Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2010

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


  1. Butler 12-0
  2. Wright State 8-4
  3. Cleveland State 7-4
  4. Green Bay 7-5
  5. Detroit 7-5
  6. Valparaiso 6-6
  7. Milwaukee 5-6
  8. Loyola (IL) 4-8
  9. Youngstown State 2-10
  10. UIC 1-11

Top Storylines

  • A difference of opinion: Butler might be the 18th team in the nation (according to the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll) or they might be the 23rd team (according to the AP poll), but the Bulldogs have really confused people this season. Pomeroy thinks they’re only 28th. The rest of the Horizon League schedule isn’t going to provide us with any answers either.
  • Light Bracket Busters schedule: the Horizon League got some good matchups when the Bracket Buster lineup was announced. There is a made-for-TV game between Butler and Siena, but after that there are a bunch of winnable games. One tough one might be Loyola (IL) at Creighton.
  • Last chance?: Saturday might be UIC’s final chance to get a win during regular season Horizon League play. The Flames have four road games and two tough home games against the Wisconsin schools remaining on the schedule after they play Youngstown State at the Pavilion. If the Flames fall to the Penguins then a winless 2010 is a possibility.

Team Breakdowns

  • Green Bay. The two Wisconsin schools had off on Thursday because they’re gearing up for a rematch of the 71-51 beatdown the Panthers handed the Phoenix on Saturday, January 9. Green Bay has slipped lately. The Phoenix lost two home games last weekend against Butler and Valparaiso. The game against the Crusaders was particularly painful as Valparaiso is climbing up the Horizon League standings. How Rahmon Fletcher goes determines how the Phoenix go in general. He scored just seven points on 2-10 shooting against Valparaiso. The junior guard still ranks third in the conference in scoring.
  • Milwaukee.  The Panthers are also preparing for their local rival. Squeaking out a narrow victory over Valparaiso last weekend kept Milwaukee in the hunt for a middle of the standings spot. The Panthers are still a little behind at 5-6, but they still have a game versus Youngstown and a weekend in Chicago to make up ground. The big game will be February 18th against Cleveland State. Ricky Franklin is another lead guard excelling in conference play. The senior is sixth in the league in scoring and fourth in assists.
  • Butler.  The Bulldogs are two-thirds of the way to an undefeated regular season in the Horizon League. But winning the regular season hasn’t been a problem for the Bulldogs in the past. It’s been taking care of business in the conference tournament, which is played on Butler’s home court. With a weakening bubble the Bulldogs probably could get in without the automatic bid, but to be sure they’ll have to take care of business in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs are led by Gordon Hayward, a sophomore who ranks fourth in points, third in rebounds and fifth in FG% in the conference. He is currently #30 in the 2011 Mock Draft on but Chad Ford has him as a mid-to-late first rounder this season. Butler’s march through the Horizon League continues on Saturday when Wright State comes to town.
  • Valparaiso.  At .500 in conference Valparaiso has been one of the surprises of the season in the Horizon League. They’ve steadily improved as the season has gone on. A loss on Thursday at home to Wright State put some damper on the party, but there’s still a lot of potential here. Their leading scorer, and the leading scorer in the Horizon League, is Brandon Wood. He is just a sophomore. He’s complemented by junior forward Cory Johnson who ranks fifth in points per game and second in field goal percentage in the conference. Valparaiso’s slow start hurt their Bracket Buster match-up as they were given a game at Bowling Green.
  • Youngstown State.  The Penguins are a veteran team that just hasn’t figured things out this season. Part of the problem is the lack of a dominant talent. Seniors DeAndre Mays – 11th in points, 11th in assists, and Sirlester Martin – 11th in rebounding, are very good complementary parts, but there is no superstar to drive the engine. Vytas Sulskis comes off the bench to give the Penguins some more scoring power, but it hasn’t been enough. Youngstown had Loyola on the ropes on Thursday before falling in overtime. Their Bracket Buster game will take them all the way to Riverside, California, to take on the UC Riverside Highlanders.
  • UIC.  UIC’s game against Youngstown on Saturday is going to be one of the more interesting game of the Horizon League season. These two teams are essentially playing for last place in the conference. The Flames have lost some heartbreakers lately, including a 3-point loss to Detroit and a 5-point loss to crosstown rival Loyola, but that’s not cutting it. The Flames haven’t won in 2010 and might finish the new year without a victory if something doesn’t change soon. Their Bracket Buster game in Evansville will be a tough but winnable game. A scary thought – UIC could be worse next season after Horizon League assist leader Spencer Stewart graduates.
