ATB: St. John’s Announces Relevancy to Astonished Nation

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2011

The Lede.  There were a good number of games around the college basketball landscape this evening, but few held any real interest.  There was a Big East matchup in Madison Square Garden, though, that was more than interesting; in fact, it was arguably more compelling than the other 49 games tonight combined.

All of NYC is Jumping With Hardy (AP)

Your Watercooler Moment.  We’ll have more on this topic later this morning, but tonight’s watercooler moment came courtesy of Justin Brownlee’s putback of Dwight Hardy’s missed layup attempt that gave St. John’s the final lead over Georgetown in a game that they typically would have lost in recent years.  Much will be made of the shifting zones that the Johnnies employed to stifle the long-range threats of the Hoya guards (4-17), but the overall inspiration and confidence that Steve Lavin has enabled in this group of (mostly) seniors to make a run at the NCAA Tournament in their final season is remarkable.  Already at 3-0 in Big East play with three tough games under their belt, SJU has an opportunity to all but seal a postseason berth with a .500 record through the rest of January.  Their upcoming schedule is a bear, but with their current momentum and some newfound confidence, we’re starting to believe in those cats from Queens.  Can we just make the Big East Tournament the East Region and let the other regions handle the rest?

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • The Binary Triple-Double.  We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a perfect triple-double of 10/10/10, but that’s what Milwaukee guard Kaylon Williams gave us tonight in the Panthers’ blowout win over Butler.  Williams is a guy that seems to do everything well, but nothing great.  His season averages in this, his transfer sophomore year, are 8/5/4 APG, but he’s had a handful of double-figure assist games in his career and has come close in rebounds a few times.  Kudos to the young fella on a big night for his school.
  • Maybe Florida Should Join the A-10.  Two of the Gators’ four best wins of the season have come in the last week against Atlantic 10 teams, with Florida defeating Rhode Island at home tonight and Xavier in Cincinnati last week.  The key to tonight’s blowout win over URI is that the multifaceted Chandler Parsons finally got his offensive game back on track, going for 18/12/5 assts for his first double-figure scoring performance in a month.  With so many poor shooters on this team, the Gators must have the usually-efficient Parsons higher than fourth on the team in scoring average (9.9 PPG) for Billy Donovan’s team to come anywhere near its SEC and national goals this season.
  • Return of the Beard.  Jacob Pullen returned from his three-game suspension tonight and put in a business-like 24/5 assts on 9-11 shooting in an easy win over Savannah State.  Most everyone has written off Kansas State so far this year as an overrated fraud, but there’s a lot of season left and perhaps a re-focused Pullen coming out of the time off is exactly the medicine that Frank Martin’s team needed.  His teammate Curtis Kelly will not be back for another couple of weeks.

… and Misses.

  • Dear NCAA: Never Trust Florida State.  And this is why — Auburn 65, FSU 60.  Yes, the same Auburn team who has found a way to beat only a single team higher than #300 in KenPom’s ratings (Middle Tennessee at #210), picked apart the Seminoles tonight for without question one of the most shocking scores of the season.  FSU might be the second or third best team on paper in the ACC, and they couldn’t beat a historically awful Auburn team?  Please, NCAA Selection Committee, take note of this when Leonard Hamilton’s squad is on the bubble in March and the ACC offices are lobbying for their inclusion into the Dance.
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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 21st, 2010

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

A Look Back

After a couple months of beating good teams but never getting over the hump and beating a great team, the Horizon League finally got that signature Top-15 program win.  The only surprising part was that it wasn’t Cleveland State at West Virginia, with the Vikings rolling into town and playing respectably before bowing out in the final five minutes.  Instead, the victory came from the hands of the UIC Flames against Illinois, who was stunned in a “home” game at the United Center (not the UIC Pavilion, their normal home).  Big East cellar-dweller DePaul ripped the hearts out of Milwaukee and Loyola, and Butler absolutely went off on Stanford.

Our Tip of the Cap goes to freshman Ray McCallum Jr. of Detroit, who won the battle of the Michigan coaches’ kids against Trey Zeigler and Central Michigan.  The Titans point guard had 23 points and 11 rebounds, marking the first double-double of his career.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (12-1, 2-0) – Sooner or later, Gary Waters‘ crew had to lose a game.  The good news is a loss in Morgantown does nothing to hurt the Vikings’ NCAA Tournament resume, even though a victory would have practically ensured a ticket to the Big Dance.  South Florida visits on Wednesday before the Vikings take a break for the holiday.
  2. Butler (6-4, 1-0) – With losses to Xavier and Evansville and a fairly ho-hum record thus far, the Bulldogs needed a statement.  Mission accomplished.  The Dawgs blasted Stanford to get themselves set for the Diamond Head Classic this week, a huge deal for the Horizon League as it jockeys for RPI position.
  3. Valparaiso (8-4, 2-0) – The Crusaders are on a winning track heading into Tuesday night’s big matchup at Oakland.  Homer Drew‘s team dispatched IPFW and Eastern Michigan, the latter securing a Horizon League season victory over the MAC.
  4. Loyola (8-4, 0-2) – Jim Whitesell had a difficult time last week, dropping a game at intra-city rival DePaul.  After the near-win against Kansas State, the loss in town really took the wind out of the Ramblers’ sails.  The Ramblers wrap up the non-conference season against Texas Pan-American, a team they obliterated early in the season at home.
  5. Detroit (7-5, 1-0) – The Titans destroyed Central Michigan in a rare nationally-televised game.  The McCallum father-son team celebrated a victory against the Zeigler father-son team in a long-awaited battle, and play at Bradley on Wednesday, a difficult place for anyone to win.
  6. Wright State (7-5, 0-1) – Billy Donlon‘s Raiders are on their biggest roll of the year, winning four in a row heading into a semester-ending battle at Charlotte, a dangerous A-10 team that is coming off an upset of Tennessee.  Should they win in North Carolina, the Raiders will ride a five-game winning streak into the conference season.
  7. UIC (5-7, 0-1) – Maybe beating a Big Ten team will get the Flames on a roll.  Oregon State of the Pac-10 welcomes UIC out west on Wednesday, the return game of a Flames win last season.  If Howard Moore‘s team can take out the Beavers and win against Youngstown State on the 30th, they’ll present a formidable opponent for Cleveland State on New Years’ Day.
  8. Milwaukee (5-7, 1-1) – It seems that the top five of the conference have separated themselves from the bottom five, and while Wright State may be making a move up the ladder, the Panthers definitely seem to be on a downturn. A close victory over lowly Bowling Green did nothing to boost confidence among the fan base following another bad loss Tuesday at DePaul.  The Panthers have a lengthy break before playing at Wright State to open the H-League season.
  9. Green Bay (5-7, 1-1) – The Phoenix escaped with a 72-68 victory over provisional D-I North Dakota on Monday.  Freshmen Daniel Turner (5 RPG) and Alec Brown (5 RPG) are the only Green Bay players of any consequence on the boards, and while they’ve never been a big-time rebounding team, the Phoenix are shooting worse than most programs.  They’re missing Troy Cotton more than they think.
  10. Youngstown State (5-5, 0-2) – Jerry Slocum‘s team is ranking at or near the bottom in many statistical categories in the conference.  The Penguins are 0-2, with both losses in conference coming to sub-.500 teams.  Their lone win in December came in a victory over Malone.  The good feelings of the early season are long gone, replaced by the all-too-familiar poor team.  All signs point toward another awful conference season for the Penguins.

