Horizon League Power Rankings (February 15-21)

The Horizon League holds steady in the conference RPI ranks remaining ahead of the Missouri Valley Conference for 11th this week.

In descending order…

10. UIC (Overall Record: 6-22, Conference Record: 2-15, RPI: 291)

Recent Results: Lost to Loyola 67-66 (OT), Lost to Butler 79-52

With just one game left on the schedule for the Flames, it looks like a certainty they’ll finish last in the league for the tournament.  Their likely draw for the first round of the tournament will be Valpo or Butler who they are 0-3 against this season.  Projected Conference Finish: 2-16 (10th); no postseason

Up Next: Saturday at Valparaiso (18-9)

9. Youngstown State (7-18, 2-14, 272)

Recent Results: Lost to Detroit 91-79, Beat Bowling Green 83-76

The Penguins are toiling at 2-14 in conference, but they have two home games left, and I think they win at least one of them.  Projected Finish: 3-15 (9th); no postseason

Up Next: Thursday vs. Green Bay (12-16)

8. Loyola (15-13, 6-10, 213)

Recent Results: Beat UIC 67-66 (OT), Lost to St. Peters 71-67

The Ramblers only have one win against a Horizon League team in the top half of the conference.  They’re a below average team in an above average conference…  Projected Finish: 6-12 (8th); no postseason

Up Next: Thursday at Valparaiso (18-9)

7. Green Bay (12-16, 7-9, 190)

Recent Results: Lost to Butler 64-62, Lost to Southern Illinois 61-60, Beat Valparaiso 81-80 (OT)

After losing two straight games to game winning baskets by the opposing team, you can imagine how hard Coach Brian Wardle’s heart was pumping in his chest when he found his team going to overtime against 11-4 Valparaiso.  This time, the Phoenix were on the other side of the drama; much to the delight of Milwaukee Panther fans everywhere.  Projected Finish: 7-11 (7th); no postseason

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Butler (17-9)

6. Detroit (14-15, 9-8, 159)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 91-79, Lost to Drake 84-76

Do you realize that the Titans have exactly TWO wins over teams in the RPI top 150 all year?!  They surprised Cleveland State earlier this month, but before that their only other decent win was on December 4th against Wright State.  Their last chance at another top-150 win comes on Friday at Wright State.  I don’t see it happening…   Projected Finish: 9-9 (6th); no postseason

Up Next: Friday at Wright State (16-12)

5. Wright State (16-12, 10-7, 111)

Recent Results: Lost to Cleveland State 74-72, Beat Hofstra 82-56

Wright State is still playing really good basketball.  After losing to Valpo, Butler, and Cleveland St. by a combined 12 points (two of them on the road), they then went out and crushed Hofstra.  Projected Finish: 11-7 (5th); no postseason

Up Next: Friday vs. Detroit (14-15)

When it came down to it, Valparaiso couldn't close on a victory.

4. Valparaiso (18-9, 11-5, 48)

Recent Results: Beat Detroit 82-74, Beat Wright State 58-56

I had a hard time trying to decide what the order should be the rest of the way.  Valparaiso falls here due to their losses at Milwaukee and Green Bay.  Still, they beat a really good Missouri State team this past weekend.  Projected Finish: 13-5 (3rd); NIT

Up Next: Wednesday at Milwaukee (15-11)

3. Milwaukee (16-12, 11-5, 107)

Recent Results: Beat Valparaiso 79-76, Lost to Buffalo 80-65

Losing to Buffalo was expected in my opinion.  It was clear that the Panthers had nothing to play for in this game, and quite frankly, they had much more to lose.  They came out of the game with their best post player, Anthony Hill, injured with a “twisted ankle.”  They’ll need everyone at 100% to overcome Norris Cole and the Cleveland State Vikings.  If they can, only Youngstown State stands in their way for the league title.   Projected Finish: 12-6 (4th); CIT

Up Next: Thursday at Cleveland State (21-6)

Ronald Nored will do everything he can to get the Bulldogs back to the NCAA's.

2. Butler (19-9, 12-5, 49)

Recent Results: Beat Green Bay 64-62, Beat UIC 79-52

The Bulldogs will go into the tournament having won seven in a row and huge momentum towards the NCAA tournament.  A product of their weak schedule to end the season, Butler has a really good shot at at the coveted two seed, but they’ll need a little help, as well as a victory over Loyola. Projected Finish: 13-5 (2nd); NCAA Tournament Auto Bid

Up Next: Saturday vs. Loyola (15-13)

1. Cleveland State (21-6, 12-4, 35)

Recent Results: Beat Wright State 64-62, Lost to Old Dominion 74-63

Losing to Old Dominion all but assures that the Vikings will need to win the HL Tournament to get to the NCAA Tournament.  Norris Cole will do everything in his power to make sure that happens.  Projected Finish: 14-4 (1st); NIT

Up Next: Thursday vs. Milwaukee (16-12)


Horizon League Power Rankings (January 18-24)

The Horizon League holds steady at 11th in Conference RPI this week.

