Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

A Look Back

The big picture of the Horizon League got further muddled when Valparaiso, who owned first place not one week ago, lost two successive games in Wisconsin (sandwiched around an excellent Bracketbusters victory over Missouri State) and dropped back to the pack. Cleveland State is in first for the time being after defeating Wright State last week.  Their loss at Old Dominion all but ensured the Vikings need to win the conference tournament to make their way into the Big Dance, but it’s not over yet.  The big winners were Milwaukee and Butler, who moved up to second place (five losses) with Valpo’s loss at Green Bay on Monday night.  Both have hopes of hosting the Horizon League Tournament next weekend, but only two schools – Cleveland State and Milwaukee – are in control of their own destiny.

Power Rankings

1. Cleveland State (21-6, 12-4) – Gary Waters and his program missed a great opportunity to get the marquee victory they needed to get into the Dance.  Like Utah State, their resume needed a big Bracketbuster victory to set them up for an at-large berth.  Unlike USU, they didn’t deliver, and now are faced with winning the conference title to go dancing.  Fortunately for Cleveland State, all they need to do is win.  Two home victories over Milwaukee and Green Bay mean Cleveland State is the sole regular season champion, and the Horizon League Tournament goes through Cleveland.  Lose, however, and the Vikings are almost guaranteed to drop out of the top two spots (and the double-bye that comes with them) due to being swept by Butler.

2. Milwaukee (16-12, 11-5) – I’ve spent the whole season putting the Panthers lower on the Power Rankings because I didn’t want to be accused of homerism, but the fact is Milwaukee deserves to be in this spot.  Beating Valparaiso at home was huge, avenging yet another early season loss and putting the Panthers’ goal of winning a conference championship directly in sight.  CSU and Milwaukee are the only teams that control their own destiny, with either team winning out being crowned conference champs.  However, the Panthers would share the regular season crown with any combination of Cleveland State, Butler and Valparaiso.  Should Milwaukee win out, they have the trump card, a sweep over Butler that no other team has.  The loss on the road in the Bracketbuster is deceiving; Milwaukee held out their defensive stopper, Ryan Allen, after he took a hard fall on Wednesday.  He will be tasked with guarding Norris Cole, who still riding a season-long high after his national coming-out party against Youngstown State when he went off for 41 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

3. Butler (19-9, 12-5) – The Dawgs most likely will dispatch Loyola on Senior Night, and let me just say that nobody deserves to be applauded more than Matt Howard.  Talk about a career, this guy has put everything he has into starting at power forward for the Butler Bulldogs since his freshman year, and I’d be astonished if his last regular-season home game was a loss.  Loyola has recent history of winning at Hinkle, but look for Butler to enter the Horizon League Tournament with yet another 20-win season.  To win the conference and host the tournament, Butler needs the winner of Thursday’s Cleveland State-Milwaukee game to lose on Saturday.  It’s a tall order, expecting the 7th place team to win on the road or the 9th place team to win at home, but both have done it this season – Green Bay won at Valpo and Butler fell on the sword at Youngstown State.

4. Valparaiso (18-9, 11-5) – You wanna talk about bad luck, look no further than Valpo.  Heading into Milwaukee, Valpo sat at three losses and owned a tiebreaker with Cleveland State.  Just six days later, they’re on the wrong end of tie-breakers with all three teams.  At Milwaukee, the Crusaders missed two bunny layups in the final seconds, although they got help with the Panthers missing several free throws in the closing minutes.  At Green Bay, Howard Little grabbed a rebound that would have all but sealed a victory for Valpo, but he fell to the ground and traveled, giving the ball back to Green Bay for the winning basket.  Valpo will likely start the conference tournament at the ARC in the first round.  The good news? They only have one home conference loss.

