Horizon League Power Rankings (February 22 – 28)

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: 6-23, Conference Record: 2-16, RPI: 288)

Recent Results: Lost to Valparaiso 79-65

The season is drawing to a close for the Flames.  A couple bright lights on a dim season:  Senior F Paul Carter – Finished on the all-newcomer team averaging 14.6 points and 8 rebounds per game.  Senior G Robo Kreps – Would have received consideration for the all-conference third team (if one rightfully existed) averaging 16 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 2.9 assists per game.  Next year will be a fresh start for coach Howard Moore.  It’s time for Moore to put his stamp on this program.  Projected conference tournament finish: Lose in the first round; no postseason

Up Next: Tuesday at Cleveland State (22-7)

9. Youngstown State (7-20, 2-16, 291)

Recent Results: Lost to Green Bay 71-60, Lost to Milwaukee 94-87 (OT)

The Penguins came within inches of ruining Milwaukee’s season, but like so many games before, they came up just short.  Youngstown State finished with just one player receiving any conference accolades.  Sophomore F Damian Eargle – Averaging 11 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3 blocks per game, Eargle had the best season of any Penguin and finished as a member of the all-newcomer team.  Eargle could have also made a strong case for the All-Defensive team.  Projected Finish: Lose in the first round; no postseason

Up Next: Tuesday at Valparaiso (19-10)

8. Loyola (16-14, 7-11, 195)

Recent Results: Beat Valparaiso 68-48, Lost to Butler 63-56

The Ramblers were able to squeak out one more conference win in a dismal conference season.   The Ramblers finished with one player in the conversation for any conference accolades.  Senior G Geoff McCammon – On his way to earning the Horizon League’s Sixth Man of the Year award, McCammon averaged 14.5 PPG and 3 RPG while averaging 43.2% from beyond the arc (and ironically leading the team with 30.9 minutes per game).   One could make the case that sophomore F Ben Averkamp was a third team performer.    Projected Finish: Lose in the first round; no postseason

Up Next: Tuesday at Detroit (15-15)

7. Green Bay (13-17, 8-10, 164)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 71-60, Lost to Cleveland State 64-57

A big round of applause is deserved for senior G Rahmon Fletcher who ends his career as one of the greatest Phoenix of all time.  The diminutive point guard finished the year as a member of the all-conference second team averaging 16 PPG and 3 APG.  Fletcher should have a nice long career overseas.  Also finishing with postseason accolades is freshman C Alec Brown.  Named to the all-newcomer team, Brown finished the season with 10 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 2.1 BPG.  Projected Finish: Lose in the first round; no postseason

Up Next: Tuesday at Wright State (16-13)

6. Detroit (15-15, 10-8, 146)

Recent Results: Beat Wright State 77-67

A nice win to end an unsuccessful regular season for the Titans, but they’ll have a lot of work to do if they wish to reach the NCAA tournament.  Still, in all of their mediocrity, they pulled in a bunch of postseason awards.  Freshman G Ray McCallum Jr. was named the Newcomer of the Year in the Horizon League as well as to the all-newcomer team and all-conference second team.  It’s a pretty impressive haul, but it left some people wondering if it was well deserved, or if it was just a product of being a McDonald’s All-American.  Junior F/C Eli Holman also pulled in honors as a member of the all-conference second team and the all-defensive team.  Again, some question whether Holman was truly worthy of the second team.    Projected Finish: Lose in the second round; no postseason

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Loyola (16-14)

5. Wright State (16-13, 10-8, 128)

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

The Raiders slipped in their last game of the year and will now take on the Green Bay Phoenix in the first round.  One man that should will them to victory is first team all-conference senior G Vaughn Duggins.  Duggins truly had an outstanding season averaging 18 PPG and 3.8 RPG.  His backcourt mate N’Gai Evans earned second team all-conference with 14.2 PPG, 4 RPG, and 3.3 APG.    Projected Finish: Lose in the second round; no postseason

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

4. Valparaiso (19-10, 12-6, 71)

Recent Results: Lost to Loyola 68-48, Beat UIC 79-65

Valpo faltered down the stretch, losing 3 of their last 4 and squandering an opportunity for a first round bye.  Still, the Crusaders had a successful season with Junior G Brandon Wood leading the way as a first-team all-conference player.   A case could have been made for Ryan Broekhoff to be included on the second-team, but he’d have to settle for consideration for the third-team.  The Crusaders would have had a much better season had Cory Johnson not regressed so much in his senior year.  Projected Finish: Lose in the Semifinals; CBI/CIT

