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

Advertisements

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 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)

Horizon League Power Rankings (January 4-10)

The Horizon League dropped again to 11th in Conference RPI this week.

There’s no doubt the Horizon League is as good talent-wise as it’s ever been, and this past week, we saw that in the results.

In descending order…

10. UIC (Overall Record: 4-12, Conference Record: 0-5, RPI: 255)

Recent Results: Lost to Wright State 71-63, Lost to Detroit 72-69

Five games into the conference schedule and UIC is winless.  When will their first win come?  Three upcoming road games make it seem likely it won’t be any time soon.  In new coach Howard Moore’s first year, the talent level just isn’t there yet.  There are pieces in place, however, that should give UIC fans some hope for the future.

Up Next: Thursday at Milwaukee (8-9)

9. Youngstown State (5-9, 1-5, 245)

Recent Results: Lost to Valparaiso 79-55, Lost to Butler 84-79

The Penguins were just a couple of possessions short of a major upset over Butler on Sunday.  While Youngstown State is clearly not the most talented team in the Horizon League, they obviously have enough to make any game interesting.  However, it will be tough sledding for them up until the end of January.

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Wilberforce

Coach Jim Whitesell desperately needs some Horizon League victories.

8. Loyola (10-7, 1-7, 197)

Recent Results: Lost to Detroit 83-71, Lost to Wright State 58-41

New year…Same results.  Loyola just can’t seem to replicate their non-conference success when the conference portion of the schedule comes around.  Much of this comes from the fact that the teams in the Horizon League are MUCH better than most of the teams they’re playing in the non-conference games.  Coach Jim Whitesell isn’t doing his Ramblers any favors by preparing them for a low-major conference schedule.  This is the Horizon League, not the MEAC!

Up Next: Thursday vs. Detroit (7-7)

7. Green Bay (7-9, 2-3, 166)

Recent Results: Beat Milwaukee 69-64

Beating in-state rival Milwaukee on their home floor is always a nice feeling for Green Bay, but the true test will be whether or not they can avoid a letdown against the two Chicago teams this week.  This part of the schedule provides the Phoenix with a nice opportunity to get some conference wins before heading to Indiana to take on Butler and Valpo.  Senior leaders Rahmon Fletcher and Bryquis Perine came up huge against Milwaukee.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Loyola (10-7)

6. Milwaukee (8-9, 3-3, 135)

Recent Results: Lost to Green Bay 69-64

Much like Green Bay, the Panthers will host the two Chicago teams this week and look to pad the conference record before traveling to Indiana.  Losing to rival Green Bay was a bit of a disappointment for coach Rob Jeter’s team, but they’ll look ahead to UIC for what they hope will be a blowout win.  If they’re upset by the Flames, watch the Panthers slide back down this list…

Up Next: Thursday vs. UIC (4-12)

5. Detroit (9-7, 4-1, 155)

Recent Results: Beat Loyola 83-71, Beat UIC 72-69

The Titans did well to sweep the Chicago teams this week as it puts them atop the league in a tie for first place.   Unfortunately for Detroit, they’ll be without star big man Eli Holman as he was suspended for one game by the league for his involvement in a scuffle with UIC forward Brad Birton in their most recent game.  This is a huge blow for a team looking to shut down Matt Howard and Butler’s potent offense.

Up Next: Friday vs. Butler (11-5)+

N'Gai Evans is leading his team to the top of the Horizon League.

4. Wright State (9-6, 4-1, 145)

Recent Results: Beat UIC 71-63, Beat Loyola 58-41

Who’s the hottest team in the Horizon League?  That’s right… It’s the Wright State Raiders who’ve won 7 of their last 8 games.  The Raiders will get a major test this week though as they host both Valpo and Butler.  Can N’Gai Evans continue his outstanding point guard play and push Wright State ahead of Valpo on this list?  We’ll find out Friday…

Up Next: Friday vs. Valparaiso (10-5)

3. Valparaiso (10-5, 4-1, 58)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 79-55, Beat Cleveland State 64-58

The Crusaders are rolling.   They took care of business at home against Cleveland State to keep them tied atop the Horizon League.  Senior guard Howard Little is doing much of the dirty work, and coach Homer Drew has a good thing going.  The key will be if they can at least split in their four games against Butler and Cleveland State.   So far, so good…

Up Next: Friday at Wright State (9-6)

2. Cleveland State (13-3, 4-2, 30)

Recent Results: Lost to Butler 79-56, Lost to Valparaiso 64-58

This is not what the Vikings had hoped for.  In what they knew would be a tough week, they wanted to prove their mettle traveling to Indiana to take on their two biggest challengers in the Horizon League race this year.  Fortunately they’ll have a chance at redemption in about a month, but until then, the Penguins await.