5. Wright State (16-2, 10-7) – The Raiders were still in it a couple weeks ago, but lost games to the contenders and find themselves out of the running.  Wright State is still a very dangerous team, and has beaten almost everybody in the conference despite absences from Troy Tabler and Cooper LandVaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans, when it comes down to it, are still one of the best backcourt tandems in the H-League.  Depending on where they finish, the Raiders will play Green Bay or Loyola in the first round of the tournament, teams they should be able to beat.

6. Detroit (14-15, 9-8) – Remember the beginning of the season, when the national pundits kept putting Detroit in first or second place?  Why was that?  Of course, the answer is Ray McCallum Jr.  Guys like Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and Seth Davis couldn’t fathom how a top-20 recruit would go into the Horizon League and lose enough to finish out of the top two, especially when he’s got a 6’10 monster transfer from Indiana in the block.  The truth is, none of those guys really know how good the Horizon League is.  Detroit isn’t a bad team; they have a very talented starting five and will be a tough out in the Horizon League Tournament.  Their problem is lack of bench depth and questionable coaching.  How can Ray McCallum Sr. not want the ball in Eli Holman’s hands every time down the floor?

7. Green Bay (12-16, 7-9) – The victory over Valpo on Monday was their biggest of the season, on Senior Night no less.  Brian Wardle has an outside chance at the six seed, but will likely open the conference tournament on the road at Detroit.  He is looking at a tough year in 2011-12 without Bryquis Perine, Rahmon Fletcher and Greg LeSage, but Monday night showed that he’s got an excellent building block in seven-footer Alec Brown.

8. Loyola (15-13, 6-10) – It looks like this could be the swan song for Jim Whitesell.  For the fourth season in a row, Jim Whitesell’s weak non-conference scheduling has led to the team being unprepared for the conference season. The Loyola Ramblers haven’t been above the eight seed in the conference tournament since 2006-07, and they have a large renovation to the basketball arena taking place after the season.  This could be a situation like Missouri State, when new digs meant a new coach in Cuonzo Martin.  Unlike the Bears, however, the Ramblers haven’t come truly close the tournament in a long time.  Gone after the season are seniors Andy Polka, Terrance Hill and Geoff McCammon.  The Ramblers have good pieces in Ben Averkamp, Denzel Brito and (potentially) John Gac, but they won’t have the firepower to compete in 2011-12 and after that season will lose almost everybody else of consequence.

9. Youngstown State (7-18, 2-14) – It sure looked like Youngstown State was going to make me eat some crow there for a bit. The day my RTC post condemning the YSU program as unworthy of the Horizon League was released, they up and defeated Butler.  Nearly taking out Valpo a couple days later would have been big for a program that hasn’t had a whole lot to root for.  It’s likely the final go-round for Jerry Slocum, whose wild success in lower-division NCAA did not translate to the D-I Penguins.  But the problem isn’t Slocum as much as it is the inherent problems the department has.  Unless some money is taken from football and injected into the basketball program’s budget, the Penguins will be relegated to the bottom of the barrel for the time being.  And even then it likely won’t be enough.

10. UIC (6-22, 2-15) – Unlike Youngstown State, UIC has the structure to be competitive in the Horizon League.  This season was a lost year the second April 2010 came around and Jimmy Collins was still coach.  The season was further doomed for every month Collins remained, staying long enough to make things especially tough on incoming coach Howard Moore.  The truncated recruiting timetable left the Flames with a couple good players remaining from Collins’ team and bunch of residents of the Island of Misfit Toys.  UIC will be better in 2011-12, but it will be a few years before Howard Moore gets them up to speed.  It seems funny that two of the conference’s best non-conference victories, over Illinois and Rhode Island, came from the Flames.

