ATB: Duke Goes Down, Texas A&M Fells Kentucky At Rupp, and a Shake-Up Atop the Big Ten…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 14th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The Weekend’s Lede. Embrace a New National Champion. The hustle and bustle of conference play boils down to one of two objectives: 1) scramble and fight and scrap your way into the NCAA Tournament; or, for the elite teams, 2) pile up enough evidence to be deemed worthy of a favorable draw and seed. The goal that ties those two together is reaching the championship game and, ideally, winning it. Kentucky made it look easy last season, and based on the way Calipari reloaded with another top recruiting class (albeit less heralded than the 2011 group), it was not unwise to believe he could do it again. That avenue remains open, in the crude sense that the Wildcats are still eligible for postseason competition. In actuality, the fate of their title defense season was sealed this weekend, when Kentucky allowed Texas A&M – a low-rung team in an uncharacteristically weak SEC – to deliver the Wildcats’ second home loss of the season. Given the talent at his disposal, and his experience in grooming, molding and motivating said talent, John Calipari could well propel his young team back into the national conversation. I just don’t see it. Saturday’s loss marked the unofficial retirement of UK’s faint repeat hopes. But don’t worry, next season’s rejiggered squad, anchored by what some are calling the greatest recruiting class of all time, can bring everything full circle. The championship trophy will not return to Lexington in March. That’s not official; it’s what my eyes tell me. There will be a new champion in 2013, and the weekend’s action shed more light on the race for that top prize.

Your Watercooler Moment. Number One Goes Down. (Wheelchair, Ahoy!)

The hyperbolic reviews surrounding Duke’s sterling nonconference performance were completely warranted. The Blue Devils navigated a minefield of ranked opponents, including three top five teams in a two- week span, and the conquest of an absolutely loaded Battle 4 Atlantis Field. Few teams have ever pieced together a November and December stretch with so many quality wins against so many good teams – wins that, in regard to Minnesota, VCU, Temple, Clemson and Santa Clara, are looking better and better by the week. The totality of accomplishment is almost immeasurable. The Blue Devils were thrust atop the polls and praised for their offensive efficiency. Mason Plumlee seized the early lead in the National Player Of The Year race. Seth Curry’s toughness (he has battled chronic leg pain all season) and resolve was eulogized. The outpouring of national praise almost made it feel like Duke was the only real team that mattered in the ACC. UNC had fallen off the map. NC State got tabbed with the “overrated” tag. Florida State was a sinking ship. What many seemed to conveniently forget was that the Wolfpack – the same team that (gasp!) lost to Oklahoma State on a neutral floor and at Michigan, causing large swaths of college hoops fans to write them off as a specious product of the preseason hype machine – were selected by the coaches and media in separate preseason polls to win the league outright. Those two early-season losses threw everyone off the Wolfpack bandwagon, which, come to think of it, might just be the best thing that ever happened to NC State’s season. While the nation fawned over Duke’s top-50 RPI wins and Plumlee’s double-doubles and Rasheed Sulaimon’s youthful verve, the Wolfpack were slowly, surely, methodically rounding into form. When the opportunity presented itself Saturday, as a Ryan Kelly-less Blue Devils team strolled into Raleigh, the Wolfpack did what every coach and media member predicted they’d do before the season began. They took care of the gaudy Blue Devils, and afterward, in the midst of a delirious post-game court-storming, the Wolfpack reveled in the culmination of their roller coaster season.

Also Worth Chatting About. Take Your Pick: Indiana or Michigan.

The Hoosiers' offense didn't miss a step in Saturday's home win over Minnesota (Photo credit: AP Photo).

The Hoosiers’ offense didn’t miss a step in Saturday’s home win over Minnesota (Photo credit: AP Photo).

It required less than two weeks for conference competition to slay college basketball’s remaining unbeaten teams. Michigan had looked flawless in its first two Big Ten games, blowout wins over Northwestern and Iowa, generating all kinds of national championship hype along the way (the home win over Nebraska wasn’t as pretty, but it didn’t discredit the Wolverines’ glowing stature). Ohio State, meanwhile, exposed real flaws in a 19-point blowout loss at Purdue earlier in the week. Their faint hopes of pulling an upset at home against Michigan were, well, exactly that: faint. Michigan’s seeming invincibility, Ohio State’s disproportionate offense – any discussion of the Buckeyes invariably panned to a common concern over a lack of complementary scorers to supplement DeShaun Thomas – and the matchup advantages that implied, conveniently glossed over the fact that the Big Ten is a ruthless, rugged, unforgiving road, particularly when rivalries are involved. Ohio State’s victory proved, if nothing else, that the most extreme evaluations of each team to date – that Michigan is the best team in the country, and Ohio State a middle-pack-to-lower-tier Big Ten outfit – were a bit ambitious on both ends. In fact, the former trope may have been discredited before Michigan even took the floor Sunday, because Indiana, in its first real test since losing to Butler in early December, reminded everyone why the national consensus settled so firmly on the Hoosiers as the preseason number one team in the country. The final score at Assembly Hall Saturday will skew the reality of Indiana’s home toppling of Minnesota. The first half showcased an overwhelming offensive onslaught, fueled by rapid ball movement, aggressive and attentive defensive work, can’t-miss shooting aggressive and a booming home crowd. It was the epitome of Indiana’s basketball potential, bottled up into a 20-minute segment, unleashed on one of the nation’s best and most physical teams (Minnesota). An informal poll measuring the Big Ten’s best team following this weekend would favor Indiana, but I’m not so sure we can make that assumption based off two critical games. The conference season is a long and enduring grind. We’ll gather more evidence and draw that distinction later this winter. Deal?