A Look Ahead

Except for a couple games in January and the Bracket Buster event (only UIC and Butler aren’t participating), the Horizon League wraps up its non-league slate this week.  Valparaiso’s game at Oakland is a very important matchup for the conference and would look good following Oakland’s victory over Tennessee.  Cleveland State can solidify its at-large resume by beating up on Big East opponent USF at home, while perhaps the biggest opportunity this week belongs to Butler.  Beat Utah, most likely Florida State and hopefully Baylor, and the Dawgs can go a long way to filling out its dance card for March.  This is important because it has now been twelve years since the Horizon League has sent three teams to the Big Dance.  With CSU all but locking up a spot and Butler on the verge of a huge opportunity in Hawaii, the Horizon League Tournament opens up the possibility of a third team stealing the automatic bid and the Horizon League sending three teams to the Big Dance.  It should make sense for the selection committee, as the conference has a very good record in the NCAA Tournament even without last year’s runner-up finish for Butler.  They’ll be playing for the NIT, however, if they flop this weekend at the Diamond Head Classic.

  • 12/21 – Valparaiso at Oakland, 7:30 p.m.
  • 12/21 – South Florida at Cleveland State, 7 p.m. (HLN)
  • 12/22 – Detroit at Bradley, 8 p.m.
  • 12/23-25 – Butler in the Diamond Head Classic. (ESPNU)

Youtube Video of the Week

Oh no…the bad side of UIC beating Illinois is we all must stomach this video:

Happy Holidays!

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2010

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

A Look Back

It was a sobering week for Horizon League schools as the conference went 8-9 over the week and plummeted from seventh in the conference RPI to twelfth.  Upset bids against high majors were either blowouts or close, but at the end of the day, they all ended in losses.  Cleveland State owned the week’s most impressive victory yet again with a 12-point road victory at Sam Houston State, but perhaps the biggest news was the emergence of Ray McCallum, Jr.  Across the country, pundits have picked the highly-touted recruit to come in and dominate the conference, but McCallum took a little bit of time to get up to the speed he’s accustomed to.  Ray Jr. lit up Eastern Michigan with 31 points to average 25.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists per game in the week’s two games.

Video of the Week

When you’re rolling, you’re rolling, and Gary Waters of Cleveland State gives some insight as to how the Vikings stay perfect following his team’s victory at Sam Houston State:

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (12-0, 2-0) – The Vikings continued to roll.  Gary Waters‘ undefeated crew pummeled non-D-I West Virginia Tech before taking down Sam Houston State, their sixth victory in the RPI Top 100.  Their reward?  A matchup with 7-2 West Virginia (not Tech) in Morgantown Saturday for what figures to be their biggest test yet.
  2. Butler (5-4, 1-0) – Brad Stevens‘ Dawgs missed out on sweeping the home-and-home with Xavier with a close loss in Cincinnati early last week.  They took out their frustrations on a poor Mississippi Valley State team.  HadV they lost to Loyola in the conference opener, they would be much lower on this list.
  3. Loyola (8-3, 0-2) – It’s hard to argue that a loss improves your standing, but that’s what we’ll do.  The Ramblers’ narrow loss to Kansas State (which was much closer than the eight-point difference) and blitz of SIU-Edwardsville puts them on somewhat of a roll after getting swept by the Indiana schools at home in the opening week.
  4. Valparaiso (6-4, 2-0) – If it weren’t for the lack of signature victories this week, Valpo’s loss to Toledo would have sunk them.  This is a team that has played well thus far this season, and while a top three finish isn’t out of the question, dropping a home game to Purdue by 18 didn’t help their cause.  Toledo might win five games this season in conference play.
  5. Detroit (6-5, 1-0) – The emergence of Ray McCallum Jr. couldn’t have come at a better time for the Titans; Western Michigan confounded their second Horizon League team by defeating Detroit, and they were reeling heading into the game against Eastern Michigan.  Luckily, the coach’s son took care of business.
  6. Milwaukee (5-6, 1-1) – The loss at Wisconsin is something of an annual ritual for the Panthers.  Indeed, even Bruce Pearl’s Sweet 16 Panthers lost in Madison by more than 20.  But the Panthers gathered themselves and notched arguably the second-best victory of the week at red hot South Dakota State.  Keep shooting like they did Saturday and Milwaukee will be moving up.
  7. Wright State (5-5, 0-1) – Beating Air Force by 15 at the Nutter Center was definitely a feather in the cap of rookie coach Billy Donlon.  A 13-point home win over D-II Tusculum wasn’t a blowout, but winning is winning and the Raiders, apart from Cleveland State, were the only team to finish the week unscathed.
  8. Green Bay (4-7, 1-1) – It was encouraging to see archrival Milwaukee get blown out at Wisconsin and then lose a respectable 14-point game just a few days later, but the Phoenix are now riding a three-game losing streak and have only won one road game.  The Phoenix don’t play again until Monday.
  9. UIC (4-6, 0-1) – The Flames entered the week with just three victories against D-I teams, and two of them at the hands of lowly Toledo.  Senior Paul Carter looked good in a loss to Illinois State on Saturday, but he didn’t have much help, scoring 16 of UIC’s 43 points.
  10. Youngstown State (5-4, 0-2) – The good feelings of the early season have all but evaporated in Youngstown.  After taking their customary sweep in Wisconsin to open the conference, the Penguins were demolished by Robert Morris, 90-60.  A victory over Malone College on Monday wasn’t much consolation since Malone is still a few years away from fully reclassifying to D-II.

