John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.
- Butler 15-0
- Cleveland State 9-4
- Green Bay 9-5
- Wright State 9-5
- Valparaiso 8-7
- Detroit 7-7
- Milwaukee 5-8
- Loyola (IL) 4-10
- Youngstown State 2-12
- UIC 2-12
Going for perfection: Butler is 15-0 and has officially clinched the Horizon League regular season. This comes with two benefits. 1) The tournament will be played in Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and 2) The Bulldogs will be one of two top seeds that receive a double-bye. The Bulldogs have a 66.5% chance of finishing the regular conference season undefeated. A game at home against Siena in the Bracket Busters could be fun.
Streaking Vikings: Cleveland State is the Horizon League’s second hottest team. The Vikings have won their last six Horizon League games. Now of course they have to play Butler on Saturday, but it’s been a very good run.
Chicago showdown: UIC and Loyola are near the bottom of the league standings, but it won’t stop their rivalry game on Saturday night from being a heated affair. The Ramblers went to the Pavilion and took down the Flames in the last match-up. Now they get a return game in Rogers Park.
The race for #2: As you can see there are now 6 teams that are holding out hope of making the #2 spot in the conference standings and earning a double-bye opposite Butler. Here’s my best guess at their chances from what I’ve seen this season:
Team: Remaining Games, Predicted Record
- Wright State: Green Bay, Detroit, @Youngstown State, @Cleveland State; 12-6
- Cleveland State: Butler, @Green Bay, @Milwaukee, Detroit, Wright State; 11-7
- Green Bay: @Wright State, Cleveland, @UIC, @Loyola; 11-7 (would lose tie-breaker to Cleveland State)
- Valparaiso: @Youngstown State, Loyola, Butler; 10-8
- Detroit: Milwaukee, @Wright State, @Cleveland State, @Youngstown State; 9-9
Of course the Horizon League is almost impossible to predict, so who knows if this is actually how it would play out. But if it did the first round would be:
- #10 UIC @ #3 Cleveland State
- #7 Milwaukee @ #6 Detroit
- #9 Youngstown State @ #4 Green Bay
- #8 Loyola @ #5 Valparaiso
The other race in the conference, besides that race for second place, is the race for fifth. Avoiding that 6-7 game would be a good idea for any team that wants to keep playing past the first round. It is going to be a very difficult game combining two teams that will be frustrated to be in that position. After Detroit’s home loss to Green Bay on Thursday, the Titans appeared to be headed towards that game.
Why Can’t Detroit Win the Close Ones?: Detroit is now 7-7 in the Horizon League. The Titans’ seven losses are by a combined 21 points. Yes, they’re losing their games by an average of three points per game in conference (and that includes both Butler games). Detroit also has close losses to Tennessee State and DePaul out of conference. Why can’t the Titans break out and win a close one? They survived against UIC at home on January 30th for their only victory by five points or fewer this season. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues to haunt Detroit down the stretch and ultimately doom their chances of making some noise in the conference tournament. The ironic thing is that Detroit might be the team best equipped to knock Butler off. The Titans have a big frontline that has resulted in a 2-point overtime loss at home and a 5-point road loss to the Bulldogs this season.
Player of the Year Race: It’s Gordon Hayward of Butler and no one else is particularly close. He’s fourth in the league in scoring and rebounding, but that doesn’t begin to describe his value to the Bulldogs. He just seems to have a knack for making the big play exactly when Butler needs it. It’s worth noting though that he’s scored fewer than 10 points in four conference games. Of course he also scored 22 points and grabbed 17 boards as the Bulldogs officially captured the league regular season title against Youngstown State on Thursday.