In descending order…

10. UIC (Overall Record: 4-15, Conference Record: 0-8, RPI: 266)

Recent Results: Lost to Loyola 68-59

Another dismal season for the Flames.  A bummer of a way to go out for seniors Paul Carter and Robo Kreps.  UIC will be hard-pressed to reach 5 wins this season.  Crazy that one of them came against Illinois.  Bizarre…

Up Next: Thursday vs. Cleveland State (16-3)

9. Youngstown State (5-12, 1-8, 260)

Recent Results: Lost to Wright State 66-62, Lost to Detroit 73-69

The Penguins actually put together a rather competitive week.  They only lost to Detroit and Wright State by a combined 8 points.  Senior Vytas Sulskis just keeps chugging along, and deserves some consideration for an all-conference team.

Up Next: Thursday at Loyola (12-8)

8. Loyola (12-8, 3-6, 194)

Recent Results: Beat UIC 68-59

Loyola gets their second win in a row this week, albeit against the worst team in the conference.  Senior Andy Polka has played quite well the last couple games, and if Loyola is going to make a run in this league, this is the stretch that they’ll need to do it.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Youngstown State (5-12)

7. Milwaukee (10-11, 5-5, 130)

Tony Meier (21) and Anthony Hill (23) look to lead Milwaukee to a first round home game in the Horizon League tourney.

Recent Results: Lost to Valparaiso 60-43, Beat Butler 86-80

I’m just not sure what to say about this team.  I don’t know what motivates them to beat teams like Butler, and just get completely blown out in other games.  It seems to be a lack of mental toughness, but how does that explain their wins over the Bulldogs?  If anyone can logically explain how the Panthers have gotten to this point, please let me know.  Either way, they’re in the thick of a tight conference race for a first-round bye in the conference tournament

Up Next: Friday vs. Detroit (10-10)

6. Detroit (10-10, 5-4, 167)

Recent Results: Lost to Cleveland State 81-69, Beat Youngstown State 73-69

A .500 record is too low for the talent this team boasts.  That has to fall squarely at the feet of Coach Ray McCallum Sr.  However, if they can come out of Wisconsin with a sweep this weekend, it will go a long way towards their standing in the Horizon League with UIC and Loyola to follow Milwaukee and Green Bay.

Up Next: Friday at Milwaukee (10-11)

5. Green Bay (10-10, 5-4, 131)

Recent Results: Lost to Butler 81-75, Beat Valparaiso 63-61

Brian Wardle has done a great job with his squad this year.  He was left with two great senior guards, and absolutely nothing else.  He’s gotten good production from his young players, and it’s obvious that they continue to improve as the season goes on.  However, I don’t expect Green Bay to end up in the top half of the league come late February.

Up Next: Friday vs. Wright State (11-8)

4. Wright State (11-8, 6-3, 100)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 66-62, Lost to Cleveland State 65-46

Getting blown out at Cleveland State was not what new coach Billy Donlon was hoping for.  They’ll have the chance to bounce back in what is shaping up to be a very important week in Wisconsin.  Vaughn Duggins is the heart and soul of this team and will likely find himself on one of the two All-Conference teams at the end of the year.

Up Next: Friday at Green Bay (10-10)

3. Butler (13-7, 6-3, 41)

Recent Results: Beat Green Bay 81-75, Lost to Milwaukee 86-80

Getting swept by Milwaukee is the reason Butler has no chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Fortunately, they still can earn their way in the Horizon League tournament, but it’ll be an uphill climb.  Cleveland State, Valparaiso, and apparently Milwaukee will have a lot to say about Butler making it back to the “big dance.”

Up Next: Saturday at Valparaiso (13-6)

2. Valparaiso (13-6, 7-2, 57)

Recent Results: Beat Milwaukee 60-43, Lost to Green Bay 63-61

The Crusaders drop a spot due to their home loss to the hands of the Green Bay Phoenix, but they’re still tied for first in the standings.  This week is perhaps the biggest week of the season so far for the Crusaders.  They’re 7-2 and will take on Butler AND Cleveland State in the next two games.