  • Loyola (IL).  The Ramblers used to be one of the deepest teams in the Horizon League, but injuries have destroyed that depth. Talented sophomore swingman Jordan Hicks is out for the season with a broken foot and Aric Van Weelden has missed the last six games. Without them the Ramblers have really had to tighten up their rotation. After Terrance Hill was ejected early from the game against Youngstown State guards Courtney Stanley and Geoff McCammon both played almost the entire game. Stanley ranks second in the Horizon League in assists and when he’s on Loyola shoots much better from the field. Also, senior Andy Polka is first in the conference in rebounding. He should be back next season too after receiving a medical redshirt for his junior year.
  • Cleveland State.  After playing a killer non-conference schedule the Vikings have slowly started to get on track in the Horizon League. They’ve won their last five games and have a three-guard attack that is really humming along. Still, they’re at 11-12 overall, so the Vikings need to keep piling up wins. The leader of the charge has been junior guard Norris Cole. He ranks second in the conference in scoring. Jereme Montgomery and Trevon Harmon also average double-figures. Cleveland State drew a terrible Toledo team from the MAC as their Bracket Buster game, and it’s not really going to help them at all.
  • Detroit.  The Titans have proven they can beat the bottom tier of the conference, but they’ve really struggled against the top teams. They lost two close games to Butler, lost a home game against Wright State and lost at Green Bay. In order to keep their place in the top half of the conference the Titans have to win at Valparaiso on Saturday, which will be no easy task. Detroit is going to play Eastern Michigan in the Bracket Busters. This might be a good time to point out that while the Horizon League is down this season, it’s not the MAC. Central Michigan, which sits in second in the MAC, lost to both Wright State and Detroit on the road earlier this season. Sophomore forward Eli Holman is second in rebounding and 1st in field goal percentage in the conference.
  • Wright State.  The Raiders don’t have anyone that really wows you statistically, but they work great as a team. Junior guard Vaughn Duggins has returned from injury to become one the of the top guards in the Horizon League. He’s currently ninth in the conference in scoring. Other than him Wright State gets it done with good defense and a balanced attack. They’ve won their last four games and might be the toughest test Butler has remaining in conference. Their game on Saturday should be a good one. If anyone has a right to be angry about the Bracket Buster game it’s Wright State. The Raiders needed a good opponent in order to bolster than NIT credentials, but were given Ohio (12-10, 3-5 in MAC). Close losses at Washington and Nebraska really sting right now, as well as an inexplicable loss to Miami (OH). Change those results and Brad Brownell’s team might be looking at the bubble.
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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2009


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


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

Top Stories:

  • Big Stars Missing Big Time: Two of the top teams in the Horizon League, Green Bay and Detroit, were hampered by the loss of star players.  Rahmon Fletcher hasn’t played for the Phoenix since injuring himself against Wisconsin on December 9 and Eli Holman missed three games for the Titans between November 28 and December 13.
  • A Different Point of View: Basketball State has a different way of seeing the Horizon League.  It thinks Butler is #1, but has surprising Loyola at #4 and 0-2 Youngstown State at #5.  Both are in front of Detroit, which is 2-0 in the league.
  • Rise of Chicago: The two Chicago programs in the Horizon League, UIC and Loyola, have been down for a while now, but the Ramblers are off to a 7-2 start.  A win at Bradley really cemented their status as a darkhorse in the conference. UIC might be struggling, but the Flames rose up to defeat Pac-10 foe Oregon State on Wednesday at home.
  • Very busy Saturday: Saturday, December 19 is one of the busiest days of the season for the Horizon League as nine of the 10 teams will be in action.  The only team not playing is Loyola (Ill).  Big games include Xavier at Butler, West Virginia at Cleveland State, and Youngstown State at Green Bay in a conference tilt.
  • More Places to See the Horizon: The Horizon League is one of the best mid-major conferences out there in getting its games out to the world for free.  If you live in Indianapolis, Youngstown, Cleveland, Wisconsin, Dayton or Chicago you can now get even more Horizon League games on television with the Horizon League Network’s Game of the Week. This is another great development for the league to complement HLN’s excellent online broadcasts.