A Look Ahead

The season is almost over, with only one weekend remaining.  Games on Thursday and Saturday will determine the championship and seeding for the Horizon League Tournament, and while no seeds are official, we do know this:

The top four seeds – Cleveland State, Butler, Milwaukee and Valparaiso - are untouchable.  A fifth, Wright State, has guaranteed at least a home game in the conference tournament.  Detroit has an outside chance of losing their home game to Green Bay, but all signs point to Green Bay at Detroit next Tuesday.  Loyola is the safest team in their seed, with only a 0.6% chance they land in the seven seed.  Youngstown State and UIC will fill out the final two spots, and YSU will likely be the nine seed.

The final thing we know is this: the winner of Thursday’s game between Milwaukee and Cleveland State all but locks up a conference championship going into the final game of the regular season.  Both teams would need to sweep; each team going 1-1 and Butler beating Loyola would make Butler the conference champion. That scenario, however, is unlikely as Cleveland State hosts Green Bay and Milwaukee visits Youngstown State.  A game this big deserves the viewership, and as long as you’re reading this, you can see it: HorizonLeague.org, Thursday, 7 p.m. Eastern.

  • 2.24.11 – Milwaukee at Cleveland State, 7 p.m., Time Warner Sports 32/HLN
  • 2.25.11 – Detroit at Wright State, 7 p.m., HLN
  • 2.26.11 – Milwaukee at Youngstown State, 1 p.m., HLN
  • 2.26.11 – Green Bay at Cleveland State, 2 p.m., HLN
  • 2.26.11 – Loyola at Butler, 2 p.m., HLN

Video of the Week – With such a huge game on the Horizon for Thursday, we’ll take a look back to December, when Cleveland State went to Milwaukee and laid a drubbing on the Panthers:

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Set Your Tivo: 12.13.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 13th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight begins a week of almost nothing of significance in the college basketball world. Many schools have finals this week resulting in the annual light schedule for this week.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Florida Atlantic @ Siena – 7:30 pm on Time Warner Cable Sports (*)

Siena enters the game at 2-6 coming off three straight losses. The Saints were expected to contend at the top of the MAAC but they’ve looked ordinary so far. It would be foolish to write them off however as they have quality talent for a mid-major league, talent that’s experienced for the most part. Surprisingly, Siena is 0-4 at home under the direction of first year head coach Mitch Buonaguro. He does have two star players though as Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson are back for their senior seasons in upstate New York. Rossiter has been outstanding, averaging 20/13. Those 13 rebounds are good enough for second in the country behind Kenneth Faried of Morehead State. A key matchup in this game will be Rossiter against FAU’s Kore White who had 18/8 in a win at Mississippi State and was 5-8 from the floor in a victory over South Florida. At 6’8/245, White possesses the height and strength to bang with the 6’9/235 Rossiter. The Owls are 5-4 against D1 competition and have won three straight, including the wins against MSU and USF. They’re led by former St. John’s head coach Mike Jarvis who is trying to work his way back up the coaching ladder. Florida Atlantic takes good care of the ball, ranked eighth in offensive turnover percentage. They should win the turnover battle against a Siena team that averages 16 turnovers a game. Siena may be shorthanded as Owen Wignot missed their last game against Fairfield with a head injury. Wignot has been a valuable weapon, hitting 13 of his 21 three point attempts this season. Jarvis has a shooter of his own in leading scorer Gregg Gantt, averaging 15 PPG and 40% from three. The senior duo of Rossiter and Jackson should do most of the scoring for Siena and Rossiter should especially look to take advantage inside. FAU gives up 51% shooting from inside the arc on average but White should be able to contain him somewhat, at least you’d think so. This should be a pretty good game between two decent mid-major teams, despite Siena’s record.

Green Bay @ Wisconsin – 8 pm on Big Ten Network (*)

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Horizon League Tournament Preview

Posted 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.