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Youngstown State (7-20)

3. Cleveland State (22-7, 13-5, 37)

Recent Results: Lost to Milwaukee 87-83, Beat Green Bay 64-57

The Vikings blew a huge opportunity that now puts them behind the eight ball.  Losing to Milwaukee at home dropped them to third in the pecking order, and quite possibly ruined what was a fantastic season.  Senior G Norris Cole, who is a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s best point guard, is 2011’s Horizon League Player of the Year.  He also placed on the all-defensive team as the Defensive Player of the Year.  Clearly, Cole is a special player that should find a place on an NBA bench.  Also receiving postseason honors is junior G Trevon Harmon who is a member of the all-defensive team.  Projected Finish: Lose in the Semifinals; NIT

Up Next: Tuesday vs. UIC (6-23)

Matt Howard gave his blood, sweat, and tears to the Butler program. Bulldog fans should be proud.

2. Butler (20-9, 13-5, 45)

Recent Results: Beat Loyola 63-56

The Bulldogs didn’t quite finish where they hoped, but they still have a chance at accomplishing their goal of making it back to the NCAA tournament.  Outgoing senior F Matt Howard has had an outstanding career and caps it off as a member of the all-conference first team as well as the all-defensive team.  Congratulations to him on an outstanding career.  Also, Junior G Shelvin Mack finished on the second-team and Ronald Nored finished on the all-defensive team.  Projected Finish: Win the Horizon League Tournament; NCAA Tournament Auto Bid

Up Next: Saturday vs. UIC/Cleveland State/Green Bay/Wright State (at Milwaukee)

Ryan Allen has been a tremendous spark of the bench for Horizon League COY Rob Jeter.

1. Milwaukee (18-12, 13-5, 98)

Recent Results: Beat Cleveland State 87-83, Beat Youngstown State 94-87 (OT)

What an incredible story these Panthers have to tell.  Finding themselves sitting at seventh place in conference play at a 4-5 record, and just coming off a 60-43 thrashing at the hands of Valpo, the Panthers knew something had to change.  They held a team meeting where everything was laid out on the table.  Nothing was held back.   And the rest?  Well, that’s what we like to call history folks.  Senior F Anthony Hill went on to average 20 PPG, 6.5 RPG and shoot 76.6% at the stripe over this 9-game stretch and earned first team all-conference along the way.  Junior PG Kaylon Williams would go on to average 7.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG (!) and 7.8 APG (!) while earning a spot on the all-newcomer team (and certainly made a case for the second-team).   Junior G/F Ryan Allen was asked to defend the opponent’s best guard in crunch time, and while he didn’t play the minutes necessary to earn a spot on the all-defensive team, he was as important to his team as any other player.  Finally, head coach Rob Jeter improved as a coach so much that he earned the Horizon League Coach of the Year award; a well deserved honor for a guy who put all his faith in his vocal point guard, and had a lot of help from his qualified assistants.  Projected Finish: Lose in the Championship Game; NIT

Up Next: Saturday vs. Youngstown State/Valparaiso/Loyola/Detroit

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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 Rankings (February 8-14)

The Horizon League grabs position in the conference RPI ranks inching ahead of the Missouri Valley Conference for 11th this week.

Which Horizon League team will be the Cinderella in this year's NCAA Tournament?

In descending order…

10. UIC (Overall Record: 6-20, Conference Record: 2-13, RPI: 277)

Recent Results: Beat Green Bay 63-61 (OT), Lost to Milwaukee 70-59

The Flames have a tough stretch to end the season, but coach Howard Moore has his team playing tough to the end.  UIC pulled out a gritty overtime win over Green Bay earlier this week before losing to Milwaukee.  Can they play spoiler late in the season with games against Butler and Valpo?  Projected Conference Finish: 2-16 (10th); no postseason tournament beyond Horizon League

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Loyola (14-12)

9. Youngstown State (6-17, 2-13, 266)

Recent Results: Lost to Cleveland State 86-76

The ‘Guins played Cleveland State tough in Cleveland and will be a tough team to play at the end of the season.  They have a very real chance at upsetting Green Bay and/or Milwaukee on their home court.  Projected Finish: 3-15 (9th); no postseason

Up Next: Saturday at Cleveland State (19-4)