Team Breakdowns:

  • Butler — The Bulldogs got the win they had to have over Ohio State at home last Saturday.  Now comes another weekend test on national television as they take on Xavier on ESPN2 at 11 a.m.  There was a time when the UAB game on Tuesday might’ve been an easy game, but not this season.  The Blazers are 9-1 and just beat Cincinnati.  UAB already took out Green Bay in its first game of the season.
  • Detroit — Holman’s return against Michigan was nice.  Otherwise it was a light week for the Titans.  They hung tough for a while against the Wolverines but eventually lost, 75-64.  Two MAC schools come to Detroit this week as the Titans take on Bowling Green and Central Michigan.
  • Loyola — The Ramblers are for real.  Or at least that’s what fans are beginning to think after Courtney Stanley’s buzzer beater against Bradley on Wednesday.  The incredible half-court shot by Stanley gave Loyola a 68-65 victory over the toughest team remaining on their non-conference schedule.  The Ramblers have to avoid giving all back this week when they play at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and host Albany on Tuesday.
  • Wright State — It was a tough week on the road for the Raiders as they lost a heartbreaker to Miami (OH) on Sunday and then followed it up with an 11-point loss to Mississippi State on Wednesday.  With home games against Maryland-Eastern Shore and Arkansas-Little Rock on the slate for this week things are going to be much easier, to say the least.
  • Green Bay — The euphoria over the Phoenix victory over Wisconsin didn’t last long as Green Bay got a tough dose of reality while playing without Fletcher at Oakland.  The Grizzlies blew out Green Bay, 76-52.  It is possible that Fletcher could return for the important conference game against Youngstown State, but no matter what, the Phoenix are notoriously tough to beat at home.
  • Milwaukee — Ricky Franklin led the team in both points and rebounds as the Panthers defeated North Dakota State in their only game of the week.  Milwaukee then took a week off for exams and heads back to work for the continuation of Miami (OH)’s Horizon League series.  The Panthers take on a Wisconsin team already familiar to Horizon League fans on Wednesday in Madison.
  • Youngstown State — Youngstown State has a big game against Green Bay on Saturday in conference.  Then High Point comes to town, and since the team is ranked 311th in the Basketball State rankings they shouldn’t be too worrisome for the Penguins.  I’m not nearly as bullish as some people are about Youngstown State, as they really haven’t proven anything against good competition yet this season.
  • Cleveland State — The Vikings hung 113 points on NAIA Wilberforce and then lost at home to Robert Morris by 8 points.  Cleveland State has three very difficult non-conference games remaining and while Gary Waters should be commended for taking on the challenge of West Virginia and road games at Ohio State and Kansas State he might’ve overscheduled a bit.  The Vikings haven’t found any continuity yet and besides Norris Cole nobody has consistently put the ball in the basket.  Cleveland State has zero seniors, so this might be a one-year blip.
  • Valparaiso — An easy win at home against Toledo will beget more easy games against Concordia (Wisc.) and at IUPU-Fort Wayne over the next few games for the Crusaders.  Valparaiso is near the bottom of the Horizon League so no game should be taken lightly.
  • UIC – The return of Spencer Stewart has energized the Flames and made them into a better team.  While the game against Oregon State wasn’t pretty, the result — thanks to Robo Kreps‘ lay-up with 5.3 seconds remaining and two stolen inbounds passes — was.  UIC tries to continue the momentum this weekend when it takes on Northern Illinois, a game many people thought might be the Flames first Division I win of the season.  With that monkey already off their back, UIC can just concentrate on improving.  The Flames also head to Akron on Tuesday this week.


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