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ATB: The ACC’s Second Best Team, Conference USA Doldrums and Providence’s Roster Reinforcements…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 19th, 2012

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. ACC Contenders Make Statements. If you’re still questioning Duke’s status as the No. 1 team in the country, that stance is at least somewhat tenable. There are other teams – Michigan or Arizona, to name a couple – that have looked equally impressive in the context of easier schedules, but if “who-beats-who” isn’t your main barometer for gauging teams, and you feel Duke simply hasn’t looked as complete or well-rounded as the Wolverines or the Wildcats or Louisville or any other team, well, that’s your prerogative. But if you’re still questioning Duke’s position atop the ACC, there’s no logical explanation for your premise. You’re wrong (sorry!); it is just that simple. With that in mind, two teams (Miami and NC State) made strong claims to the No. 2 spot in the suddenly top-heavy league, and while a final verdict won’t be delivered for a few months, tonight’s events provided a nice early measuring stick for the league’s upper tier.

Your Watercooler Moment. Who’s Better: Miami or NC State?

With Durand Scott back from his suspension and Shane Larkin serving as Miami's creative engine at point guard, the Hurricanes poised to make a run at ACC glory (photo credit: US Presswire).

With Durand Scott back from his suspension, Miami is poised to make a run at ACC glory (photo credit: US Presswire).

The preseason top-five buzz on NC State always felt like a huge stretch. A couple of talented freshmen don’t instantly elevate an 11-seed to national contender status. Using last season’s NCAA Tournament success as a baseline for predictive measures is always a risky endeavor. When the Wolfpack were run off the Puerto Rico Tip-off floor in a 20-point bludgeoning at the hands of Oklahoma State, my inclinations were confirmed. Miami didn’t carry nearly the same level of hype into this season, though an early season loss at Florida Gulf Coast cratered the Miami-as-ACC-contender bandwagon before it ever got rolling to begin with. Both teams have since recovered, and both proved their early season stumbling points are very much in the rear view Tuesday night. The Wolfpack’s 88-point output against a team as defensively sharp as Stanford – the Cardinal entered Tuesday ranked 15th on a per-possession scale – is without doubt the best we’ve seen Mark Gottfried’s team look thus far. I’m ready to revise expectations for the once vastly overrated Wolfpack. Even so, I’m even more impressed by Miami’s thorough dismantling of UCF, who boasts a future NBA big man in Keith Clanton and – this counts double in my vague which-win-is-better grade book – was playing at home, riding a three-game winning streak. Both wins provide credible non-league resume heft, and while I’m eager to anoint an ACC No. 2, it’s simply too early to make subjective judgments when league play has yet to begin. Here’s what I know, though: Miami and NC State stumbled early, got back on their feet and appear to be rounding into form at just the right time. The ACC season will parse out the specifics. For now, the Wolfpack and Hurricanes belong in the league’s upper echelon, with Duke living a distinguished existence inside its own category.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Big Ten Powers Struggle With Cupcakes. The scheduling powers-that-be set up Ohio State and Michigan State’s slate with putative guarantee games before big non-conference tests against Kansas and Texas, respectively (Texas isn’t the team most envisioned heading into the season, but the Longhorns are no pushover). The Buckeyes faced Winthrop, who hadn’t picked up its first win over a Division I opponent until it beat Ohio three days ago, while the Spartans had a slightly trickier road game at Bowling Green on their hands. These set up perfectly as two tune-up games for two Big Ten frontrunners. In the end, Ohio State and Michigan State got tougher tests than they probably expected, although both managed to come away with victories. Whether these struggles were a mere product of a common case of look-ahead syndrome or something more concerning that bears watching heading into the weekend remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Week Five

Posted by IRenko on December 15th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

The past week brought bad news for mid-major fans in that the 2013 edition of the Bracketbusters will be the last.  There are diverging views on the value and appeal of the Bracketbusters, which was designed to give mid-majors a higher profile in advance of the NCAA Tournament where their presence as potential spoilers is a crowd-pleasing hallmark of March Madness. Personally, I found every year’s Bracketbuster matchups to be compelling, as some of the best mid-major teams in the country were pitted against each other just as they were rounding into peak form. But individual aesthetics aside, it’s worth asking whether the Bracketbusters event served one of its more objective purposes — to help mid-major teams bolster their at-large resumes with quality wins over non-conference opponents late in the season. Recent years’ evidence suggests that Bracketbuster games have actually helped quite a bit in this regard. In each of the last three seasons, a mid-major team that snuck into the at-large field did so in part on the strength of a late season quality win over Bracketbuster weekend. And one of those teams went on to make the Final Four.

Without the Bracketbuster, This May Not Have Happened

Without the Bracketbuster, This May Not Have Happened

Last year, Iona scored its second best win of the year (in RPI terms) when it knocked off Nevada. The Gaels went on to make the NCAA Tournament as a #14 seed. In 2010, Utah State also picked up its second best win of the season — one of only two RPI top 50 wins — when it defeated Wichita State. That may have been the difference-maker that got them into the NCAA Tournament field as a #12 seed. And perhaps the most famous beneficiary of the Bracketbusters concept was 2011’s VCU. The Rams notched a critical victory over Wichita State in the middle of a rough stretch during which they had lost four of five games to close the regular season. Their at-large selection defied the odds as it was, but imagine how tough a choice they would have been for the Selection Committee without the late season quality win over the Shockers. Without Bracketbusters weekend, we may never have had the privilege of watching the Rams wreak their unique brand of “havoc” on the Southwest region en route to the Final Four. So whatever else one might say about the Bracketbusters, let it not be said that it did not make a difference.