8. Loyola (14-12, 5-10, 214)

Recent Results: Lost to Milwaukee 66-57, Beat Green Bay 79-62

The Ramblers were spanked by Milwaukee in a revenge game earlier this week.  They truly lack a dependable point guard at this point as Geoff McCammon, Andy Polka, and Ben Averkamp really aren’t the problem.  Projected Finish: 6-12 (8th); no postseason

Up Next: Wednesday at UIC (6-20)

7. Green Bay (11-14, 6-8, 164)

Recent Results: Lost to UIC 63-61 (OT), Lost to Loyola 79-62

Green Bay has the toughest schedule of anyone down the stretch.  To get to 7 wins will be an accomplishment as they have Butler, Valpo, Youngstown State, and Cleveland State left on the schedule.  Projected Finish: 6-12 (7th); no postseason

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

6. Detroit (13-14, 8-8, 151)

Recent Results: Lost to Valparaiso 82-74, Lost to Butler 66-51

Detroit has, undoubtedly, one of the most talented starting lineups in the Horizon League.  They might have THE most talented.  So, what’s keeping them at 8-8 in conference?  The problem is, things don’t seem to be getting any better for the Titans.  Projected Finish: 9-9 (6th); no postseason

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Youngstown State (6-17)

5. Wright State (15-11, 10-6, 106)

Recent Results: Lost to Butler 71-63, Lost to Valparaiso 58-56

Originally I projected a four game losing streak to end the conference season for the Raiders, but I think they’ll take care of business against Detroit to end the season right.  Vaughn Duggins has had a 1st team All-Conference type of season for coach Billy Donlon.  Projected Finish: 11-7 (5th); no postseason

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Cleveland State (20-5)

4. Butler (17-9, 10-5, 45)

Recent Results: Beat Wright State 71-63, Beat Detroit 66-51

The Bulldogs have won four in a row now and play three of the four worst teams in the league in the next two weeks.  Look for Butler to finish strong and take a seven game winning streak into the conference tournament.  Projected Finish: 13-5 (3rd); NCAA Tournament Auto Bid

Up Next: Tuesday at Green Bay (11-14)

3. Milwaukee (15-11, 10-5, 109)

Recent Results: Beat Loyola 66-57, Beat UIC 70-59

Butler’s hot streak is eclipsed only by Milwaukee six (!) game winning streak.  The Panthers are hot, and look capable of beating any team in the league at this point.  They have a shot at a first-round bye in the league tournament, but the road won’t be easy.  They finish the season on a two game Ohio road trip.   Projected Finish: 12-6 (4th); CIT

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Valparaiso (17-7)

2. Cleveland State (20-5, 11-4, 37)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 86-76

The Vikings probably need to finish alone in first place to take the Horizon League title as their tie breaker with Valpo doesn’t fall in their favor as of right now.  A lot can happen between now and then, but they’ll need help.  Their schedule is manageable but will provide some tests.  Projected Finish: 14-4 (2nd); NIT

Up Next: Wednesday at Wright State (15-11)

Can the Crusaders handle the bright lights of crunch time?

1. Valparaiso (17-7, 11-3, 49)

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

The Crusaders have an easy finish to end the season with the Milwaukee Panthers the only road block on the way to a Horizon League crown.  Can Homer Drew’s team handle the pressure and finish strong?  Projected Finish: 14-4 (1st); NIT

Up Next: Wednesday at Milwaukee (15-11)

Horizon League Power Rankings (February 1-7)

The Horizon League’s RPI actually slipped this past week to the 12th best conference in America.  The Missouri Valley Conference just inched ahead.

In descending order…

10. UIC (Overall Record: 5-18, Conference Record: 1-11, RPI: 278)

Recent Results: Lost to Detroit 77-63, Lost to Wright State 69-63, Lost 72-65

It looks like this could be the final resting place for the Flames.  Despite playing quite competitively at Wright State and Butler, they weren’t able to pull out the victory.  Their best chance at another victory probably comes next week when they host the Loyola Ramblers. Projected Conference Finish: 1-17 (10th)

Up Next: Thursday vs. Green Bay (11-12)

9. Youngstown State (6-15, 1-11, 273)

Recent Results: Beat Butler 62-60, Lost to Valparaiso 86-78 (OT), Lost to Wright State 74-70

Beat Butler was simply a win that nobody in their right mind saw coming.  Nevertheless, the Penguins came out victorious.  This has to be their signature win of the season, and at this point, with improved play, they might just have a shot at another conference win. They played three of the top 4 or 5 teams in the league down to the wire this week; a great sign of improvement.  Projected Finish: 3-14 (9th)

