The Quarterfinals

Tonight is a big night, ladies and gentlemen.  The bottom four seeds of the Horizon League have ended their seasons.  Gone are stars like Vytas Sulskis, Robo Kreps, Rahmon Fletcher, Bryquis Perine and Geoff McCammon.  Loyola, Green Bay, UIC and Youngstown State just didn’t have their best years, and they’re already preparing for 2011-12, when they’ll try and make it better.

The thing that strikes me, as we get ready for the conference quarterfinals, is that this conference is loaded with talented players on great teams.  Look at Wright State.  They’re the lowest seed remaining, yet they have some of the best guard play in the conference.  Vaughn Duggins has the potential to go off for 30 on any given night, and he might need to if they’re going to take down Norris Cole and the Vikings.

Detroit spent the past few weeks beating teams they should have beaten and losing to teams they should have lost to.  The one exception may be Wright State, who was above them in the standings at tip-off and is still standing in the conference tournament.

Valparaiso, on the other hand, had the conference title all sewn up and let it slip away.  Forget the loss to Milwaukee; just beating three of the bottom four teams last week would have made them conference champs.  Instead, they dropped two of those three and nearly coughed up the tournament opener against Youngstown State.

The Valpo-Detroit match-up is an interesting one.  Kevin Van Wijk has not been the player that the Valpo camp propped him up to be at the beginning of the season, but he’s still a decent post player.  The problem is, even if LaMarcus Lowe and Eli Holman were out tonight (which they won’t be), Nick Minnerath would still be the most talented post player on the court.

That is where there’s a huge problem for the Crusaders.  If Ray McCallum Sr. wakes up and realizes the Titans’ best option is to run the ball through Eli Holman and not his son, the Crusaders’ chances slim down significantly.

Valpo has a distinct advantage in the backcourt.  While Detroit has a bunch of guards who can score, only Ray Jr. can really defend and the other guards, specifically Chase Simon, are streaky in their scoring.  Expect Erik Buggs to be all over Ray Jr., and Valpo’s other guards to be able to score at will.

My pick is Detroit, simply because Detroit can almost match guards with Valpo, and they have a distinct advantage in the post.  Eli Holman is the key to the game.  But either team would be a difficult opponent on Saturday.

On the other side of the bracket, it’s just not that hard.  Wright State has a great guard tandem, but their shooting isn’t as good as it has been in years’ past and their post play is non-existent.  It was hard for them to beat Green Bay, whose post player, Alec Brown, is dominant at times and completely invisible at others.

Cleveland State, on the other hand, has the off-guards in Trevon Harmon and Jeremy Montgomery who can shoot the lights out and guard just about anyone.  Aaron Pogue is by no means dominant, but he’s a big body and competent in the lane.  Wright State has nobody that can legitimately go one-on-one with him.  Oh, and they also have the conference Player of the Year.

My pick is Cleveland State, because they just have too much firepower for Wright State to stop.

See you all at the games at 5!

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