Moving on to this week’s Top 10 and more …

Top Ten Rankings

RTC -- TO26 (12.15.12)

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Morning Five: 08.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 3rd, 2012

  1. Thursday was a day of personnel movement around the college basketball landscape, but it was an endorsement of a proposal by NCAA leadership that made the most news. If approved as expected by NCAA presidents in October, a new measure for much more punitive penalties against NCAA rules violators would include “postseason bans of up to four years, fines that could stretch into the millions and suspensions for head coaches.” If these sanctions sound familiar, they should — Penn State’s unprecedented probation meted out by the NCAA just over a week ago included several components of these changes. Perhaps the biggest and most important change is in the shifting of culpability from individuals within the program to the “captain of the ship” — the head coach. Under the new guidelines, head coaches would be presumed vicariously liable for illegal actions performed by members of their staff — the burden would then fall on the head coach himself to prove that he was completely unaware of those transgressions (and was not negligent in doing so) to avoid responsibility. We haven’t had time to give this a lot of thought just yet, but in the era of ensuring plausible deniability among top dogs everywhere, this is a sea change in the way the NCAA views its expectations of conduct.
  2. Kelsey Barlow was last seen getting booted off of Purdue’s basketball team in late February after his second disruptive incident in a year, when he and teammate DJ Byrd became involved in some kind of confrontation at a West Lafayette bar. A tremendous perimeter defender with ideal size for the position at 6’5″, Barlow left his team high and dry for the second straight year during March Madness — in 2011, he was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team,” and while VCU thoroughly ripped Purdue in that year’s Round of 32, he surely could have helped the Boilers in their tight game with Kansas at the same spot last year. Illinois-Chicago announced on Thursday that Barlow will resurface in the Loop, sitting out next season as a transfer to become eligible to play as a senior in 2013-14. Barlow started 22 games for Purdue last season, averaging 8/4/2 APG in a key glue guy role while also helping to lock down opposing guards in Matt Painter’s sticky defense. This is a talented pickup for a program that was absolutely terrible last year — 3-15 in the Horizon League, 8-22 overall — let’s hope that Barlow uses his second chance wisely.
  3. USC basketball received excellent news on Wednesday when doctors cleared its star point guard Jio Fontan to begin full contact practices again. It was a little over a year ago when the Trojan playmaker tore his ACL during an exhibition trip to Brazil, effectively torpedoing USC’s season before it even got started. A 19-win NCAA Tournament team from 2010-11 drooped to a disastrous six-win group without Fontan’s floor leadership as injuries mounted and hope was lost. Next season, though, Kevin O’Neill has a much higher ceiling for his squad — with Fontan back to join the intriguing prospect of seven-footer DeWayne Dedmon and a host of talented D-I transfers, the Trojans may be poised to leap back toward the top tier of the Pac-12 in a hurry. For comprehensive coverage of USC basketball, check out our Pac-12 microsite’s USC Week from back in early July.
  4. Going from the national championship game to an interim tag in the SWAC is a precipitous decline for a single decade of work, but that’s exactly where former Indiana (2002 national finalist) and UAB head coach Mike Davis finds himself this Friday morning after accepting the interim head coaching job at Texas Southern. According to local reports, the school “plans […] on keeping” Davis on board permanently as soon as it figures out how to handle the abrupt resignation of its previous head coach, Tony Harvey. Davis, along with Matt Doherty (UNC) and Billy Gillispie (Kentucky) represents one of the holy trinity of hires at elite programs in the last decade who were way, way in over their heads at that level. The race to the bottom knows no bounds.
  5. There’s no shortage of bizarre arrest stories in sports, and this one won’t move the broader society needle. But the weird “clerical error” involving Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland that resulted in his arrest during a routine traffic stop on Thursday is borderline absurd. First of all, he was reportedly stopped for “failure to signal” at a turn near the UK campus in Lexington. In most situations, this is otherwise known as a pretext to profile someone — seriously, who gets stopped for a turn signal violation? But it appears that in stopping him, a whole new can of worms was opened in that it turns out that Strickland’s license is currently suspended in Tennessee (which, through reciprocity with Kentucky, showed up in the national criminal database). That suspension stemmed from another arrest in October 2007 when he was pulled over while intoxicated and at the time was driving on a suspended license from Maryland! He also has a DUI conviction from Kentucky in 2010 which temporarily suspended his license there (it was reinstated in 2011). Good grief, man. It sounds like Strickland has a problem — whether with poor decision-making or something more sinister. Regardless, he just needs to leave the car at home.
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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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Checking In On… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 15th, 2011

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Cream of the Crop Rises: It’s only mid-December, but don’t let the overall records fool you: The conference cream of the crop has already risen to the top. There is a clear division between the upper and lower halves of the Horizon League in 2011-12. Some teams (Milwaukee, Detroit, Butler, and Valparaiso) chose to test themselves before conference play begins. With Butler having a down season, a conference crown is there for the taking and each of these schools is hoping that their tough-minded scheduling philosophy pays off late in the season.
  • UW-Milwaukee Pushes Wisconsin: Playing in front of the largest regular season home crowd in school history at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee, the Panthers went on a 16-1 run in the second half to cut 17-point deficit to two. But Wisconsin hit a few big shots down the stretch to hold on for a 60-54 win. UWM – who were without injured starters Kyle Kelm and Ja’Rob McCallum – dug themselves a hole in the first half after they shot just 30% from the field and made seven of 17 free throws for the game. Tony Meijer scored all of his team-high 15 points in a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the second half.
  • Return of the Titan: 6’10’’ center Eli Holman returned from an indefinite suspension and played in his first two games this past week. Though he didn’t start either game, Holman dunked his way to 21 points and snagged seven rebounds in his season-opener against Western Michigan and then went for nine and nine (points and boards) in the Titans’ loss to Alabama. Coach Ray McCallum Sr. seems to be making Holman earn his way back into the starting lineup, which is probably smart for the sake of team chemistry. Detroit survived a tough non-conference schedule without him including a nice win over St. John’s, but a low-post force like Holman is a rarity in the Horizon League. With him, the Titans should challenge Milwaukee and Cleveland State for conference supremacy.