A Look Ahead

The week is filled with opportunities for the conference to get some notable victories.  Big East doormat DePaul hosts Milwaukee, Youngstown State visits NC State, and Stanford heads to Hinkle to take on Butler in three very winnable games for the Horizon League.  Cleveland State will be out to avenge a two-point home loss last season to the West Virginia Mountaineers, except this game is in Morgantown.  Illinois visits UIC, but the game will be played at the United Center in Chicago instead of at the Flames’ home, the UIC Pavilion.  In what may be the most interesting match-up of mid-majors, Detroit and Central Michigan square off in the battle of friends and highly-touted recruits Ray McCallum Jr. and Trey Zeigler.

  • 12/14 – Milwaukee at DePaul, 9 p.m. (ESPN Full Court)
  • 12/18 – Stanford at Butler, 2 p.m. (CBS)
  • 12/18 – Detroit at Central Michigan, ESPNU
  • 12/16 – Youngstown State at NC State, 7 p.m.
  • 12/18 – Cleveland State at West Virginia, 2 p.m. (ESPN360.com, ESPN Full Court)
  • 12/18 – UIC vs. Illinois at United Center, 2 p.m. (BTN)
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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League correspondent for Rush The Court

A Look Back

  • How They Fared: The Horizon League, unlike most conferences, begins its conference season the first week of December; most teams play two games, with a couple playing only one game and competing non-conference the rest of the week.  Easily the most impressive team of the week was Cleveland State, who rolled through Wisconsin and preserved their undefeated record.  Norris Cole has the inside track on Player of the Year, and coach Gary Waters has assembled a dominant team behind him.
  • Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot: Fans unfamiliar with the Horizon League would assume that Butler is the team to find at #1 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25.  They’d be wrong.  Butler has given way to Norris Cole and Cleveland State, who are all the rage as they take no prisoners.  The Vikings absolutely dominated a Milwaukee team at the U.S. Cellular Arena, where the Panthers are almost unbeatable.
  • Tip Of The Cap: This week’s TOTC goes to Matt Howard of Butler, who tied Bobby Plump (you might know him better by his fictional likeness, Jimmy Chitwood of Hoosiers) for 11th on the Butler University all-time scoring list.  Our friends at Victory Firelight were happy to see that.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (10-0, 2-0 Horizon) – For the past decade, the Vikings were 1-19 in the state of Wisconsin – 1-9 in Green Bay and 0-10 in Milwaukee.  In the week leading up to the games, coach Gary Waters called it “Revenge Week.”  Mission accomplished.  The other mission accomplished? Putting Norris Cole in the driver’s seat for Player of the Year.
  2. Valparaiso (6-2, 2-0) – Coach Homer Drew‘s Crusaders made the short trip to Chicago and calmly walked out 2-0 with a nail-biting victory at UIC and a commanding performance at Loyola.  Winning the latter pushes Valpo past Butler in our conference power rankings for the week.
  3. Butler (4-3, 1-0) – Shelvin Mack and the Bulldogs sweated out a victory on Chicago’s near north side, beating Loyola 65-63.  A strong showing against Duke should have kept them at the #2 spot, but for the uncertainty surrounding Mack’s cramps and Ronald Nored‘s concussion.  Both players should be on the court this week, but the Dawgs are much thinner than last season and need both on the court even more than before.
  4. Detroit (5-4, 1-0) – The Titans split two games last week, losing at home to Akron before dumping Horizon League foe Wright State.  Ray McCallum Sr.‘s Titans could be winning even more if they had some bodies to spell their stellar starting five; four Titans are in the top ten in the conference in total minutes and minutes per game.
  5. Loyola (7-2, 0-2) – It was a sobering week for the Ramblers, who have to be thinking about 2009-10, when they began 11-2 before flopping all the way down to 14-16 for the season.  For the second straight year, the Ramblers put a scare into Butler, but the excitement at the Joe collapsed following a double-digit home loss to Valpo.
  6. Green Bay (4-4, 1-1) – Brian Wardle‘s crew came into the week favored to win a game and lose a game.  They did just that, dropping a home loss to Cleveland State before wiping the floor with Jerry Slocum’s Youngstown State Penguins.  Rahmon Fletcher continues to be a boon for the Phoenix, placing third in the conference in scoring at 16.6 PPG.
  7. Milwaukee (4-5, 1-1) – It’s hard to put the Panthers lower since they did win convincingly over Youngstown State on Thursday.  It’s impossible to put the Panthers any higher given the absolute garbage showing against Cleveland State on Saturday night.  Last week, we talked about their Jekyll and Hyde ways.  That continued this past week, but at least they came out with a W.
  8. Wright State (3-5, 0-1) – Had the Raiders pulled out a victory against middling Big East team Cincinnati or Detroit, they’d find themselves much higher on the list.  Bobby Donlon‘s crew is much different than they were under Brad Brownell, whose defensive mindset has lost its way.  The Raiders are giving up 78 points per game this season, and they won’t be seeing a bye to the semifinals of the conference tournament unless that changes.
  9. UIC (4-5, 0-1) – Akron pulled out the close victory at UIC, the second near-victory for the Flames of the week.  If UIC had been killing teams heading into the conference season, they might find themselves higher.  However, that signature win over Rhode Island seems further in the rear-view mirror every day.
  10. Youngstown State (4-3, 0-2) – The Penguins’ 4-1 start got the fans in Youngstown paying attention, but a quick 0-2 start in conference against struggling clubs in Green Bay and Milwaukee puts YSU at the bottom of the barrel.  Along with Wright State and Loyola, the Penguins are one of the only teams to go winless; unlike Wright State or Loyola, they weren’t playing significantly better competition.