Up Next: Saturday at Cleveland State (19-4)

8. Loyola (13-11, 4-9, 212)

Recent Results: Lost to Wright State 76-63, Lost to Detroit 81-71

The Ramblers are unquestionably the 8th team in the conference.  There were times this year when they could have argued for a higher spot, but no more.  They only have one win against a team higher than them on this list, Milwaukee, and they’ll have a shot to sweep them on Thursday.  Projected Finish: 6-12 (8th)

Up Next: Thursday vs. Milwaukee (13-11)

7. Green Bay (11-12, 6-6, 137)

Recent Results: Lost to Milwaukee 88-75

Getting drubbed by rival Milwaukee is tough to swallow, and the schedule ahead is tough.  The Phoenix will need to upset Butler or Valparaiso at home to have a chance at 6th in the league.  It doesn’t seem likely at this point, but isn’t this where we expected Green Bay to finish all along? Projected Finish: 9-9 (7th)

Up Next: Thursday at UIC (5-18)

6. Detroit (13-12, 8-6, 170)

Recent Results: Beat UIC 77-63, Beat Loyola 81-71, Beat Cleveland State 81-78

The Titans have a tough schedule ahead of them, but this week was HUGE.  They’ll need Eli Holman to stay out of foul trouble to lead them against Butler and Valpo and get the coveted first round home game in the Horizon League Tournament.  Projected Finish: 10-8 (5th)

Up Next: Thursday at Valparaiso (15-7)

 

Many will be battling for position in the Horizon League Tournament.

5. Milwaukee (13-11, 8-5, 121)

Recent Results: Beat Green Bay 88-75

The Panthers are HOT, and it couldn’t come at a better time.  They’ll travel to Chicago for two winnable games this week and an outside chance at a first round bye in the tournament.  They’ll need more of this from Anthony Hill.   Projected Finish: 11-7 (4th)

Up Next: Thursday at Loyola (13-11)

4. Butler (15-9, 8-5, 43)

Butler fans felt dejected after dropping one to lowly Youngstown State.

Recent Results: Lost to Youngstown State 62-60, Beat Cleveland State 73-61, Beat UIC 72-65

Clearly this isn’t the same team that went to the National Championship wire against Duke, but what frustrates many Butler fans is the thought that 3 of these 5 starters are from that very team.  Butler still hasn’t found a consistent 3rd scorer, and Shelvin Mack hasn’t had the season many had hoped for.  The Horizon League Tournament is where they’ll have to do their damage.  Projected Finish: 13-5 (3rd)

Up Next: Thursday vs. Wright State (15-9)

3. Wright State (15-9, 10-4, 99)

Recent Results: Beat Loyola 76-63, Beat UIC 69-63, Beat Youngstown State 74-70

The Raiders have exceeded my expectations all season, and one would think I might learn from my lapse in judgment.  But something tells me this simply won’t end well for the Raiders.  I’m thinking about a 4 game conference losing streak to end the season.  Projected Finish: 10-8 (6th)

Up Next: Thursday vs. Butler (15-9)

2. Valparaiso (15-7, 9-3, 54)

Recent Results: Lost to Cleveland State 76-65, Beat Youngstown State 86-78 (OT)

It’s really tough to see where Valpo ends up at this point.  There are a number of games left on their schedule that could go either way.  I’m going to lean towards them finishing the season strong, but that’s far from a sure thing at this point.  Projected Finish: 14-4 (Tied for 1st)

Up Next: Thursday vs. Detroit (13-12)

1. Cleveland State (19-4, 10-4, 34)

Recent Results: Beat Valparaiso 76-65, Lost to Butler 73-61, Lost to Detroit 81-78

The Horizon League regular season title is completely up for grabs.  Five teams are within a game and a half of first and even Milwaukee controls their own destiny at this point.  Still, to me it looks to be a two team race.  Look for the Vikings to finish strong.  Projected Finish: 14-4 (Tied for 1st)

Up Next: Saturday vs. Youngstown State (6-15)

Horizon League Power Rankings (January 25-31)

In descending order…

10. Youngstown State (5-14, 1-10, 293)

Recent Results: Lost to Loyola 84-71, Lost to UIC 83-61

Ouch.  Getting beat by Loyola in the Gentile Center is expected.  Getting blown out by UIC is inexcusable.  The Penguins flat out laid an egg, and it will be tough for them to recover in a very competitive Horizon League.  Projected Conference Finish: 1-17 (Tied for 9th)