Brad Stevens May Have Scheduled A Bit Too Aggressively With Significant Graduation Losses Giving Way To A Young Team

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State(10-1, 2-0) –The two best non-conference wins of the season thus far belong to the Vikings (road wins over Vanderbilt and Mid-American Conference favorite Kent State). Senior D’Aundray Brown has bounced back nicely from an injured hand to lead the team in scoring (12.7 PPG) and is second in rebounding (4.5 RPG). Guard Trevon Harmon was named conference Player of the Week after averaging 20 points in victories over Robert Morris and at Akron. The key to CSU’s early-season success, however, has been tough defense. With former star Norris Cole now in the NBA, the Vikings have used a quick, smaller lineup and their trademark pressure defense to hold opponents to just 57.5 points per game while swiping ten steals per game, both conference-bests. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer Updates: Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 17th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Horizon League correspondent, Jimmy Lemke.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • End of an Era - Homer Drew may have done his best work in the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), but that doesn’t bar the Horizon League community from recognizing the tremendous stature of the now-retired Valparaiso coach. He’s done it before – briefly retiring earlier in the decade to pave the way for son Scott Drew and promptly retaking the reins after Scott took the very difficult job at Baylor – but this time you could tell it was final. His ability to recruit overseas is second to none, and we will always remember the feel-good story of his1998 team. Speaking of that year, the coach to now replace him? None other than his other son, all-time Crusader great Bryce Drew.
  • Dickie V. Rules In Motor City - The Detroit Titans made a big splash this summer by deciding to name their court for former Titans coach and renowned broadcaster, Dick Vitale. While he spent only four years as head of the Titans before taking over as coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, Dickie V’s exploits on behalf of college basketball are immeasurable. Dick Vitale IS college basketball, regardless of how you feel about him. As a longtime follower of the Milwaukee program, I see the court naming as a disappointment for Perry Watson, who coached the Titans for a considerably longer stretch and was very successful in that time, but there’s no doubting the decision from the future point of view. This season, St. John’s will play at Detroit on ESPN following a ceremony celebrating the honor, and I’d be willing to bet the Titans are banking on any Dick Vitale anniversaries falling on Detroit’s home schedule with a visit from ESPN.
  • Big Names DepartBrandon Wood took a highly-publicized transfer to Michigan State and will be able to play immediately because he finished his degree at Valparaiso where his graduate program isn’t offered. Shelvin Mack declared for the draft and stayed put, going early in the second round to the Washington Wizards. But the biggest move in the conference is from the graduating senior class. Nearly every big team lost multiple big time competitors. Butler, of course, lost Mack, but they also lost Zach Hahn, Shawn Vanzant and, most importantly, Matt Howard. Milwaukee loses Anthony Hill and streaky-but-dangerous shooter Tone Boyle. Wright State, already on the downturn, lost Cooper Land, Troy Tabler, Vaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans. Cleveland State waved a heartfelt goodbye to perhaps the most talented of them all, Norris Cole, now with the Miami Heat. Put simply, eight of the ten 2010-11 all-Horizon League team members have exited the conference, with only two remaining: Ray McCallum, Jr. and Eli Holman, both of Detroit.

Brad Stevens Led The Bulldogs To Another Title Game Appearance, But He Faces Life Without Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack in the 2011-12 Season.

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Morning Five: 08.04.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2011

  1. The match-ups for several early season tournaments were released yesterday. Looking through the match-ups we have to say we are kind of underwhelmed. By far the best bracket released yesterday was from the 2K Sports Classic, which features Texas A&M against Mississippi State and St. John’s against Arizona. With four intriguing teams we would be interested in all four of the games played there including the consolation game. Outside of that the only interesting match-ups are the opening round match-up between Iona and Purdue in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and a potential match-up between Vanderbilt and Texas in the Legends Classic. Of course, our perception of what is deemed a quality early season tournament might be skewed by the upcoming Maui Invitational.
  2. On Tuesday we pointed out how weak Connecticut‘s non-conference schedule was. We won’t be doing the same with Florida‘s non-conference schedule where they are scheduled to play against six teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season. The most daunting games are trips to Ohio State and Syracuse (both of which should be ranked in the top 5 in the preseason rankings). Outside of that the Gators will play against Arizona, Florida State, and UAB in Gainesville and a neutral site game against Texas A&M. That has to be one of the most brutal non-conference schedules in the country and if Billy Donovan has any questions about his team they should be answered relatively early in the year.
  3. Yesterday there was a lot of buzz on Twitter about an article in The Wall Street Journal about Jerron Love, a 15-year old basketball player, and his father Jerry, who runs his own recruiting site. The basic premise of the article is that Jerron is a “phenom” who some are calling the country’s top eighth-grade basketball player. The catch? The person calling him that is his father. We didn’t have a chance to follow every comment on Twitter about this story, but it seemed like everybody thought the entire story was ridiculous (here’s our tweet about it). The more amusing thing was how they were interviewing people who were raving about Jerron based on the ranking and did not even realize that it was his father doing the ranking.
  4. For years sports fans have made jokes about Boise State‘s blue football field. Now, thanks to Northwestern, we may have the college basketball version. The school is designing the court at Welsh-Ryan Arena and has offered it fans (and curious onlookers) four options from which they can reportedly choose the new court. We aren’t sure how much impact the fan voting (done here), but we would like to direct your attention to option 3. We are hoping that option 3 is a joke or we might have to make another post similar to the one we did for Oregon‘s court.
  5. The NCAA granted Toledo transfer Hayden Humes a waiver to play next season at the University of Illinois-Chicago after Toledo’s program lost three scholarships due to low APR scores. As a freshman Humes averaged 5.7 PPG and 5.1 RPG and he will be expected to contribute to a team that finished last in the Horizon League (7-24 overall, 2-16 in conference) and graduated its top three rebounders from last season. While Toledo will miss his production on the court they might miss his 3.43 GPA as a freshman even more as it may have been more helpful to the program in the long run.
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Horizon League Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League Correspondent for RTC. With the conference tournament set to tip tonight, get a leg up on all things Horizon in this week’s recap and postseason preview.