A Look Ahead

Week one of conference play is in the books, and the standings will remain the same until after Christmas.  Three games against high-major foes dot the lineup this week, with Purdue visiting Valpo’s ARC and Milwaukee taking a trip west to Madison.  Loyola hopes to pull off a stunning upset at Kansas State.  Let’s hope the timekeeper knows what they’re doing at the Cintas Center this year as Butler takes its turn as the away team in a home-and-home with Xavier.

  • 12/7 – Purdue at Valparaiso, 9 p.m. ESPNU
  • 12/8 – Milwaukee at Wisconsin, 8:30 p.m. Big Ten Network
  • 12/8 – Wright State vs. Air Force, 7 p.m. HLN
  • 12/9 – Butler at Xavier, 9 p.m. ESPN
  • 12/11 – Milwaukee at South Dakota State, 8 p.m.
  • 12/11 – Loyola vs. #3 Kansas State, 4 p.m.
  • 12/11 – Cleveland State at Sam Houston State, 4:30 p.m.

Remember When… they screwed up the clock at Hinkle last season?  Take a look back:

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 2010

Jimmy Lemke is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

A Look Back

  • How They Fared: It was a week that had mixed results for the Horizon League.  The torch-bearer for the conference, Butler, won a difficult MAAC road game by double-digits against Siena before dropping an overtime decision in Hinkle Fieldhouse against state foe Evansville.  Detroit picked up three solid victories over Albany, Bowling Green and Niagara after dropping an early-week decision at Missisippi State.  Milwaukee‘s upset bid over Marquette just failed at the end, with a missed front end of a one-and-one giving Marquette just enough breathing room to win in the dangerous U.S. Cellular Arena.  Wright State showed signs of life by defeating a good Summit League program in Oakland, weathering the storm of 25 points and seven rebounds from Keith Benson.  They then lost two games they were expected to lose against Richmond and Southern Illinois in Chicago.
  • Dropped Out: After the gut-wrenching loss to Evansville, Butler dropped out of the rankings for the first time since January.  The Horizon League is no longer represented in the Top 25 despite getting off to an excellent 42-21 record as a conference, its best in years.
  • Owning The Paint: Detroit’s 3-1 record largely comes from the play of Eli Holman, who averaged 14 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2 blocks over the four games.  Milwaukee’s Anthony Hill recorded a double-double in the loss to Western Michigan and 18 points and eight rebounds against Marquette on Saturday.
  • Tip Of The Cap: Youngstown State’s Vytas Sulskis gets the nod this week as he joined the 1,000 point club at the school.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (8-0) – The Vikings’ perfect early season continued with decisive double-digit victories over Akron and St. Bonaventure.  In a time when Butler seems to be fallible, Gary Waters’ team hasn’t shown a chink in the armor yet. Norris Cole paces the conference with 20.4 points per game.
  2. Butler (3-2) – Brad Stevens is still fumbling around with his lineup, with eight different players getting starts for the Bulldogs.  Saturday’s loss to Evansville doesn’t defuse the question surrounding the search for Gordon Hayward, but it’s not every day you have to replace an NBA lottery pick. A rematch of last year’s final with Duke awaits this weekend.
  3. Detroit (4-3) – The Titans were close to taking down the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville, and the rest of the week they took care of business. Eli Holman is playing at his best right now, which is very important as the Titans get ready for Wright State on Saturday.
  4. Loyola (7-0) – It can no longer be ignored: Loyola is just as perfect as Cleveland State.  Why do the Ramblers not get as much love here?  Their one-point victory at WCC doormat San Francisco would be their best victory of the year if they didn’t whoop Western Michigan on the road.
  5. Valparaiso (4-2) – The Crusaders were mostly predictable this week, losing a close one at MAC champ Ohio before beating Northern Colorado and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  Valpo has a great road trip to open conference season; their fans only have 30 miles or so to Chicago.
  6. Youngstown State (4-1) – They may be playing nobody now, but if they weren’t robbed at Akron, they’d be undefeated heading into Milwaukee on Thursday.  The Penguins were awful in conference play in 2009-10, let’s see if Jerry Slocum‘s new roster is up to the challenge.
  7. Milwaukee (3-4) – The Jekyll-and-Hyde Panthers continued their ways, but it ended the week 0-2.  A dumb loss before Thanksgiving to Western Michigan was mirrored by a spirited and winning-worthy performance in a three-point loss to Marquette, the toughest Horizon League opponent all week.
  8. Wright State (3-3) – The Raiders got the nod over UIC and Green Bay by posting a great victory over Oakland, a team many think will win the Summit.  N’Gai Evans has made a big difference since returning to the lineup, and the Raiders need him with huge games at Cincinnati and Detroit looming this week.
  9. UIC (3-3) – Howard Moore‘s UIC Flames suffered a loss to Ernie Zeigler’s Central Michigan Chippewas the night before Thanksgiving.  They escaped an awful Toledo team on Sunday to complete the season sweep of Tod Kowalczyk’s Rockets.
  10. Green Bay (3-3) – Rahmon Fletcher and the Phoenix were lucky to escape Saturday with a home victory over North Dakota State, a team that has fallen since their tourney appearance in 2009.  A Monday loss to IUPUI, whose only other win came against IU-Northwest, means that Green Bay has work to do.