Up Next: Saturday vs. Butler (13-7)

Norris Cole is focused on getting the Vikings to the big dance.

1. Cleveland State (16-3, 7-2, 32)

Recent Results: Beat Detroit 81-69, Beat Wright State 65-46

Cleveland State probably doesn’t have the signature victory to earn an at-large bid at this point.  Hopefully, a victory over Butler, Valparaiso, and the BracketBuster can help them earn that respect.  The Vikings have won three in a row, and traveling to Chicago this week should improve that to five in a row.  Norris Cole has been the best guard in the league this year.

Up Next: Thursday at UIC (4-15)

Panoske’s a Panther!

Panoske figures to be a big part of coach Jeter's plans.

Almost a year after de-committing from the Green Bay Phoenix, Brodhead senior J.J. Panoske of the 2011 recruiting class has picked the Milwaukee Panthers, as first reported by Mark Miller of WisSports.net.

Panoske, who scored 21.8 ppg as a junior for Brodhead, picked the Panthers for a bevy of reasons.  His relationship with Coach Rob Jeter, the proximity to his father and home, and attending school and playing in the city of Milwaukee were all major factors for Panoske in his commitment.

Panoske joins what is shaping up to be a stellar Panther frontcourt.  In the 2011-12 season, the Panthers could trot out a lineup of Ryan Haggerty, James Haarsma, Kyle Kelm, J.J. Panoske and Mitchell Carter, provided Carter receives an extra year of eligibility that he is currently applying for.

Recruiting attention turns to Shelby Moats and Shaq Boga, who would go a long way to complete the 2011 recruiting class for the Panthers.

Panoske’s commitment is a huge blow to archrival Green Bay, the school Panoske originally committed to in 2009 and backed out on months later.  It’s also tough to take for Tod Kowalczyk, the coach who originally got that commitment and tried to take Panoske with him to Toledo.

The Interview: Shelby Moats

It’s often the case when Horizon League schools run up against each other on the recruiting trail; many of the teams play similar styles, the geography ties us together, and we tend to like the same players. For Milwaukee, it’s often Green Bay and Loyola that we find ourselves in deep battles with on the recruiting trail. Against Butler? Not often, but that changed in the case of Shelby Moats, who recently picked up a scholarship offer from Butler in addition to his two from Milwaukee and Green Bay.  I had a chance to talk to Shelby about the recruiting process.

Jimmy Lemke: I understand that your family travels extensively during the summers. How have those experiences been for you?

Moats has a myriad of scholarship offers to choose from.

Shelby Moats: They have been great experiences for me. I am able to see different schools with lots of different things to offer. When I actually see a school I am able to observe first hand the things I like and don’t like about the school. The trips will be very beneficial for me when it comes time to make a decision on where I’m going to college.

JL: You spent this summer playing with the Minnesota Pump N Run; are you learning anything from your AAU experience?

SM: Absolutely. I learn how to compete against the best players in the nation. Not only do I get to play against them but a lot of them are on my team, meaning I have to practice against the best too.

JL: After a recent event, you picked up a myriad of scholarship offers from schools across the country, including Butler. Does the point in time when schools offer you a scholarship factor into your decision? What I mean is, if a school knew they wanted you to play for them early on and offered a scholarship awhile ago, is that an advantage for schools that are just making their offers now?

SM: To be completely honest as long as a school offers it’s good enough for me. I haven’t made many decisions about narrowing down my options so an offer made today is a good as an offer made last month or an offer made tomorrow.

JL: A lot of fans across the country like to speculate as to why players pick certain schools to play for. I know you can’t speak for others, but what are you looking for in the school you end up choosing? What’s the most important thing for you when you’re picking your school?

SM: I would like a combination of good basketball and good accademics. I’m not going to go to a school that compromises either aspect. But honestly the most important thing in choosing a school is the relationship I have with the people at that school. If I’m going to have to be with a coach for four years maybe five I had better like him and his staff or we’re in trouble.

JL: The other day, power forward Cody Zeller narrowed his list of teams to three: Butler, Indiana, and North Carolina. Since you play somewhat similar positions and are both offered scholarships by Butler, will his choice factor into your decision?

SM: Butler has told several people including myself that they would love to have both of us there. But no, if Cody Zeller goes there good for him if he doesn’t best of luck. I don’t care what he does unless he ends up on the same team as me then I’ll start caring. His decision will not affect mine.

JL: You have a pretty big list of schools offering you scholarships. Do you think you’ll be narrowing your choices down like Zeller anytime soon?

SM: Yes. When and who? I’m not sure yet. But I know it will be soon and the list will not be that long.