Tournament Preview

To be perfectly honest, the Horizon League Tournament is stacked to allow the top two seeds the ability to get into the tournament, and it’s hard to argue with the success – each of the co-champions has won in the NCAA Tournament since the current format began. The funny thing is, hot teams really should be able to win the thing, and this year is no different. Except the hottest teams, Milwaukee (nine conference wins in a row) and Butler (seven) are the two best programs running into the Horizon League Tournament. The way those teams played, against the top teams all the way down to the bottom of the conference, was good enough to warrant the double-bye.

Butler’s side of the bracket features some really tough teams. Cleveland State is a co-champion, the first such team to have to go four games to win it. Wright State split with Butler, and both Green Bay and UIC played Butler tough during the conference season.

The Milwaukee side of the invitational features Youngstown State, who very nearly beat everyone ahead of them at the Beeghly Center; Loyola, who actually won in the U.S. Cellular Arena against the hosts; Valparaiso, who had the #1 seed until eight days ago; and Detroit, who has all the talent in the world and fought their way into the #5 seed on the last day of the regular season.

Butler will have to play Cleveland State or someone else on their side of the bracket just to get to the conference championship, but make no mistake, they’ve got someone that they’re looking forward to playing. Fast forward to the 4:35 mark.

A Look Back

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

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

A Look Back

The big picture of the Horizon League got further muddled when Valparaiso, who owned first place not one week ago, lost two successive games in Wisconsin (sandwiched around an excellent Bracketbusters victory over Missouri State) and dropped back to the pack. Cleveland State is in first for the time being after defeating Wright State last week.  Their loss at Old Dominion all but ensured the Vikings need to win the conference tournament to make their way into the Big Dance, but it’s not over yet.  The big winners were Milwaukee and Butler, who moved up to second place (five losses) with Valpo’s loss at Green Bay on Monday night.  Both have hopes of hosting the Horizon League Tournament next weekend, but only two schools – Cleveland State and Milwaukee – are in control of their own destiny.

Power Rankings

1. Cleveland State (21-6, 12-4) – Gary Waters and his program missed a great opportunity to get the marquee victory they needed to get into the Dance.  Like Utah State, their resume needed a big Bracketbuster victory to set them up for an at-large berth.  Unlike USU, they didn’t deliver, and now are faced with winning the conference title to go dancing.  Fortunately for Cleveland State, all they need to do is win.  Two home victories over Milwaukee and Green Bay mean Cleveland State is the sole regular season champion, and the Horizon League Tournament goes through Cleveland.  Lose, however, and the Vikings are almost guaranteed to drop out of the top two spots (and the double-bye that comes with them) due to being swept by Butler.

2. Milwaukee (16-12, 11-5) – I’ve spent the whole season putting the Panthers lower on the Power Rankings because I didn’t want to be accused of homerism, but the fact is Milwaukee deserves to be in this spot.  Beating Valparaiso at home was huge, avenging yet another early season loss and putting the Panthers’ goal of winning a conference championship directly in sight.  CSU and Milwaukee are the only teams that control their own destiny, with either team winning out being crowned conference champs.  However, the Panthers would share the regular season crown with any combination of Cleveland State, Butler and Valparaiso.  Should Milwaukee win out, they have the trump card, a sweep over Butler that no other team has.  The loss on the road in the Bracketbuster is deceiving; Milwaukee held out their defensive stopper, Ryan Allen, after he took a hard fall on Wednesday.  He will be tasked with guarding Norris Cole, who still riding a season-long high after his national coming-out party against Youngstown State when he went off for 41 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

3. Butler (19-9, 12-5) – The Dawgs most likely will dispatch Loyola on Senior Night, and let me just say that nobody deserves to be applauded more than Matt Howard.  Talk about a career, this guy has put everything he has into starting at power forward for the Butler Bulldogs since his freshman year, and I’d be astonished if his last regular-season home game was a loss.  Loyola has recent history of winning at Hinkle, but look for Butler to enter the Horizon League Tournament with yet another 20-win season.  To win the conference and host the tournament, Butler needs the winner of Thursday’s Cleveland State-Milwaukee game to lose on Saturday.  It’s a tall order, expecting the 7th place team to win on the road or the 9th place team to win at home, but both have done it this season – Green Bay won at Valpo and Butler fell on the sword at Youngstown State.

4. Valparaiso (18-9, 11-5) – You wanna talk about bad luck, look no further than Valpo.  Heading into Milwaukee, Valpo sat at three losses and owned a tiebreaker with Cleveland State.  Just six days later, they’re on the wrong end of tie-breakers with all three teams.  At Milwaukee, the Crusaders missed two bunny layups in the final seconds, although they got help with the Panthers missing several free throws in the closing minutes.  At Green Bay, Howard Little grabbed a rebound that would have all but sealed a victory for Valpo, but he fell to the ground and traveled, giving the ball back to Green Bay for the winning basket.  Valpo will likely start the conference tournament at the ARC in the first round.  The good news? They only have one home conference loss.

