Damon Lewis, a reporter and play-by-play announcer for the Horizon League Network, is RTC’s Horizon League correspondent.
- Butler (#17/18) 6-0 15-1
- Milwaukee 6-1 11-6
- Green Bay 5-1 12-5
- Cleveland State 4-3 13-6
- Wright State 3-3 9-8
- UIC 2-4 9-7
- Loyola 2-4 10-8
- Youngstown St. 2-5 5-11
- Valparaiso 2-5 5-13
- Detroit 0-6 4-11
Much to my surprise, there seems to be as much attention on the Horizon League this year, as any year I can remember. Maybe some of that has to do with the often-mentioned “reload” at Butler, or maybe it’s the HL’s tendency to impress when the lights are at their brightest.
In my RTC Horizon League season preview, I mentioned how tough HL teams have been once they make the NCAA Tournament. During the regular season, the lights are brightest in the Horizon League when teams get the opportunity to play on national television, via the ESPN family of networks. To date, Horizon League games on one of the WWL’s platforms have featured a buzzer-beating win by Butler over Cleveland State, a HUGE road win by Butler over Xavier, and an overtime win by Green Bay over Milwaukee. Not to be forgotten, Cleveland State’s 70-foot buzzer-beating win over Syracuse was broadcast on the Big East Network (AKA – ESPN Regional). Both buzzer-beaters were the “Top Play” on ESPN’s SportsCenter that night, and this play from Green Bay’s Terry Evans and Ryan Tillema also brought home “Top Play” honors on SportsCenter, in Green Bay’s 77-75 OT win last Friday night at the home of the Panthers.
Those are only a few examples of what’s going on this year in the Horizon League. The level of play is as good as I’ve seen it many years, but that may not translate into multiple NCAA bids. Unfortunately, as you can probably see by the current standings (shown above), There aren’t 2 or 3 teams separating themselves from the rest of the pack. Yes, I see the 2-game gap between Green Bay and Cleveland State, but looks can be deceiving. There are 3 teams in the HL who have yet to play Butler. Wanna guess who they are? Yep…Milwaukee, Green Bay (Butler hosts both next week), and UIC (hosting Butler on Saturday afternoon). It’s still early, but this thing is trending more and more toward one-bid with each passing road loss by Cleveland State and UIC.
Now that we’re in the heart of league play, my position with the Horizon League Network allows for a fair amount of travel to see a lot of these teams in person. With that in mind, my thoughts on specific teams will hopefully be a bit more concise from here on out, as I no longer have to speculate solely on what “seems” to be true by reading game recaps and looking over box scores. Remember folks…games aren’t played on paper.