Up Next: Thursday at Butler (13-8)

9. UIC (Overall Record: 5-16, Conference Record: 1-9, RPI: 270)

Recent Results: Lost to Cleveland State 63-49, Beat Youngstown State 83-61

The Flames are officially off the schneid.  I expected them to beat Loyola at home, but not by the margin they did.  The rest of their schedule is tough, but a four game home stretch in mid-February could be the difference between 9th and 10th.  Projected Finish: 1-17 (Tied for 9th)

Up Next: Thursday at Detroit (10-12)

8. Loyola (13-9, 4-7, 199)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 84-71, Lost to Cleveland State 81-70

Well, here it is.  Now or never for the Ramblers.  These next five games are crucial for them to finish .500.  Realistically, they’ll need to win all five to do so.  I just don’t see that happening.  Projected Finish: 7-11 (8th)

Up Next: Thursday at Wright State (12-9)

Athletic dunks haven't translated to the win column for the Titans.

7. Detroit (10-12, 5-6, 184)

Recent Results: Lost to Milwaukee 72-67, Lost to Green Bay 85-74

33 turnovers in the last two games has Detroit reeling.  Detroit is the most athletic team in the Horizon League, but that hasn’t translated to the win-loss columns.  Fortunately there’s time to recover, but the schedule isn’t easy.  Projected Finish: 9-9 (Tied for 6th)

Up Next: Thursday vs. UIC (5-16)

6. Green Bay (11-11, 6-5, 142)

Recent Results: Lost to Wright State 63-61, Beat Detroit 85-74

Like Loyola, and every other middling team in the league, this is the stretch that will separate some teams.  They have a huge game at the U.S. Cellular Arena this week that will give them a leg up on Milwaukee, or cause them to fall behind a game and a half.  I expect what every rivalry game provides; a fight to the finish.  Projected Finish: 9-9 (Tied for 6th)

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

5. Milwaukee (12-11, 7-5, 117)

Recent Results: Beat Detroit 72-67, Beat Wright State 54-53

The Panthers are peaking, and they have a legitimate shot at the fourth best record in the Horizon League come season’s end.  They’ll have to do much of their damage away from home, however, as 4 of their last 6 games are in enemy territory.  They’ll need more of the same from seniors Anthony Hill and Tone Boyle.  Projected Finish: 11-7 (4th)

Up Next: Saturday vs. Green Bay (11-11)

4. Wright State (12-9, 7-4, 99)

Recent Results: Beat Green Bay 63-61, Lost to Milwaukee 54-53

Coming out of Wisconsin with a close win and a close loss should be a moral victory for the Raiders.  Playing without third leading scorer Troy Tabler and fourth leading scorer Cooper Land, their freshman got some welcome experience in conference play.  Projected Finish: 10-8 (5th)

Up Next: Thursday vs. Loyola (13-9)

3. Butler (13-8, 6-4, 43)

The Agro Crag? Wait, what?

Recent Results: Lost to Valparaiso 85-79 (OT)

When the Bulldogs escaped the Gentile Center in early December with a 63-61 victory over the Ramblers, they probably never imagined it would be the difference between a winning record and .500 right now.  Little did they know, it would be the first game in the Agro Crag that is the Horizon League schedule this year.  Clearly, they haven’t taken kindly to playing with a “target” on their back all season, and an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament looks like an afterthought at this point.  Projected Finish: 13-5 (3rd)

Up Next: Thursday at Youngstown State (5-14)

2. Valparaiso (14-6, 8-2, 55)

Recent Results: Beat Butler 85-79 (OT)

I can’t stress enough how important the win over Butler was.  It gives them a huge leg up on a first round bye in the Horizon League tournament.  Their next game against Cleveland State is almost as important as the Butler game.  Unfortunately for the Crusaders, they’ll have to do it on the road.  Projected Finish: 14-4 (2nd)

Up Next: Thursday at Cleveland State (18-3)

1. Cleveland State (18-3, 9-2, 30)

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

The league title comes down to Thursday’s tilt with the Crusaders of Valparaiso.  At 9-2, the Vikings have a leg up on the Crusaders and a favorable schedule to boot.  But you never know, and that’s why they play the games folks.  Projected Finish: 15-3 (1st)

Up Next: Thursday vs. Valparaiso (14-6)

 

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)

Horizon League Power Rankings (January 11-17)

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

This week, we have a new leader atop the power rankings for the fourth time this year.