A Look Ahead
Unlike most conferences that start play in January or late December, the Horizon League has “Opening Weekend,” the first set of games (tell me the conference shouldn’t market that).  The Wisconsin schools open up at home against Ohio, while the Indiana schools travel to Chicago, although Butler will play at UIC later in the season (they’ve got a big non-conference game Saturday night).  Detroit and Wright State’s “Rivalry” game will take place on Saturday. (all times eastern)

  • 12/1 – Butler at Loyola, 8 p.m. Horizon League Network
  • 12/1 – Detroit vs. Akron, 7 p.m. HLN
  • 12/1 – Wright State at Cincinnati, No TV
  • 12/2 – Youngstown State at Milwaukee, 8 p.m. HLN
  • 12/2 – Cleveland State at Green Bay, 8 p.m. HLN
  • 12/2 – Valparaiso at UIC, 8 p.m. HLN
  • 12/4 – Cleveland State at Milwaukee, 8 p.m. HLN
  • 12/4 – Wright State at Detroit, noon HLN
  • 12/4 – Youngstown State at Green Bay, 2 p.m. HLN
  • 12/4 – Valparaiso at Loyola, 4 p.m. HLN
  • 12/4 – Butler vs. Duke at IZOD Center, 3:30 p.m. ESPN
  • 12/4 – UIC vs. Akron, 4 p.m. HLN

If you didn’t catch the HLN, ten games this week are featured on the Horizon League’s free streaming service, the Horizon League Network (http://horizonleaguenetwork.tv or http://horizonleague.org).

Caught On Film: If you’re like me, you were disappointed when Gordon Hayward’s Too Big Yo rap was taken offline.  We’re disappointed no more!

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RTC Live: Marquette @ Milwaukee

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2010

Game #45.  It’s a crosstown rivalry between Brew City schools and RTC Live is happy to visit Milwaukee for the first time.

This Saturday night, Marquette and Milwaukee will meet for the 38th time for an 8 p.m. showdown at U.S. Cellular Arena. And in all 37 previous encounters between these city-sharing rivals, Marquette has emerged victorious. This year’s edition comes with a new wrinkle, though: for the first time in the series, Milwaukee is the home team. With a large blue and gold contingent expected at the Cell, a raucous atmosphere is certainly expected. It’s been a rocky start to the season for Rob Jeter’s Milwaukee Panthers. They embarked on a wild road swing to begin the campaign, salvaging a 1-2 record in a four-team event in Portland. A convincing road win over Niagara and a gutty 65-63 triumph over Northern Iowa followed, but the Panthers fell to 3-3 with a disappointing home defeat the hands of Western Michigan on Tuesday. Milwaukee relies primarily on talented big man Anthony Hill and sharpshooting wing Tone Boyle for their scoring, but the efficiency of junior college transfer Kaylon Williams at the point is vital to an upset tonight. With MU missing big men Joe Fulce and Davonte Gardner, Hill could have an easier time operating in the post. Marquette began their season with four home wins before heading to Kansas City for the CBE Classic. The Golden Eagles hung with mighty #1 Duke before falling short to the Blue Devils and followed that up with a 66-63 loss to #18 Gonzaga. Marquette is led by versatile forward Jimmy Butler (22/6 vs. Duke and Gonzaga), but it’s the three-point shooting of Darius Johnson-Odom (20% this year) that must heat up for Buzz Williams’ squad. Keep an eye on whether Milwaukee employs a zone to stop Marquette’s dribble penetration, the strategy Gonzaga employed to slow down the Golden Eagles guards on Tuesday. Join us tonight for RTC Live from Marquette at Milwaukee to see if the Golden Eagles can claim their 38th straight win over the Panthers.

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2010

Jimmy Lemke is the RTC Horizon League correspondent.  You can find his ramblings daily at PantherU.com.

A Look Back

The biggest news out of the Horizon League has been a dearth of dumb losses.  Things that have hampered the conference in the past such as losses to low-majors and D-II schools, or blowouts to evenly matched opponents just haven’t been the case as much as in recent years.  Despite a couple of puzzling losses — such as Milwaukee to Florida Atlantic and UIC to Charleston — the conference has been very strong out of the gate. In fact, those two schools have turned it on as well.  Milwaukee is now on a three-game winning streak culminating in a victory over Northern Iowa, and UIC dumped Rhode Island on a neutral court Sunday.

On The Trail

Recruiting is the big news everywhere this past week with the end of the fall signing period.  All in all, the Horizon League picked up some very decent commitments for the 2011 season.  Wright State beat out East Carolina and Duquesne in landing Tavares Sledge, a 6’8′ power forward from the Crimson Tide’s backyard in Tuscaloosa.  Milwaukee sweated it out for the last week, but point guard Shaquille Boga finally signed his LOI.  Boga picked the Panthers over confirmed offers from Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and a slew of Missouri Valley schools such as Creighton, Southern Illinois, Missouri State and Bradley.  Boga got to see his future team defeat another of his suitors, the Northern Iowa Panthers, Saturday night along with fellow signee J.J. PanoskeButler got their point guard of the future with a signature from Australia’s Jackson Aldridge (you can find an interview with him at PantherU here).  Cleveland State inked Anton Grady, a slim 6’7 power forward out of Central Catholic High in Cleveland.  Alvin Boutte of Indianapolis picked Ray McCallum‘s Detroit Titans over offers from Akron, Wright State and IUPUI.  The point guard figures to step in behind Ray McCallum, Jr., as a freshman.

New Green Bay coach Brian Wardle is from Illinois, attended Marquette (a private school in Wisconsin with a heavy Illinois fan base), and now he’s bringing that Chicago deep dish style up with him to the land of Lambeau.  Aaron Armstead, Greg Mays and Keifer Sykes, all Illinois prospects, will join the Phoenix in 2011.  As for those teams that stay in Chicago, UIC landed three in-state recruits and two out-of-state players for 2011.  Will Simonton is a 6’11 center out of Fishburne Military Prep in Virginia, and Marc Brown is a sweet-shooting guard out of Texas, but new coach Howard Moore has shown he isn’t against recruiting the Chicago Public League to get his talent.  On the northside of Chicago, Loyola inked juco standout Colin Beatty from Barton CC in Kansas.  The Valparaiso Crusaders, looking to bolster their frontcourt depth, are bringing in Richie Edwards, a 6’8 power forward.  Youngstown State grabbed 6’9 small forward Cale Zuiker out of the Wisconsin boondocks of Marshfield.