Preseason (Media/John)

  • 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

Actual

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

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

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

Standings:

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

Top Storylines:

  • Home team domination. It is tough to win on the road in the Horizon League. Home teams are 29-8 in league play this season. That’s why you see so many teams bunched up right around .500. The only teams that seem to be bucking this trend are Butler and UIC. The Flames are having problems winning anywhere (though their one victory did come over Detroit at the Pavilion) and the Bulldogs play well anywhere. Even Butler’s two closest games have come on the road at Loyola and Detroit.
  • Hot button tournament. The Horizon League Tournament format is raising some ire lately. The tournament features double-byes for the Top 2 seeds and forces everyone except those two teams to play on back-to-back nights at some point. This can be troubling for a team trying to win its way into the NCAA Tournament (especially considering the tournament is played on the home court of the highest seed). A real premium is placed on the 18-game regular season conference schedule which uses a true home-away series.

Team Breakdowns:

I’m going to do things a little differently this week. This will probably be an every-other-week sort of thing. I keep detailed “per possessions” results of all the teams in the Horizon League during conference play and I wanted to share some insights about the conference that come from those numbers.

  • The Luckiest: In conference play, that award goes to Green Bay. This is a function of the fact that the Phoenix suffered a bad loss to their rivals at Milwaukee. Green Bay plays much better at home than they do on the road and five of their eight games have been at the Resch Center.
  • The Unluckiest: Detroit is the winner here. The Titans are the second best team in the Horizon League according to the numbers, but they managed to lose an unbelievably close game to Butler at home and lost squeakers to UIC and Green Bay on the road. There is no more margin for error for Ray McCallum’s team if they want to be in the top two. Wright State comes to Detroit on Saturday for another key game.
  • Burning up the nets: Of course, Butler leads the league in points per possession. The Bulldogs have a ton of offensive talent. Also, Green Bay with Rahmon Fletcher and Bryquis Perine are second. What might surprise people is that Valparaiso ranks third. The Crusaders are led by the Horizon League’s leading scorer, Brandon Wood. The sophomore scores more than 18 PPG. Of course Valparaiso also makes every Horizon League team look like the Bulldogs on offense, which explains the Crusaders’ 4-4 conference record.
  • Making life difficult for opponents: Detroit has the best defense in the league. It is even better than Butler’s on a per possession basis during conference play (the Bulldogs rank second).  The Titans have a huge front line that is forcing opponents to shoot a lot of contested shots. Milwaukee is in the middle of the conference pack regarding defense, as well. The Panthers have tons of trouble scoring, but a tight defense has kept them in games all season.
  • The frontrunner: Oh yes, you know this is Butler. The Bulldogs have the best offense (by far) and the second best defense in the league. Their efficiency margin per possession is twice as good as any other team. This is a team that could run the table. Now, there will be hiccups along the way, like Thursday’s near-miss against Loyola. Detroit is a solid second, but Green Bay currently holds the edge by a game in conference record. The race for second, which might also include Wright State, is going to be exciting to watch. Typically, that’s the team that gets the chance to knock off Butler in the championship game, so I’m sure everyone in the conference will be paying close attention.


Saturday’s Games (times Eastern):

  • Wright State @ Detroit – Saturday at 2 p.m.
  • Valparaiso @ Loyola – Saturday at 4 p.m.
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ATB: John Wall is College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2009

atb

The Face of the 2009-10 Season#4 Kentucky 64, #12 Connecticut 61. Ladies and gentlemen, if there was any doubt whatsoever about who the face of college basketball was, is, or will be this season, consider it no more.  The buzz was already there.  There have been sketchy highlights of  Johnathan Hildred Wall  from Raleigh, NC, dressed in a Kentucky uniform and easily floating game-winners over Miami and Stanford; there have been a couple of filthy dunks and drives against North Carolina that had you out of your seat shaking your head when you saw them on SportsCenter; but there wasn’t this.  No, not thisThis being a nationally-televised game with no other competition on the tube where the too-young-to-know-how-good-he-is Mr. Wall emphatically and with reckless abandon introduced himself to the sports world beyond the hoops diehards, shouting from the top of New York’s Empire State Building to the rest of the world… “I am College Basketball.”  Dramatic?  Possibly.  Truthful?  Absolutely.

