at the #2 spot, but for the uncertainty surrounding Mack’s cramps and Ronald Nored‘s concussion. Both players should be on the court this week, but the Dawgs are much thinner than last season and need both on the court even more than before.
- Detroit (5-4, 1-0) – The Titans split two games last week, losing at home to Akron before dumping Horizon League foe Wright State. Ray McCallum Sr.‘s Titans could be winning even more if they had some bodies to spell their stellar starting five; four Titans are in the top ten in the conference in total minutes and minutes per game.
- Loyola (7-2, 0-2) – It was a sobering week for the Ramblers, who have to be thinking about 2009-10, when they began 11-2 before flopping all the way down to 14-16 for the season. For the second straight year, the Ramblers put a scare into Butler, but the excitement at the Joe collapsed following a double-digit home loss to Valpo.
- Green Bay (4-4, 1-1) – Brian Wardle‘s crew came into the week favored to win a game and lose a game. They did just that, dropping a home loss to Cleveland State before wiping the floor with Jerry Slocum’s Youngstown State Penguins. Rahmon Fletcher continues to be a boon for the Phoenix, placing third in the conference in scoring at 16.6 PPG.
- Milwaukee (4-5, 1-1) – It’s hard to put the Panthers lower since they did win convincingly over Youngstown State on Thursday. It’s impossible to put the Panthers any higher given the absolute garbage showing against Cleveland State on Saturday night. Last week, we talked about their Jekyll and Hyde ways. That continued this past week, but at least they came out with a W.
- Wright State (3-5, 0-1) – Had the Raiders pulled out a victory against middling Big East team Cincinnati or Detroit, they’d find themselves much higher on the list. Bobby Donlon‘s crew is much different than they were under Brad Brownell, whose defensive mindset has lost its way. The Raiders are giving up 78 points per game this season, and they won’t be seeing a bye to the semifinals of the conference tournament unless that changes.
- UIC (4-5, 0-1) – Akron pulled out the close victory at UIC, the second near-victory for the Flames of the week. If UIC had been killing teams heading into the conference season, they might find themselves higher. However, that signature win over Rhode Island seems further in the rear-view mirror every day.
- Youngstown State (4-3, 0-2) – The Penguins’ 4-1 start got the fans in Youngstown paying attention, but a quick 0-2 start in conference against struggling clubs in Green Bay and Milwaukee puts YSU at the bottom of the barrel. Along with Wright State and Loyola, the Penguins are one of the only teams to go winless; unlike Wright State or Loyola, they weren’t playing significantly better competition.
A Look Ahead
Week one of conference play is in the books, and the standings will remain the same until after Christmas. Three games against high-major foes dot the lineup this week, with Purdue visiting Valpo’s ARC and Milwaukee taking a trip west to Madison. Loyola hopes to pull off a stunning upset at Kansas State. Let’s hope the timekeeper knows what they’re doing at the Cintas Center this year as Butler takes its turn as the away team in a home-and-home with Xavier.
- 12/7 – Purdue at Valparaiso, 9 p.m. ESPNU
- 12/8 – Milwaukee at Wisconsin, 8:30 p.m. Big Ten Network
- 12/8 – Wright State vs. Air Force, 7 p.m. HLN
- 12/9 – Butler at Xavier, 9 p.m. ESPN
- 12/11 – Milwaukee at South Dakota State, 8 p.m.
- 12/11 – Loyola vs. #3 Kansas State, 4 p.m.
- 12/11 – Cleveland State at Sam Houston State, 4:30 p.m.
Remember When… they screwed up the clock at Hinkle last season? Take a look back: