Bracket Prep: Mount St. Mary’s, Milwaukee, Gonzaga, North Dakota State

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 12th, 2014

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As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Tournament dreams became a reality for four more teams last night. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent quartet of bid-winners.

Mount St. Mary’s

Mount St. Mary's, .500 Record In Tow, Is Dancing. They Are Your NEC Champions.

Mount St. Mary’s, .500 Record In Tow, Is Dancing. They Are Your NEC Champions.

  • NEC Champion (16-16, 12-7)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #216/#207/#220
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = -3.6
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16 (First Four)

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. So much for the relative tranquility of the first few days of Championship Week (shouldn’t it really be called “Championship Ten Days”?). Mount St. Mary’s capped off an improbable NEC tournament run by thrashing top seed Robert Morris on their home floor, 88-71, sending the 16-16 Mountaineers to a likely date in the First Four in Dayton. If the Colonials still don’t know what happened tonight, the Mountaineers shot 61% from the floor, made 8-18 threes, and despite being one of the worst rebounding teams in America, found a way to outboard RMU (despite nine missed MSM free throws). Upsets happen in March, but the ease with which Mount St. Mary’s overcame their favored foe last night was truly shocking.
  2. For a team that finished 9-7 in the NEC, the Mountaineers aren’t that bad, I guess? Mount St. Mary’s was second best in offensive efficiency during conference play, and a modestly impressive 123rd nationally for the season. In averaging 70.1 possessions per game (33rd in the nation), MSM also has shown they don’t mind getting out in transition, where guards Rashad Whack (17.6 PPG, 79 3PM) and Julian Norfleet (17.5 PPG, 5.5 APG) thrive. But unlike many small conference teams, the Mountaineers pair their arsenal of pint-sized guards with a true post player, seven footer Taylor Danaher (6.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.3 BPG). Danaher won’t soon be confused with Dwight Howard, but his sizable presence won’t hurt when matching up with the bigger teams likely to inhabit the top seed lines.
  3. Mount St. Mary’s defends the three-point stripe reasonably well, but opponents should be able to find plenty of success inside the arc against the Mounts. MSM regular season foes shot 54.5% on two-point field goals in the regular season, which led to a field-day or three for the power conference teams on the November-December schedule. BYU went for 109, Texas Tech 100, and Michigan State 98 against the Mountaineers – all, of course, in resounding victories. Hard to believe much will be different if MSM finds their way into the 64-team portion of the Tournament.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Wichita State, Davon Usher, Gary Waters & Yale…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 12th, 2014

With just over a month until Selection Sunday, many teams across the landscape of college basketball are beginning to show their true colors, for better or for worse. Some early conference pace-setters have returned back to the pack, while a number of apparent-disappointments have readjusted and begun to find their way. And others yet just keep on winning. Let’s pass out a few awards to those who took care of business last week.

O26 Team of the Week

Wichita State. The Shockers have been written about and discussed at length over the past several days, so there’s no need to overanalyze the implications of last week’s big road victories, followed up with a closer-than-expected home win on Tuesday night — most everyone understands the undefeated potential that now lies ahead. But that does not mean we shouldn’t still celebrate the accomplishment. The fact is, no other O26 program had near the expectations, attention or build-up that Wichita State did entering the week, and perhaps no other O26 team proved as focused, unwavering and simply excellent on the basketball court either. In two of its most difficult conference road tests of the season, Gregg Marshall’s club displayed the same mental and physical toughness it has all year long, locking down defensively — especially in key moments, when it needed it most — and draining timely shots to remain perfect and march one step closer to history.

Wichita State got the job done on the road last week. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Wichita State got the job done on the road last week. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

First, on Wednesday in Terre Haute, the Shockers found victory by responding with immediate answers for each crowd-igniting, lead-dwindling run that Indiana State threw at them. After the Sycamores used a late first half surge to pull within one at the break, Wichita State responded by outscoring the home squad 14-4 in the opening eight minutes of the second. When Greg Lansing’s team went on an 8-0 spurt to then cut the lead to two, the Shockers punched back with four straight points and five straight stops. And when the gap was again sliced to a single possession with under two minutes remaining, Marshall’s guys earned key trips to the free throw line and shut things down on the defensive end. The ultimate result: a 65-58 victory and a season sweep of the Missouri Valley’s second-best unit. Three nights later in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the story was much the same. Wichita State was again too deep, too physical, too consistent over a full 40 minutes, pounding Northern Iowa on the glass — they secured 46 percent of available offensive rebounds — and squashing potential threats to the lead before they could gain traction. The effect was both defeating and demoralizing for the Panthers: “They play every possession perfectly,” UNI sophomore Matt Bohannon said after the game. Again, ‘perfect’ was the prevailing word used to describe the Shockers. Those perfect possessions led to another perfect week, a three-game stretch that might be crucial in their quest for an even greater form of perfection this season.

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Checking in on … the Horizon League

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 25th, 2012

Deepak Jayanti is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League. Follow him on Twitter (@10thYearSeniors) for his thoughts on college basketball.

Reader’s Take

 

Halfway Checkpoint

  • Don’t Bet On It: Parity has been a common term used to describe certain conference races such as the Big Ten, CAA or Pac-12 so far this season. Add the Horizon League to that list after the games this past weekend. Cleveland State and a surprising Valparaiso team sit on top of the standings at the halfway point of conference play. Fans of this league with a gambling itch might want to stay away because there are three teams (Butler, Milwaukee and Youngstown State) right up there, only a game behind the leaders in the standings. Milwaukee and Cleveland State were expected to be the front-runners but few expected Valpo and Youngstown to challenge them for the title. There is only one aspect of this conference that is certain at the halfway point – unpredictability.
  • International Love: No, this is not a reference to the Pitbull/Chris Brown song that is overplayed on the radio nowadays. But Bryce Drew has two great foreign-born players that form an efficient inside-outside tandem. One of the lingering questions about the Crusaders before the season started was around a reliable second scoring option outside of Ryan Broekhoff (Australia). Kevin Van Wijk (Netherlands) is averaging 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as he compliments Broekhoff’s outside game by patrolling the paint without attempting a single three-point shot all season. Drew must be paying close attention to the shooting form of his players because the Crusaders are shooting a league best 58% inside the arc. They aren’t stacked with three-point gunners but their offensive sets are designed to maximize the player’s strengths, hence less reliant on the long-range shot.
  • Senior Backcourt Leads the Way: Cleveland State is fortunate to have three seniors controlling the game during key stretches. The three Vikings – Trevon Harmon (12.1 PPG), D’Aundray Brown (11.6 PPG) and Jeremy Montgomery (10.7 PPG) provide a great foundation along with a balanced scoring attack. Gary Waters’ guards have already proved that they can win at tough venues on the road – Vanderbilt, Kent State and Butler. Their experience and composure might just be enough to win pivotal games such as the one this past weekend when they steamrolled through Milwaukee at home, 83-57. They do more than just score – the Three Amigos also limited each of Milwaukee’s guards to single digit scoring on Sunday.

The Talented Trevon Harmon Headlines A Tremendous Backcourt

  • D in Detroit doesn’t stand for Defense: All of the offensive talent means nothing if you can’t (or won’t) defend. Sure, everybody around the league is well aware of the potential NBA players on the Titans’ squad – Ray McCallum Jr. (15.2 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Eli Holman (11 PPG, 6.6 RPG).  Without a consistent defensive effort, though, they have no chance at contending for the conference title. Detroit ranks last in defensive field goal percentage across the Horizon and are giving up about one point per possession* to their opponents during conference action. They will continue to lose key games against the top squads with their lackadaisical defense – for example, they gave up 84 points to Milwaukee, which is a team that only averages about 63.6 points per game. (*All tempo free statistics are courtesy of kenpom.com)
  • Disney on ice: Huh? That’s not a typo. This event could impact where the conference tournament is held. If the teams continue to beat up on each other, the overall record of the top teams won’t be enticing enough for the NCAA committee to consider selecting two teams for the Big Dance. So despite the regular season outcome, the conference tournament’s result might easily drive the decision on Selection Sunday. If Milwaukee ends up winning the regular season (only one game behind first place), they will not be able to host the first two rounds of the conference tournament because Disney On Ice has already booked the U.S. Cellular arena from March 1-4. Now, this will only impact Milwaukee negatively IF they win the regular season title because in such a case, the tournament will be held on the home court of the second place team from the regular season. Based on the parity of the league so far, a home court advantage might be extremely crucial during the conference tourney so the Panthers fans won’t be too happy come early March if they are forced to play on the road.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (7-2, 17-4) – In addition to an experienced backcourt, the Vikings can pull their weight in the paint. They lead the league in grabbing offensive rebounds. They clean the offensive glass at a league best 36.6%. Most of this is due to the upcoming freshman Anton Grady who grabs about 5.4 rebounds per game. Another senior forward, Aaron Pogue adds to the mix as he averages 4.1 boards per game. A balanced scoring attack combined with experience means that the Vikings are well positioned to take the conference title.
  2. Valparaiso (7-2, 14-7) – Well-coached players know their strengths. The Crusaders’ shot selection during their recent stretch exemplifies Drew’s coaching abilities. This team won’t shoot lights out like their former coach but have been running most of the plays through the paint. Capitalizing on Van Wijk’s post game is the best strategy because it opens up the outside shot for Broekhoff towards the end of the games. Van Wijk is very savvy with his moves in the paint and has a fairly high free throw rate of 83.6 this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer Updates Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2011

Now that we’ve spent the last six weeks reviewing most of the Division I conferences, let’s take a look back at the entire list with the summer #1 power ranking for each as we head into the fall…  [ed note: to see all of the Summer Updates in order of release, click here]

We currently have openings for conference correspondent roles with the following six leagues. Please email us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com with links to writing samples if you have an interest.
  • Atlantic Sun
  • Big West
  • MAC
  • MEAC
  • SWAC
  • Southland
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ATB: Mid-Major Tourney Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

Wild Saturday.  Obviously, there’s a million things to talk about this weekend, but this special ATB Saturday edition will focus exclusively on the thirteen conference tournaments that were going on across the country today.  In our usual weekend edition on Sunday night, we’ll discuss all the other games from the bigger conferences who are still finishing up regular season action, including the upsets of #1 Syracuse, #5 Kansas State and so forth.  Bear with us, as we’ll be back tomorrow.

Conference Tourneys.  The ‘expanded’ NCAA Tourney continued today with another 35 teams eliminated on this glorious Saturday of hoops across the nation.

Murray Wins 30 Games For the First Time in OVC History (M. Dann)

  • Ohio Valley.  Murray State pulled away late from the #2 seed, Morehead State, to win its eighth conference championship in the last sixteen years.  The Racers also reached the 30-win mark for the first time in school and OVC history en route to its fourteenth NCAA Tournament bid.  In an ugly, defensive-oriented game, it was Isaiah Canaan who came off the bench for the Racers to provide offensive punch (16/5), but it was his block on a breakaway dunk attempt (called a foul) that electrified the crowd and made the ESPN top 10 plays tonight.  Murray will be a nightmare of a matchup for the team that draws them in the first round of the NCAAs this year.
  • Big South.  #3 Winthrop pulled off the upset at top seed Coastal Carolina in their building tonight, winning 64-53 behind a strong second half and a suffocating defense that held CCU’s best player, Joseph Harris, to a mere three points on 1-6 shooting.  This is Winthrop’s fifth Big South title in the last six years, an amazing feat considering that the original architect of the program, Gregg Marshall has since moved on to Wichita State (playing for its own bid tomorrow).  The Eagles are probably looking at a #16 seed this year.
  • Atlantic Sun.  East Tennessee State won its second consecutive A-Sun Tournament tonight, this time as a #5 seed.  The Bucs’ pressure defense forced sixteen Mercer turnovers and held their two stars, James Florence and Danny Emerson, to nearly half their typical offensive output.  Justin Tubbs had 18/3 for the winning team, This clearly isn’t a vintage ETSU team, but Murray Bartow has them back in the Dance for the third time in his career there, where they’re likely looking at a #16 seed again.
  • Missouri Valley.  At Arch Madness, the top two seeds advanced today with #1 Northern Iowa shutting down everything #5 Bradley tried to do on offense today, and #2 Wichita State surviving a close one against Illinois State.  Of course, UNI is already secure in an NCAA Tournament bid, but they’re attempting to win back-to-back MVC titles, while Wichita will not be invited unless they earn the auto-bid tomorrow.  The two teams split home-and-home this year, and you’d have to believe that the Shockers will bring everything they’ve got tomorrow afternoon.  RTC Live will be there covering the game.