Sure - Why Not??

Sure - Why Not??

John Wall (25/2/6 stls) scored twelve of the last fifteen points of the game for his team, and as our RTC Live correspondent Ballin is a Habit put it at the game, “Garden security should kidnap Wall and throw a Nate Robinson jersey on him. Who will know?”  That’s the point.  Wall is probably nearly as good as anyone on the Knicks (or Nets) roster, and the star-studded NYC crowd was electric tonight as they knew this was but a first glimpse of WonderWall and that they would be seeing this kid play for a very long time  at the Garden.  When it came down to the last five minutes of the game tonight, the scoring went back and forth, but as you were watching the action you already knew where the ball was going when Kentucky got it.  You also knew what the result would be — several clutch jumpers followed by a strong and-one when Wall drove from the left side, absorbed contact, and still finished the play to put UK up two with a half-minute left.  After a Kemba Walker (12/8/6 assts) miss and  Ramon Harris FT for Kentucky, UConn took and missed a couple of threes to finish the game and push Calipari’s team to 9-0 and John Wall into hype overdrive.

We’re just as guilty as anyone of being awed by the guy, but the last time we saw a freshman player who was so spectacular (must-see tv) was when Kevin Durant was dominating everyone in his path at Texas.  You tuned in because you sensed that anything could happen when Durant had the ball, and people are starting to sense that about John Wall as well.  One key difference in their careers at this point – Wall has already won three games down the stretch by himself.  We’re not sure that even Durant did that before Christmas of his freshman season!  John Wall — the 2009-10 Face of College Basketball.

Upset of the NightGreen Bay 88, #23 Wisconsin 84. Students RTC’d after the Fighting Phoenix of Green Bay upset the flagship university of the state in overtime tonight (send pics or vids!) in a classic trap game for Bo Ryan’s Badgers.  Bryquis Perine (22/3/3 stls) and Randy Berry (13/12) led the way for UWGB, who, despite having ten fewer boards than Wisconsin were able to force 18 turnovers from normally surehanded Badgers to grit out the win.  For the Phoenix, this was the first win in their last fifteen games against Wisconsin, and the Badgers will now face home games against Marquette and UW-Milwaukee in the next two weeks to try to regain state supremacy.

Another UpsetOral Roberts 60, Missouri 59. We had a feeling that this would have upset written all over it, and sure enough it did (complete with a mini-RTC at the end – see below video).  Missouri fans have to be beating themselves up over this one, though, as the Tigers had a ten-point lead on the road with just over five minutes remaining and they couldn’t close out the game.  Michael Craion’s layup with 0.9 seconds remaining (first video) capped a 15-4 closing run for ORU that gave the Golden Eagles their second win over a BCS team this season (although a considerably better one than Stanford).  ORU got 21/7/4 assts from Dominique Morrison and 10/13 from Kevin Ford, and it was just enough for Scott Sutton’s program to pull off the upset tonight.  One major concern for Mizzou has to be that they only attempted three FTs tonight (making one), which signals a lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end.

And a ThirdHarvard 74, Boston College 67. Is this an upset after how well Harvard has been playing and especially after last year’s Harvard win at BC?  Well, it is still Harvard, so we’ll say yes.  Jeremy Lin continues to impress, dropping 25/3/4 assts just a few nights after ripping the Connecticut defense up for thirty, and BC is at some point going to have to realize that winning a single ACC game doesn’t mean they can take the next night off (as they did last year as well).  The Crimson shot 50% from the field, held BC to 38%, and stood toe to toe with the bigger Eagles on the boards.  Furthermore, when crunch time came around, Harvard, especially Lin, calmly walked up to the line and sealed the win, which is something winning programs tend to do.  It’s been a foregone conclusion that Cornell would once again own the Ivy League this year, but could Harvard challenge the Big Red in the Ancient Eight?

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