The Infirmary

One look at Wright State’s box scores and you’ll notice a void.  N’Gai Evans, the Raiders’ point guard and one of their biggest contributors, has been out with a strained knee ligament.  While the Raiders are now 2-1 after dropping lowly Southern, they were blown out by Indiana and are seriously struggling in different ways.  WSU needs him back, and yesterday.  Without Evans and the graduated Todd Brown, guards Vaughn Duggins and Troy Tabler have struggled shooting this season.  If the Raiders are to challenge, Evans needs to be back in the lineup.  Jarvis Williams of Green Bay injured his ankle in a blowout loss at Marquette and missed the San Diego State game.

Power Rankings

  1. Butler (2-1) – It’s too early for me to go out and crown a new champ.  While Butler’s blowout loss to open Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center was anything but good, they did take care of business at home against in-state foe Ball State and hung up a Final Four banner before the season-opening victory over D-II Marian.
  2. Cleveland State (5-0) – Believe me, I racked my brain on whether or not to put CSU or Detroit over Butler in the first power ranking.  I give the nod to Cleveland State over Detroit for one simple reason: they win.  They haven’t blown out anybody (discounting non-D-I Urbana), but the Vikings haven’t lost a single game.  While UL-Lafayette and Kent State made them sweat, the Vikings have pulled it out in the end every time out.
  3. Detroit (1-2) – Should a sub-.500 team be in third place of a top 10 conference?  Not in January, but just a week and a half into the season, we’ll give Detroit a break.  Their drubbing of Indiana Tech aside, the two road losses to New Mexico (by nine) and Syracuse (by 11) were impressive, with the Titans in it until the last couple minutes each time.  Ray McCallum, Jr. is already prospering, Eli Holman is dominant and the Titans are meshing well despite suspect depth.
  4. Loyola (5-0) – Winning isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing, and Loyola is making it happen.  The Ramblers have squashed low-majors (Eastern Kentucky by 16, Texas-Pan Am by 22) and handily beaten mid-majors.  The one thing the Ramblers hadn’t done until Saturday was win on the road, but they took care of that with an 18-point schellacking at Western Michigan.  The Ramblers are getting big help from Andy Polka and his veteran supporting cast.
  5. Milwaukee (3-2) – The Panthers started bad…real bad.  Portland may be a third-place WCC team, but 20-point losses are tough to swallow.  A nine-point loss to Florida Atlantic was even tougher to swallow.  But Milwaukee is getting better every game, and significantly so.  Dropping UC Davis was expected, but a beatdown in Niagara’s death trap, the “Taps” Gallagher Center, was gravy.  Top that off with a solid home victory over Northern Iowa, and the Panthers have arguably the best victory of the Horizon League’s young season.
  6. UIC (3-2) – The Flames get the upper hand over the bottom four for one simple reason: they beat Rhode Island out of nowhere Sunday afternoon.  A season-opening blowout at Pitt was disheartening, but the Flames only have one hiccup since, a home loss to College of Charleston.
  7. Youngstown State (2-1) – Coach Jerry Slocum has never been one to beat decent teams out of the gate.  Heck, he’s lost some pretty bad games in the early parts of his six years at Youngstown State.  But the Penguins are taking no prisoners this season.  Their three-point victory over Samford may seem so-so to some, but the Penguins of past years would lose that game.  Couple that with an eleven-point victory over Buffalo, and the Penguins were rolling until Akron got lucky Saturday night.  The guess here is they enter conference play 4-1 with games against lowly Toledo and St. Francis (PA).
  8. Green Bay (2-2) – Through four games, coach Brian Wardle is in dire need of help down in the block.  Freshmen Alec Brown and Clayton Heuer have been overmatched early, and Heuer only played four minutes against San Diego State, which seemed to work in a surprisingly close nine-point loss.  Troy Snyder, a 6’7 forward, may help them, but the Phoenix real strength is the guards; Bryquis Perine and Rahmon Fletcher are great upperclassmen who carry the team on their shoulders.
  9. Valparaiso (2-1) – The Crusaders have only been party to blowouts.  It may seem odd to have a team with two beatdown victories under its belt, but the VUCru haven’t played anyone of any consequence outside of Kansas, who murdered them by 35 at the Phog.  Winning by 47 and 54 doesn’t seem as nice when the games are against IU-Northwest and Purdue North Central.  We’ll find out much more about the Crusaders in the next two games against D-I opponents closer to their level in Ohio and Northern Colorado.
  10. Wright State (2-1) – N’Gai Evans has been out with a strained knee ligament, and the Raiders have seriously missed his scoring and passing ability.  Just the return of Evans may spark a rise in the power rankings, but be wary of the total lack of an inside game; Cole Darling and Johann Mpondo have been the best of a weak frontcourt.

A Look Ahead

  • Thanksgiving week is a time for us to all think about what we’re thankful for.  The Horizon League will hopefully be thankful for victories in the following games: Detroit at Mississippi State, Valparaiso at Ohio, Oakland at Wright State, Wright State vs. Richmond, Central Michigan at UIC, and Marquette at Milwaukee.  RPI Boosters will be big for the conference heading into in-house play just a week away.
  • Signature victories over Northern Iowa and Rhode Island are good for the conference, but the Horizon League as a whole needs more of them for the conference to get recognition beyond Butler come March.
  • Traveling teams in the Horizon League go in pairs: the University of Wisconsin’s Green Bay Phoenix and Milwaukee Panthers; Chicago’s UIC and Loyola; Indiana’s Valparaiso and Butler; Ohio’s Cleveland State and Youngstown State; and Wright State and Detroit, the odd couple.  The Chicago teams host the Indiana teams, the Ohio teams go to Wisconsin, and Wright State faces Detroit at Calihan Hall on December 4th.