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ATB: Cornell Shoots Their Way to Third Straight NCAA Bid

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Big Red Freshness Lasts Right Through It. Cornell 95, Brown 76.  It probably took a little longer than the nervous Big Red faithful hoped to put away the pesky Brown Bears tonight, but in the end, it was simply a formality because Cornell players were so narrowly focused on winning their third straight Ivy League title and NCAA bid that there was no way they were going to lose this game tonight.  How focused were they?  Try a season-best 57% shooting and an utterly ridonkulous 20-30 from deep tonight.  At one point during the conflagration of shot-making by the Big Red, they hit eight treys in a row en route to an 11-13 first half.  But it was the second half where Cornell exhibited its dominance, using a 14-4 run early to take control of the game and ensure another title coming to Ithaca this season.  All five starters reached double figures, but it was lesser-known forward Jon Jaques who took the scoring honors with 20/7 tonight (including six threes).  In all, four players had four or more threes, which we figure has to be some kind of a record for versatile and voluminous shooting!  Cornell will now wait to see where their NCAA seed lies, but the smart money is on a #12 seed when the brackets are released.  Anyone up for a #12/#5 upset this year?

Will 3d Time Be the Charm For Cornell? (Ithaca Journal/G. Ertl)

RTC Live.

  • Wichita State 73, Missouri State 63.  On Quarterfinal Friday in St. Louis, top seed Northern Iowa defeated Drake, Bradley upset Creighton and Illinois State won the nightcap. And in the game you followed here on RTC Live, Wichita State held off Missouri State, 73-63. A close, hard-fought and well-played game, the Shockers were paced by Garrett Stutz, whose play in the paint helped them overcome hot outside shooting of the Bears. Stutz finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds, and converted on back-to-back possessions during a key stretch of the second half to help them pull away. The Shockers advance to play the Redbirds of Illinois State tomorrow afternoon here in St. Louis.

Conference Tourneys.  Eight conference tourneys tonight, and a ridiculous thirteen tomorrow.  Let’s see what was interesting…

  • Ohio Valley.  The top two teams — Murray State and Morehead State — both advanced tonight to the finals on Saturday.  Murray has put together a phenomenal 29-win season, so it’d be a shame to see them miss out on the NCAAs, but Morehead is the only OVC team to have beaten the Racers this year.  It was Morehead tonight, though, not Murray, who had the comfortable win in the semis.  Should be a great one on Saturday for the auto-bid.
  • Atlantic Sun.  #6 seed Mercer continues to use its home court advantage to knock off higher-seeded teams with tonight’s victory over #2 Jacksonville.  #5 East Tennessee State was able to get by #8 Kennesaw State whom had knocked off top seed Belmont last night.  So it’ll be Mercer vs. ETSU for the automatic bid.  The Bucs will be playing in their third A-Sun title game in four years, and will be looking to win back-t0-back NCAA bids despite having not finished first in the regular season in either of the last two years.
  • Horizon.  In the Horizon second round tonight, #7 Detroit continues to turn heads with another upset win behind Eli Holman’s dub-dub (16/11), while #4 Milwaukee earned the pleasure of facing #1 Butler in the semifinals on Saturday by defeating #5 Cleveland State.  The Titans will play #2 Wright State in the other semifinal — neither of the top two seeds have played yet in this tournament, while Detroit has already played two games and Milwaukee one.

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ATB: Not Michigan State, Villanova or Tulsa? What?

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

Feeling Title-y.  There were three conference championships won tonight around the nation, and you can count the number of people on one hand who had these three picks back in November.

  • #7 Ohio State 73, Illinois 57.  Evan Turner put in his usual work (16/12/5 assts) for the Buckeyes and Jon Diebler rained seven threes as OSU pulled away in the second half to win at least a share of the Big 10 regular season title.  Both Purdue and Michigan State will need to win both of their remaining games this week to tie the Buckeyes at the top of the standings, but regardless, OSU will be the top seed in next week’s Big 10 Tournament.  If you’re looking for a darkhorse Final Four candidate, look no further than this Buckeye team with NPOY Turner leading the charge.  We heard that they RTC’d tonight in Columbus to celebrate the championship, but we’ve yet to have visual confirmation of this.