5. Wright State (16-2, 10-7) – The Raiders were still in it a couple weeks ago, but lost games to the contenders and find themselves out of the running.  Wright State is still a very dangerous team, and has beaten almost everybody in the conference despite absences from Troy Tabler and Cooper LandVaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans, when it comes down to it, are still one of the best backcourt tandems in the H-League.  Depending on where they finish, the Raiders will play Green Bay or Loyola in the first round of the tournament, teams they should be able to beat.

6. Detroit (14-15, 9-8) – Remember the beginning of the season, when the national pundits kept putting Detroit in first or second place?  Why was that?  Of course, the answer is Ray McCallum Jr.  Guys like Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and Seth Davis couldn’t fathom how a top-20 recruit would go into the Horizon League and lose enough to finish out of the top two, especially when he’s got a 6’10 monster transfer from Indiana in the block.  The truth is, none of those guys really know how good the Horizon League is.  Detroit isn’t a bad team; they have a very talented starting five and will be a tough out in the Horizon League Tournament.  Their problem is lack of bench depth and questionable coaching.  How can Ray McCallum Sr. not want the ball in Eli Holman’s hands every time down the floor?

7. Green Bay (12-16, 7-9) – The victory over Valpo on Monday was their biggest of the season, on Senior Night no less.  Brian Wardle has an outside chance at the six seed, but will likely open the conference tournament on the road at Detroit.  He is looking at a tough year in 2011-12 without Bryquis Perine, Rahmon Fletcher and Greg LeSage, but Monday night showed that he’s got an excellent building block in seven-footer Alec Brown.

8. Loyola (15-13, 6-10) – It looks like this could be the swan song for Jim Whitesell.  For the fourth season in a row, Jim Whitesell’s weak non-conference scheduling has led to the team being unprepared for the conference season. The Loyola Ramblers haven’t been above the eight seed in the conference tournament since 2006-07, and they have a large renovation to the basketball arena taking place after the season.  This could be a situation like Missouri State, when new digs meant a new coach in Cuonzo Martin.  Unlike the Bears, however, the Ramblers haven’t come truly close the tournament in a long time.  Gone after the season are seniors Andy Polka, Terrance Hill and Geoff McCammon.  The Ramblers have good pieces in Ben Averkamp, Denzel Brito and (potentially) John Gac, but they won’t have the firepower to compete in 2011-12 and after that season will lose almost everybody else of consequence.

9. Youngstown State (7-18, 2-14) – It sure looked like Youngstown State was going to make me eat some crow there for a bit. The day my RTC post condemning the YSU program as unworthy of the Horizon League was released, they up and defeated Butler.  Nearly taking out Valpo a couple days later would have been big for a program that hasn’t had a whole lot to root for.  It’s likely the final go-round for Jerry Slocum, whose wild success in lower-division NCAA did not translate to the D-I Penguins.  But the problem isn’t Slocum as much as it is the inherent problems the department has.  Unless some money is taken from football and injected into the basketball program’s budget, the Penguins will be relegated to the bottom of the barrel for the time being.  And even then it likely won’t be enough.

10. UIC (6-22, 2-15) – Unlike Youngstown State, UIC has the structure to be competitive in the Horizon League.  This season was a lost year the second April 2010 came around and Jimmy Collins was still coach.  The season was further doomed for every month Collins remained, staying long enough to make things especially tough on incoming coach Howard Moore.  The truncated recruiting timetable left the Flames with a couple good players remaining from Collins’ team and bunch of residents of the Island of Misfit Toys.  UIC will be better in 2011-12, but it will be a few years before Howard Moore gets them up to speed.  It seems funny that two of the conference’s best non-conference victories, over Illinois and Rhode Island, came from the Flames.

A Look Ahead

The season is almost over, with only one weekend remaining.  Games on Thursday and Saturday will determine the championship and seeding for the Horizon League Tournament, and while no seeds are official, we do know this:

The top four seeds – Cleveland State, Butler, Milwaukee and Valparaiso - are untouchable.  A fifth, Wright State, has guaranteed at least a home game in the conference tournament.  Detroit has an outside chance of losing their home game to Green Bay, but all signs point to Green Bay at Detroit next Tuesday.  Loyola is the safest team in their seed, with only a 0.6% chance they land in the seven seed.  Youngstown State and UIC will fill out the final two spots, and YSU will likely be the nine seed.

The final thing we know is this: the winner of Thursday’s game between Milwaukee and Cleveland State all but locks up a conference championship going into the final game of the regular season.  Both teams would need to sweep; each team going 1-1 and Butler beating Loyola would make Butler the conference champion. That scenario, however, is unlikely as Cleveland State hosts Green Bay and Milwaukee visits Youngstown State.  A game this big deserves the viewership, and as long as you’re reading this, you can see it: HorizonLeague.org, Thursday, 7 p.m. Eastern.

  • 2.24.11 – Milwaukee at Cleveland State, 7 p.m., Time Warner Sports 32/HLN
  • 2.25.11 – Detroit at Wright State, 7 p.m., HLN
  • 2.26.11 – Milwaukee at Youngstown State, 1 p.m., HLN
  • 2.26.11 – Green Bay at Cleveland State, 2 p.m., HLN
  • 2.26.11 – Loyola at Butler, 2 p.m., HLN

Video of the Week – With such a huge game on the Horizon for Thursday, we’ll take a look back to December, when Cleveland State went to Milwaukee and laid a drubbing on the Panthers:

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 10th, 2011

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

A Look Back

The Horizon League had a lot of jockeying at the top last week as Valparaiso and Cleveland State both suffered losses, pulling the top five teams within two losses of first place with only five games to go for most teams.  Cleveland State avoided the season sweep from Valpo, defeating them to take over sole possession of first place.  Time in the top spot was limited, as the Vikings were dispatched by Butler and Detroit in succession.  The Titans had probably the best week of all, going 3-0 in a short stretch and moving into sixth place, which would net them a home game in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament.