In descending order…

10. UIC (Overall Record: 4-14, Conference Record: 0-7, RPI: 263)

Recent Results: Lost to Milwaukee 87-75, Lost to Green Bay 74-50

With another week comes another winless streak.  To add insult to injury, junior guard Zavion Neely, was ruled academically ineligible for the spring semester.  This is a huge blow to a team already seemingly short at guard.

Up Next: Saturday at Loyola (11-8)

9. Youngstown State (5-10, 1-6, 243)

Recent Results: Beat Wilberforce 86-51, Lost to Cleveland State 61-51

The Penguins are clearly in the bottom tier of this league that includes only UIC.  At this point, they should be focused on the guys who will be key contributors next year and developing them to be contenders in this league.  Right now, that’s not what the Penguins are.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Wright State (10-7)

8. Loyola (11-8, 2-6, 187)

Recent Results: Lost to Green Bay 71-68, Beat Milwaukee 71-65

At this point, you can probably interchange Loyola with any of the next three teams on this list.  They played Green Bay close at the Resch Center, then went into the Cell and took down the Panthers.  Winning in Milwaukee was huge, because they should be able to manufacture a nice little winning streak here traveling to UIC and Youngstown State.

Up Next: Saturday vs. UIC (4-14)

7. Milwaukee (9-10, 4-4, 149)

Recent Results: Beat UIC 87-75, Lost to Loyola 71-65

If their recent stretch of games is any indicator, they’ll probably beat Valpo and then lose to Butler.  In their last 10 games, they’ve alternated wins and losses with not even a 2 game streak of consistency.  They could really use a little of that senior leadership that departed when Ricky Franklin graduated.

Up Next: Friday at Valparaiso (12-5)

Alec Brown has a bright future in Title Town.

6. Green Bay (9-9, 4-3, 161)

Recent Results: Beat Loyola 71-68, Beat UIC 74-50

Green Bay is getting better, which is more you can say for any of the teams below them in the rankings.  If not for Ray McCallum, Alec Brown might be the Freshman of the Year in the Horizon League.  On top of that, Rahmon Fletcher and Bryquis Perine have stepped their game up.

Up Next: Friday at Butler (12-6)

5. Detroit (9-9, 4-3, 178)

Recent Results: Lost to Butler 87-64, Lost to Valparaiso 78-68

Butler showed the Titans just how tough life is without Eli Holman.  Butler’s forwards outscored Detroit’s 48-9.  The Titans would be an afterthought in the Horizon League without their big man in the middle.  Ray McCallum didn’t care much for Ronald Nored’s defense either (3 points, 3 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers).

Up Next: Thursday at Cleveland State (14-3)

4. Wright State (10-7, 5-2, 105)

Recent Results: Lost to Valparaiso 71-60, Beat Butler 69-64

The Raiders are serious contenders in the Horizon League.  Losing to Valpo was tough, but they rebounded quite nicely against Butler at home.  They’ll follow that up though with four straight road games including Cleveland State and Milwaukee, who they have a really hard time with in US Cellular Arena.

Up Next: Friday at Youngstown State (5-10)

3. Butler (12-6, 5-2, 26)

Recent Results: Beat Detroit 87-64, Lost to Wright State 69-64

The Bulldogs went out and did exactly what I said they shouldn’t.  They lost to a team they should beat.  They are now behind Valparaiso AND Wright State in the standings and if the season ended today, they’d find themselves without a first round bye.  Fortunately for them there’s over a month yet to play, but they’ll have a target on their back the entire time.  

Up Next: Friday vs. Green Bay (9-9)

2. Cleveland State (14-3, 5-2, 27)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 61-51

The Vikings have a favorable league schedule the rest of the season.  They’ll play Valpo and Butler at home and their next four games are either at home or against bottom dwellers.  Norris Cole very well could be the Horizon League player of the year.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Detroit (9-9)

Homer Drew and the Valpo Crusaders were a great addition to the Horizon League.

1. Valparaiso (12-5, 6-1, 48)

Recent Results: Beat Wright State 61-50, Beat Detroit 78-68

Can you believe that the Crusaders are the BEST defensive team in the Horizon League?  No team has improved their defense more from last season to this, and it’s a credit to coach Homer Drew.  John Templon of ChicagoNOW goes into detail here.  All hail the Crusaders!

Up Next: Friday vs. Milwaukee (9-10)