Who Had OSU as Big Ten Champs in November? (AP/T. Gilliam)

  • #1 Syracuse 85, St. John’s 66.  Newly-minted #1 Syracuse put five players into double figures in an easy win that captured the Big East regular season title outright tonight.  The Orange were led by Arinze Onuaku’s 21/8 as the senior played in front of his mother for the first time in his career.  SU will now travel to Louisville for a Saturday matchup against one of the two teams that has beaten them this year, while the presumably-motivated Cards will be playing for their postseason lives as they simultaneously close down Freedom Hall.  Will Jim Boeheim’s kids have the focus needed to overcome the expected Cardinal surge with their top seed in the Big East Tournament already sewn up?
  • #21 UTEP 80, Marshall 76.  The Miners clinched the CUSA regular season title with a strong second half showing led by star Randy Culpepper, who poured in 22 of his 31 points after the break.  UTEP has now won thirteen in a row and they’re doing it with great defense and balanced scoring from the aforementioned Culpepper and big men Derrick Caracter (14/9 on the year) and Arnett Moultrie (10/7 on the year).  Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside threw up another ridiculous line (20/14/6 blks), but it wasn’t enough for the Herd, who now drop to 10-5 in the conference.  UTEP is ranked #50 in the RPI, but you’d have to believe a strong showing in next week’s CUSA Tourney will get them in.

Teams That Helped Themselves.  There were a lot more teams that seemed more interested in hurting themselves than helping themselves this evening.

  • Clemson.  The Tigers guaranteed themselves a winning ACC record with tonight’s win over Georgia Tech, in so doing also likely cemented a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  With a win on Saturday at Wake Forest, Clemson will also earn a first-round bye into the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament next week.
  • Marquette.  The Golden Eagles were already in the NCAA Tournament, but their win tonight solidifies things and also gives MU a shot at the prestigious double-bye in the Big East Tourney next week.  Now at 11-6 in conference, they need Pitt to lose twice this week, but at worst with this win Marquette will end up with the #5 seed.
  • Missouri.  Mizzou played with fire in allowing its game with Iowa State to go into overtime, but Zaire Taylor’s driving two at the buzzer gave them the escape they needed to make a claim on third place in the Big 12 standings.  Taylor essentially won the game for the Tigers, with three clutch shots in key situations.  They’ll have an opportunity to make some noise on Saturday when they host Kansas in Columbia.

Teams That Hurt Themselves.

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Thus Begins Championship Fortnight…

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

You know why we don’t need NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 teams?  The are a lot of other good reasons, but the simplest reason is that we already have it.  In fact, about 300 of the 347 Division I teams have an opportunity starting tonight to ‘play their way into’ the NCAA Tournament.  It’s easy — survive and advance.  As long as you win, you’re still alive.  And if you win three or four games in (mostly) consecutive days, you’ll see Greg Gumbel reading your name off the Big Board on Selection Sunday.  Keep winning beyond that and suddenly you’re channeling NC State circa 1983.

Tickling or Madness?

There will be thirty conference tournaments played from coast to coast (and all points in-between) in the coming days, with the Big South, Ohio Valley and Horizon all starting postseason action tonight.  The Atlantic Sun and Patriot will get going tomorrow, and by Saturday night, we’ll have already crowned the first three automatic bids.  Twenty-seven more (plus the Ivy) will be decided over the course of the following week of play.  It seems like a lot to keep up with (and it is), which is why we’ve come up with an internal tracking matrix (below) that we’re happy to share with everyone.

During our nightly ATBs, we’ll be keeping you updated as well, but here’s the high-level view of the world.  Strap in folks, because March is here!

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RTC Top 25: Week 17

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2010

Only one more of these after this week, and then unlike our football counterparts, they become completely irrelevant.  Analysis after the jump…

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RTC Top 25: Week 14

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

It’s a new week and we’re back with a new Top 25 poll.  The usual analysis after the jump…

Note that this week Rob Dauster of BiaH is filling in for one or usual pollsters. 