One For The Calendar

  • Marquette at Milwaukee – Sunday, November 27: The Panthers play host for the first time in history to Marquette, their cross-town foe from the Big East.  If you’ve caught any of the recent Marquette blowouts on television, you might have seen a graphic detailing the current 37-0 series lead by Marquette as the second-most without a victory by the other team.  Digging deeper, however, and you’ll find that Milwaukee’s media guide lists three victories over teams named Marquette dating back to 1902.  Marquette claims these games do not count because the private school didn’t field a team until the late 1910’s.  Their first year of recorded history is just two seasons after Milwaukee claims two victories over Marquette in 1914-15.  While the Milwaukee media guide lists the series at 37-0, it says that the series started in 1902, where the Milwaukee Normal School defeated a team named Marquette, 35-16.  Very interesting to a Panther who is annoyed.  You know what I say?  Throw out any games where either team is not D-I, and you get 9-0 Marquette.  A little closer to the truth.
  • As for the game itself, the Golden Eagles’ thin front court has taken a beating in the early season.  Forward Joe Fulce will miss 2-4 weeks with a left knee injury, and freshman behemoth Davante Gardner is questionable against Duke Monday night.  Without them, Marquette has a significant size disadvantage in the block; players on the Golden Eagles that do have height (Erik Williams, Jimmy Butler) are outside scorers.  Jae Crowder may be the Golden Eagles’ best option to stack up against Milwaukee senior Anthony Hill, junior Tony Meier, and freshman Kyle Kelm.
  • One thing the Panthers can’t do against Marquette is try to go guard on guard.  While Kaylon Williams, Tone Boyle and Ryan Allen are up to the task, they’d be playing right into Marquette’s wheelhouse of Vander Blue, Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, and a host of other capable guards.  Get spooked and start jacking up threes and the game could be over like it was for Green Bay last Wednesday.  Play hard, keep pounding the block and control the tempo, and Marquette may be on its heels in the waning moments.  Marquette has never lost to a D-I Milwaukee team.  But then again, Milwaukee has never played the game at home.  We’ll see how the intra-city showdown goes down on Saturday.

Macking on the MAC

Following Green Bay’s victory over Miami (OH), the Horizon League has improved to 7-1 over their fellow midwest mid-major, the Mid-American Conference.  While the MAC gets a load more attention due to fielding a football conference, the Horizon League has quietly built a dominating presence.  The lone loss this season is Youngstown State (picked 10th in the Horizon) to Akron (picked 2nd in MAC East), and that only happened because Akron hit a shot to send the game to overtime.

Caught On Film

Northern Iowa gets a taste of its own clutch medicine, as Milwaukee wins a hard-fought game with a Tone Boyle jumper in the closing seconds.

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RTC Conference Primers: #13 – Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2010

Jimmy Lemke is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Butler (15-3)
  2. Cleveland State (12-6)
  3. Detroit (12-6)
  4. Milwaukee (11-7)
  5. Valparaiso (9-9)
  6. Wright State (9-9)
  7. Green Bay (8-10)
  8. UIC (7-11)
  9. Loyola (5-13)
  10. Youngstown State (2-16)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Shelvin Mack, Butler
  • G: Norris Cole, Cleveland State
  • F: Cory Johnson, Valparaiso
  • F: Matt Howard, Butler
  • C: Eli Holman, Detroit

6th Man

G: Brandon Wood, Valparaiso

Impact Newcomer

Paul Carter (F), UIC

What does Brad Stevens and Butler have in mind for an encore after their run to the title game?

What You Need To Know

  • All Horizon League games and most non-conference home games will be streamed live at HorizonLeague.org, the conference’s website.  All games are free and the feed is television quality in most arenas.  It’s a service that has been around since 2007, and has expanded every year to be an all-encompassing athletics powerhouse for information, features and interviews on Horizon League basketball.  By now, if you haven’t heard about Butler‘s run through the NCAA Tournament, you’re probably still counting your hours of free America Online.
  • What most people don’t realize is how strong the conference is behind Butler. Yes, the Bulldogs ran roughshod over the conference, going 18-0 and paving their way to the title game in dominant fashion, but they had victories against the seventh and eighth place teams by a combined three points.  It’s a deep league through the top seven programs, and even UIC, who finished ninth last year, looks to be strong this season.  The Detroit Titans were seventh place despite posting a 20-win season, one of five Horizon League programs to do so.
  • It is a guard-oriented league, but post players like Matt Howard, Eli Holman, Anthony Hill and Andy Polka have proven that they can bang with the big boys.

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March Moment: A Pearl of Wisdom

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2010

Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment? We’ll be posting some of their answers for the rest of the month.

In this submission, RTC contributor and bracketologist-in-residence Zach Hayes illustrates one of the many reasons why the NCAA Tournament is the greatest event in American sports — a good deal of the time, it’s not just about basketball:

There’s something different about growing up rooting for a mid-major.

It’s elementary rooting for perennial powerhouses like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina or Michigan State, teams that may experience hardship once a decade but can always be counted on to reload sooner than later, similar to playing the Rookie level on Madden.

When that special season comes along for a mid-major, the urgency is palpable, the intensity unmatched, the hope for that perfect slipper fit lingers. Fans of mid-majors often see their small, unknown program wallow in the depths of obscurity playing in front of 1,000 fans for years, unable to migrate up the standings. Then that miracle-working coach comes along, diamonds in the rough begin to fill out the roster, and finally the school faces that one opportunity to achieve the previously unthinkable.

For me, that team was the 2002-03 Milwaukee Panthers. For me, that coach was Bruce Pearl.

As any college basketball fan knows, the conference tournament is the be-all and end-all for mid-major programs. A team can suffer through a losing regular season, reel off three straight wins and find themselves in the Big Dance. But on the flipside, a team can coast to the regular season title, play one bad 40-minute stint and miss out on a chance that may never present itself again.

