What an exciting week in Horizon League action. Seven of the first nine conference games were within 6 points in the end. Such a great way to start the conference season. It wasn’t all conference fun however. The league went 2-0 against the Big East as well. This league continues to improve year in and year out.
In descending order…
10. Loyola – The Ramblers are lost. There is very little to be positive about as they traveled to Wisconsin and were thoroughly outplayed in every facet of each game. Without Courtney Stanley, this team doesn’t have a competent floor general, and I expect to see them stay in this spot for the foreseeable future.
9. UIC – The Flames could make a case here to be a bit higher. They played both Green Bay and Milwaukee down to the wire and even took the more talented Panthers to overtime. UIC has a ton of potential with their undersized guards Gary Talton, Daniel Barnes and Marc Brown. Brown, a freshman, will be a really nice player as he continues to mature.
8. Wright State – The Raiders nearly pulled off the upset against Cleveland State, but a loss is a loss. However, they rebounded in a big way against Youngstown State at home. The Raiders are going to struggle this year. That much is obvious. But they have to feel good about how junior transfer Julius Mays has played so far.
7. Green Bay – Hey, I don’t care who they played, anytime you can start the conference season 2-0 you have to be happy about it. The Phoenix are a very young team and they’ll continue to learn on the fly. Seventh seems about right for them, and I expect them to hover around this spot all season.
6. Detroit – They beat St. John’s on Dickie V night on ESPN2, but this team looks rudderless. It’s no secret that Ray McCallum has been questioned as a head coach. It’s beginning to look like he may be nothing more than a recruiter. Still, with that much talent, I expect them to figure things out sooner or later. Eli Holman was recently reinstated but has yet to play in a game. That will certainly change things for them. He has NBA talent.
5. Youngstown State – The Penguins were looking great to move into the top 4 of the power rankings until they blew the game at Wright State late. Kendrick Perry has been outstanding as just a sophomore. He leads the conference in points per game. Incredible that Jerry Slocum is experiencing a revival in year 7 at Youngstown.
4. Butler – I have a hard time putting Butler any lower than this despite their mediocre record. The Bulldogs lost a heartbreaker against Valpo in overtime and it puts them at 0-1 in conference play. It’ll be interesting to see if Coach Brad Stevens continues to go with two freshmen (Kameron Woods and Roosevelt Jones) in the starting lineup. The Bulldogs need someone to step up and score consistently.
3. Valparaiso – The Crusaders could certainly argue that they belong in the top two after the win in overtime over Butler. Richie Edwards has been tremendous as of late and Coach Bryce Drew has a great trio of forwards in Ryan Broekhoff, Kevin Van Wijk, and Edwards. These guys can definitely challenge for the Horizon League title this year.
2. Milwaukee– Following up a blowout against Loyola, the Panthers struggled against UIC late. It was a good show of resiliency and it proved valuable as they won their next game at DePaul despite a frantic comeback from the Blue Demons. This team has a ton of talent and they’ll continue to gel as the season wears on.
1. Cleveland State – The Vikings continue to play well winning their first two conference games on the road. It was this degree of difficulty that keeps them in first for now. As a basketball fan, I just can’t wait to see them clash with Valpo and Milwaukee. Defensively, they’re a treat to watch.