Power Rankings

Before we get started, I’d like to let you know that the Power Rankings will be expanded to discuss jockeying for the conference tournament in March.

1. Valparaiso (17-7, 9-3) – The Crusaders may have lost to CSU in Ohio, but Homer Drew finds himself in the top spot following a squeaker victory over surprising Youngstown State. The Crusaders will host Detroit and Wright State this weekend at the ARC.  Beating the Raiders is very important, as it knocks the 2nd place team back to the pack. Valparaiso has one of the toughest remaining schedules.  All they need to do is win, and then the conference tournament will run through Valpo.  Remaining conference games: Detroit, Wright State, at Milwaukee, at Green Bay, Loyola, UIC.

2. Wright State (17-9, 10-4) – Since taking a loss at Milwaukee a week ago, the Raiders took care of business with a 3-0 week.  Sure, the victories came against the dregs of the Horizon League, but the conference has no easy outs, as Loyola and Youngstown State have proven this season.  They stand one loss behind Valparaiso, but if they can topple the Crusaders, they’ve got a real opportunity to steal the conference with Troy Tabler and Cooper Land hobbled.  To win the conference, they need to beat Valparaiso and keep winning. Remaining: at Butler, at Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Detroit.

3. Cleveland State (21-5, 10-4) – The week started off great; a victory over top-seeded Valparaiso put them in the driver’s seat.  Then losses to Butler and Detroit really nipped the Vikings, who now are looking up at the Crusaders and have some very tough dates left on their schedule. If they’re going to win the conference, they need someone to pull Valparaiso down to four losses. Remaining: Youngstown State, at Wright State, Milwaukee, Green Bay.

4. Milwaukee (13-11, 8-5) – The switch has come on at just the right time.  Since a blowout loss at Valparaiso, the Panthers have run through a veritable Horizon Murderer’s Row with flying colors, dispatching Butler, Detroit, Wright State and Green Bay to put themselves right in the thick of things.  The Panthers can’t afford another loss or their chances at a League title are all but gone, but they also can make things rough for Valparaiso and Cleveland State. They need to go 5-0 the rest of the season, as well as see Valparaiso and Wright State suffer a loss at the hands of someone else.  Remaining: at Loyola, at UIC, Valparaiso, at Cleveland State, at Youngstown State.

5. Butler (16-9, 8-5) – The Dawgs did themselves a mitzvah by dispatching Cleveland State and keeping themselves in the running.  The sweep by Milwaukee prevents the Bulldogs to beat them in almost any tiebreaker scenario.  Luckily for Butler, the Panthers have a difficult road schedule remaining and they should be able to win most if not all their remaining games.  They need Milwaukee, Valpo, Cleveland State, and Wright State to lose as well, Valpo twice. Too bad for them, they only have the ability to beat Wright State, tonight. Remaining: Wright State, Detroit, at Green Bay, at UIC, Loyola.

6. Detroit (14-12, 8-6) – Detroit will not win the conference, and their opportunities to get the #2 seed are almost nil.  The good news is that their victories last week have put them over the top of Green Bay for the six seed, which is almost as important as jumping into the two seed.  If the season were to end today, the Titans would host Green Bay in the tournament.  Remaining: at Valparaiso, at Butler, Youngstown State, at Wright State.

7. Green Bay (12-12, 6-6) – Missing out on the opportunity to sweep Milwaukee and put themselves in a tie for fourth has given the Phoenix a lot of problems.  They have games against three of the top five teams in the conference, but if they finish the season with a good record, they can sneak back into the top six. Remaining: at UIC, at Loyola, Butler, Valparaiso, at Youngstown State, at Cleveland State.

8. Loyola (13-11, 4-9) – For what seems to be the fourth season in a row, Jim Whitesell’s weak non-conference scheduling has led to the team being unprepared for the conference season.  This season’s 9-2 non-conference record has given way to a bad 4-9 record, guaranteeing a losing conference season.  The Ramblers are on the outside looking in for a conference tournament home game, because they would need to win their last five games as well as have Detroit lose all four remaining games and Green Bay to drop at least three of their final six.  Remaining: Milwaukee, Green Bay, at UIC, at Valparaiso, at Butler.

9. Youngstown State (8-16, 2-12) – I took a lot of flack last week for proclaiming that YSU does not belong in the Horizon League, then having the Penguins beat Butler and very nearly take down Valparaiso.  My stance toward the Penguins hasn’t changed, and neither will most people when they realize this: should the Penguins sweep their final four games and end at 6-12, it will be their third best victory total in conference games since they joined the conference ten years ago. Remaining: at Cleveland State, at Detroit, Green Bay, Milwaukee.

10. UIC (6-19. 1-12) – Blowing out Youngstown State was the bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Flames.  The first year of Howard Moore was considered a wash since day one, since he only had a couple months with the team before the start of the season.  Next season will be a better indication of the direction Moore is taking the Flames.  They will open the conference tournament on the road, where they haven’t won in the H-League this season.

A Look Ahead

Tonight’s showdown at Hinkle between Wright State and Butler will be a good indication of what the conference picture is looking like.  Beat Butler, and the Raiders have a trump card over the other two teams in the top three and the opportunity to pull Valparaiso into a three-way tie on Saturday. Lose, and they’re at best the #5-seed going into Saturday.  Valparaiso hosts red-hot Detroit at 7 p.m. tonight.