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RTC Top 25: Week 13

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2010

A good discussion on twitter today about how to rank the top four (all one-loss) teams.  Here’s our version, with analysis after the jump:

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2010

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

Standings

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

Top Storylines

  • Local rivalries impacting the standings. Milwaukee handed Green Bay its second conference loss with a victory last Saturday. Tonight Loyola (IL) and UIC play a cross-town game in Chicago that will be televised on ESPNU.
  • Close calls. The evenly matched talent in the Horizon League is making for some emotional games and tough decisions for referees and coaches alike. Even Butler isn’t immune as the Bulldogs had to escape Detroit in overtime last week.
  • Looking like things will go through Hinkle. Butler has now opened up a two-game lead on the rest of the conference and has played the toughest road stretch in the league by going to Detroit and Wright State. A trip to Green Bay in two weeks looms, but other than that first place looks like a lock for the Bulldogs. That means the conference tournament will once again finish in Indianapolis.

Team Breakdowns

  • Butler: Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack are both in the Top 6 in the conference in points per game. If Matt Howard ever breaks out of his season-long slump then Butler is going to be super dangerous. Hayward is also second in the conference in rebounds per game. Bulldogs play at Youngstown State on Saturday. Even on the road it should be a blowout.
  • Green Bay: The Phoenix lost to the Panthers in an emotional game. The most impressive player on the court was Rahmon Fletcher. He is second in the conference in scoring. The other big names for Green Bay are Bryguis Perine and Troy Cotton. They’re also in the Top 15 in scoring. The Phoenix got a big win over Wright State at home on Thursday and now have a huge game against Detroit on January 16. The Phoenix will also pad their stats with a home game against 2-15 Houston Baptist on Tuesday.
  • Detroit: The Titans are made up of balanced scoring. No one ranks in the Top 10. Eli Holman is tied for second in the conference in rebounding. He only played 20 minutes against Butler due to foul trouble. His absence was the difference in the game. The big game against the Phoenix is the only game the Titans play this week. They take a week off after Green Bay to prepare for Wright State.
  • Wright State: A tough loss to Green Bay on the road dropped Wright State out of the upper tier of the conference. The Raiders are a good basketball team. Todd Brown and Vaughn Duggins are a great 1-2 punch that really put the ball in the basket, but this team makes it impact on the defensive end.
  • Cleveland State: Norris Cole is the 3rd leading scorer in the conference. He’s really benefited from the Vikings opening things up over the past few weeks. Cleveland State led Butler at the half on the road before dropping a 64-55 decision. The Vikings play at Valparaiso on Saturday.
  • Loyola: The Ramblers have come back to like a bit in conference play. The three-point shots aren’t dropping quite as often and the magic that carried them during close games in non-conference play is gone. Loyola has lost 3 straight games coming into the big inter-city match-up with UIC. The Ramblers also have the leading rebounder in the conference in Andy Polka. After the game against UIC it’s time to prepare for Butler which comes to the Gentile Center on Thursday.
  • Valparaiso: Brandon Wood sure knows how to fill up a basket. He’s the leading scorer in the Horizon League this season. His teammate Cory Johnson can put points on the board in a hurry as well. Johnson is also the seventh leading rebounder in the conference. Valparaiso had lost three straight games of their own before squeaking past Youngstown State on Thursday. Next up is Cleveland State before a road game at UIC.
  • Milwaukee: The Panthers have gotten off to a surprisingly slow start in conference. It looked like they had begun to turn things around with a 20-point victory over their rivals from Green Bay, but a 16-point loss to Detroit really screws up the momentum. James Eayrs is a big dude at 6’7 and 310 pounds, but he can play basketball. He’s seventh in the conference in rebounding and 16th in scoring. Milwaukee tries to get back on track against Wright State on Saturday.
  • Youngstown State: DeAndre Mays is the type of player that can carry a team, and sometimes the Penguins have asked him to do just that. He’s eighth in the conference in scoring, but when he gets on a roll Youngstown has a much better chance. The Penguins held home court against the two Chicago schools before losing a tough game to Valparaiso on Thursday, so it’s obvious that they are going to be competitive going forward in league play. This might be a team that could surprise someone down the stretch.
  • UIC: The Flames completely changed their identity over the weekend as they switched from a team dominated by guard play to one that relied more on points in the paint. Forward Jeremy Buttell ranks fifth in the conference in rebounding. UIC needed to do something as the Flames have dropped 3 straight since a surprising victory over Detroit on New Year’s Eve. The cross-town game against Loyola will be a big one as will a gome game against Valparaiso on the 21st.
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