That was the situation facing the Panthers during Pearl’s second season at the helm and my first season with season tickets at THE MECCA, the downtown arena that Kareem and Oscar formerly patrolled for the Bucks back in the early-70s. The middling Horizon League program had been lingering in the shadow of Marquette in our own city and Butler in our own league for the bane of our Division I existence.

Then the perfect concoction came together for that 2002-03 season. We found a legitimate post player in Dylan Page, a sharp-shooting 2-guard in Clay Tucker, a steady point guard in Ronnie Jones and complimentary players like Jason Frederick and Nate Mielke that executed Pearl’s patented full-court press to a tee. It was a team incredibly easy to get attached to at 12 years old. Just me, my dad, our favorite coach and a mid-major trying to make a name for themselves.

Our Panthers ended up toppling mighty Butler in the Horizon finals. The court filled in a matter of seconds with gold-clad students lifting players into the air. The previously unimaginable had been accomplished. But all I remember from that moment is hugging my father and the beaming smile that covered his face. He’s taught at Milwaukee since 1982 and had experienced the lowest of lows with the program. It was for him.

We ended up losing to 5th seeded Notre Dame in the first round nine days later after Page missed a game-winning layup at the buzzer. The game ended around 11 PM on a school night, but of course my father let me stay up for the end. When Page’s miss trickled around the rim and out and the Irish celebrated at center court, I remember expecting the tears to stream down my face.

Instead, a smile of appreciation broke out. I looked over at my dad and he began to applaud.

We were too proud of them to do anything different.

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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 rtmsf on February 19th, 2010

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

Standings

  1. Butler 17-0
  2. Wright State 11-5
  3. Green Bay 10-6
  4. Valparaiso 10-7
  5. Cleveland State 9-7
  6. Milwaukee 8-8
  7. Detroit 7-9
  8. Loyola (IL) 5-11
  9. UIC 2-14
  10. Youngstown State 2-14

Top Storylines

  • The quest for perfection: Butler is now one game away from perfection during the regular season in the Horizon League. The final game is at Valparaiso next Friday. Before that, though, Siena will test the Bulldogs in the BracketBuster game on Saturday. It is the first nationally televised game at 11:00 AM EST.
  • The hot team: Now the hot teams are Wright State and Milwaukee. The Raiders have moved into a convincing second place in conference, but they still have two road games remaining. Milwaukee has climbed into the sixth seed in conference and has two games in Chicago after it’s BracketBuster game to improve its seeding. The Panthers lost to Loyola at home earlier this season, so they’ll be looking for revenge at the Gentile Center.
  • The most exciting team: Valparaiso is probably a season away from being a top contender in the Horizon League, but the Crusaders sure do play an entertaining style of basketball. They’ve haven’t played a game in the 60s points-wise since going to UIC on January 21.
  • The race for #2:  Technically four teams can get to 11-7 in conference still and capture the double-bye in the Horizon League tournament opposite of Butler. Here are the four teams still trying to capture that spot. If Wright State wins out they’ll obviously take the top spot, but that might be more difficult than it seems. The game at Cleveland State is a big pothole.

Team: Remaining League Games, Predicted Record

  • Wright State: @Youngstown State, @Cleveland State, 12-6
  • Green Bay: @UIC, @Loyola, 11-7
  • Cleveland State: Detroit, Wright State, 10-8
  • Valparaiso: Butler, 10-8

And a projected first round:

  • #10 Youngstown @ #3 Green Bay
  • #7 Detroit @ #6 Milwaukee
  • #9 UIC @ #4 Cleveland State
  • #8 Loyola @ #5 Valparaiso

The 5-8 and 6-7 games in this scenario would be excellent. Valparaiso just held off a furious late-game charge from Loyola to force the Ramblers onto the road for the first playoff game. Also, because of Detroit’s fall from grace they’d now have to play at Milwaukee in the first round. That’s a big switch.

A Possession-Free World

I keep possession-free statistics for the entire Horizon League. Here are some superlatives at this moment in conference.

  • Best Offense: Butler (#2 is Valparaiso)
  • Worst Offense: UIC
  • Best Defense: Butler (#2 is Detroit)
  • Worst Defense: Valparaiso
  • Luckiest: Green Bay
  • Unluckiest: Detroit

Another fun possession-free fact is that there are four teams bunched together now in the middle of the league. While Butler is the clear top dog, Wright State is number two, Detroit is number three (contrary to what their record says) and then there is a bunch. Milwaukee, Green Bay, Cleveland State and Valparaiso all get it done in different ways, but they’re essentially the same in terms of play in conference. Milwaukee plays a little more defense than the others, Valparaiso has a bit more explosive offense — but when you get down to it they all score about 0.1 points per possession more than their opponents in the league.

Finally, Bracket Busters is this weekend. My predictions for the 10 games.

  1. Siena vs. Butler – Bulldogs squeak out a close one
  2. Wright State at Ohio – Raiders should win, even on the road
  3. Indiana State vs. Green Bay – Phoenix are tough to beat at home
  4. Toledo vs. Cleveland State – Vikings should crush Rockets at home
  5. Valparaiso at Bowling Green – A tough game on the road, Crusaders might fall
  6. Niagara vs. Milwaukee – Panthers with a tough game against a MAAC foe, but at home
  7. Eastern Michigan vs. Detroit – The Titans can get back on track with a win
  8. Loyola at Creighton – A very tough match-up, Ramblers should fall in Omaha
  9. Youngstown State at UC Riverside – Tough trip west for the Penguins
  10. UIC at Evansville – Flames struggle on the road, might lose this bottom feeder battle

Overall it looks like the Horizon League could go 7-3 in BracketBusters this weekend. It will be a lot of fun to watch – well at least what few games are available on tv. Butler is the only Horizon League team on national television this season.

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2010

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

Standings

  1. Butler 15-0
  2. Cleveland State 9-4
  3. Green Bay 9-5
  4. Wright State 9-5
  5. Valparaiso 8-7
  6. Detroit 7-7
  7. Milwaukee 5-8
  8. Loyola (IL) 4-10
  9. Youngstown State 2-12
  10. UIC 2-12

Top Storylines

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.

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