  • 2.10 – Wright State at Butler, 7 p.m. HLN
  • 2.10 – Detroit at Valparaiso, 8 p.m. HLN
  • 2.10 – Milwaukee at Loyola, 8 p.m. HLN
  • 2.12 – Wright State at Valparaiso, 8 p.m. HLN
  • 2.12 – Detroit at Butler, 8 p.m. HLN
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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2011

Jimmy Lemke is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

A Look Back

Everyone thought that Cleveland State had asserted its dominance on the conference; their first four victories yielded four blowouts. We should have known, by looking at the Power Rankings, that the teams CSU smashed into the ground were the teams that sit in the bottom half of the rankings.  It should have been no surprise, then, that the Vikings were blown out at Butler and then dropped a close one against Valparaiso at the ARC in their trip through Indiana, never an easy trip for any Horizon League team.  Butler destroyed the Vikings in the battle of the top teams in the Horizon League, and they’re back to their customary #1 spot in the Power Rankings.  In one of the conference’s biggest rivalries, Milwaukee shot poorly and couldn’t go over the top of seven-footer Alec Brown in the post, dropping a 69-64 decision in Green Bay.

Power Rankings

1. Butler (12-5, 4-1) – The Bulldogs took a licking at Milwaukee last Monday, ending their 22-game conference winning streak, a Horizon League record.  They responded just as a Brad Stevens-coached team is expected to — by destroying first-place Cleveland State in front of a crowd of 7,071.  The Bulldogs changed their lot with that victory; had they lost, they’d stand at 2-2 headed into the game against Youngstown State that was too close for comfort.

2. Cleveland State (15-3, 4-2) – Any dominance the Vikings had asserted over the conference was dashed this past week.  Gary Waters‘ crew learned, as every team does, that it’s extremely difficult to win on the road at a Horizon League school.  The Vikings were blown out at Butler before dropping a decision at Valpo.  They get an easy week to recharge before their rivalry game at Youngstown State on Saturday.

3. Valparaiso (12-5, 4-1) – If the Crusaders dominated Cleveland State, they may have even overtaken second.  But the Crusaders have six road games left in the conference, a tall order in the H-League.  Should they get back to scoring in the high sixties and beyond on a consistent basis, they’ll be a tough out the rest of the way.

4. Detroit (10-7, 4-1) – Tommy Titan has got to be a happy camper.  His Detroit squad went to Chicago and came back unscathed, although the UIC Flames definitely put a scare into Ray McCallum‘s crew.  The Titans have a showdown with Butler on Friday night.

5. Wright State (11-6, 4-1) – To date, the only blotch on the Wright State resume in conference is a road loss at Detroit, one they suffered at the beginning of December. Since then, the Raiders have gone on an absolute tear through the Horizon, with only one truly close game (Green Bay, decided on a buzzer beater by Vaughn Duggins).  Still, Wright State’s four wins have come against four of the bottom five teams in the conference. We’ll have a better idea of where they’re at when they welcome Valparaiso and Butler to the Nutter Center this weekend.

6. Milwaukee (8-9, 3-3) – It’s hard to figure out the Panthers, who have excellent wins against Butler, Northern Iowa and Detroit but also quizzical losses to Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic and a blowout at Wright State.  The Panthers will continue to be a middling Horizon League team until they can figure out how to put together a consistent 40 minutes of basketball.

7. Green Bay (8-9, 2-3) – Until Saturday, the Phoenix did not have a notable victory.  Once again, though, Green Bay defended the home court against a well-traveled Milwaukee program, separating themselves (for now) from the bottom of the pack.  A pair of games against Loyola and UIC should give an idea as to whether or not they’re truly above the cellar.

8. Loyola (10-7, 1-5) – An excellent non-conference record has been buoyed once again by the poor level of talent.  Jim Whitesell‘s team scheduled as though they were hoping to get to 15 victories.  Their lone conference win is a blowout 30-point schellacking at Youngstown State.

9. Youngstown State (6-9, 1-5) – Boy, did they come close.  A Penguins squad that’s been blown out by nearly every team they played in the conference season came to Hinkle Fieldhouse and nearly stole one from the Bulldogs.  It’s unlikely that YSU will replicate that effort for every game the rest of the season, so look for Cleveland State to clean up in the rivalry game.

10. UIC (5-12, 0-5) – The honest truth is that the UIC faithful were expecting a season like this.  You don’t have the turnover the Chicago school has weathered without going through some transition, and this season hasn’t been much of a surprise.  The Flames have an opportunity to win in Wisconsin this weekend, but a road victory is a difficult thing to obtain in the conference.

A Look Ahead

The Horizon League has been ridiculously unpredictable in the beginning of the conference season; only two teams, Detroit and Wright State (not Cleveland State and Butler) have avoided blowout losses.  From December 30th through January 5th, no game was decided by less than 16 points and more than 3.  This week has it all; Big time teams go on the road (Butler to Detroit and Wright State, CSU to Youngstown State), rivals jockey for position (UIC and Loyola invade Wisconsin), and big offense runs into big defense (Valpo heads to Dayton to take on Wright State).

  • 1/14 – Butler at Detroit, 7 p.m. ESPNU
  • 1/15 – Cleveland State at Youngstown State, 7 p.m. Horizon League Network
  • 1/15 – Loyola at Milwaukee, 2 p.m. Horizon League Network
  • 1/16 - Valparaiso at Detroit, 1 p.m. Horizon League Network
  • 1/16 – Butler at Wright State, 7 p.m. Horizon League Network (WNDY 23 in Indianapolis)

YouTube Clip of the Week

The fact is, it’s tough for ANYONE to travel in the Horizon League.  Just ask Butler, who lost for the seventh time in their last ten trips to Milwaukee:

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