Up Next: Saturday at Youngstown State (5-9)

1. Butler (11-5, 4-1, 26)

Recent Results: Beat Cleveland State 79-56, Beat Youngstown State 84-79

Butler is a vulnerable team this year, and there’s certainly no guarantee they’ll win the conference.  Beating Cleveland State put them in the right direction, but they’ll need to continue to take care of business against 4-1 Detroit.  At this point, it would be hard to put the Bulldogs in the tournament should they lose in the HL tournament.  They’ll need to avoid more performances like those against Milwaukee and Youngstown State.

Up Next: Friday at Detroit (9-7)

Horizon League Power Rankings (Nov. 29 – Dec. 5)

Following this week, the Horizon league has the 7th highest RPI of any conference in the land; between the SEC and Conference USA.

This week marked the early start of conference play and it shook up our power rankings something fierce.  Could Cleveland State and Loyola continue their torrid starts to the season?  Could Butler get revenge in their rematch against Duke?  Would upstart Youngstown State fall back to earth?  All these questions were answered this week; see who’s up and who’s down in our weekly power rankings!

In descending order…

Duke stuffs Butler's upset bid...

 

10. UIC (Record: 3-5, RPI: 241)

Recent Results: Lost to Valparaiso 68-66, Lost to Akron 54-52

Hard to move up these power rankings if you can’t win.  The best thing to say about UIC’s two losses this past week is that they were fighting to the end in both.  It took overtime for Valpo to outlast Robo Kreps and the Flames on Thursday, and they lost the lead with less than 20 seconds to go against Akron on Saturday.

Up Next: Saturday at Illinois State (6-2)

9. Youngstown State (4-3, 208)

Recent Results: Lost to Milwaukee 76-67, Lost to Green Bay 74-59

The Penguins had been off to their best start since 2000.  All was well in Eastern Ohio; that is at least until they made their first conference road trip to Wisconsin. Devonte Maymon certainly was able to talk the talk in his “homecoming”, but Milwaukee and Green Bay did a little more of the walking.  The good news is they’ll get a couple weeks off of conference play to iron out their shortcomings.

Up Next: Saturday at Robert Morris (3-4)

8. Wright State (2-5, 195)

Recent Results: Lost to Cincinnati 76-69, Lost to Detroit 78-69

The Raiders are in the midst of a tough non-conference schedule that doesn’t get much easier this week.  Losses to Cincinnati and Detroit were expected, but still, disheartening.  Coach Billy Donlon NEEDS to get more physical post play from his “big” men if the Raiders hope to finish close to .500 in conference play.  Being 342nd in rebounding in the nation isn’t going to get you very far in this league…

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Air Force (5-1)

7. Milwaukee (4-5, 166)

Recent Results: Beat Youngstown State 76-67, Lost to Cleveland State 82-59

The Panthers are really struggling to find their identity right now.  They’ve been the most inconsistent team in the Horizon League so far.  One game they’re outlasting Youngstown State behind clutch free throws and sound decision making.  The next they’re giving up with 30 minutes left in the game.  If Coach Rob Jeter can’t turn this talented enigma into a more consistent competitor, then he will likely feel a significant amount of heat from donors wondering if their money is being well spent.  Still, after 9 games into the season, the Panthers have a lot of time to turn it around.

Up Next: Wednesday at Wisconsin

6. Green Bay (3-4, 98)

Recent Results: Lost to Cleveland State 83-75, Beat Youngstown State 74-59

See Panthers, Milwaukee.  The Phoenix haven’t been able to put together back to back wins so far this season.  If they can get the Rahmon Fletcher that showed up against Youngstown State in very game, it won’t be long before that happens.  When Fletcher can stay out of foul trouble, he’s as good a point guard as there is in the Horizon League.  But he’s no good to Green Bay when his butt is on the bench.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Duquesne (3-3)

5. Detroit (4-4, 183)

Recent Results: Lost to Akron 77-69, Beat Wright State 78-69

The Titans have shown flashes of brilliance early on in the season, but it’s taking them awhile to get used to playing together.  They’ve been able to score in bunches at time with the help of dominant rebounding margins, and Eli Holman has been an Horizon League Player of the Year candidate since day one.  However, Coach Ray McCallum needs his guards to pick and choose their spots.  When one is having an off-day shooting, their shots need to be limited.  Chase Simon can’t be taking 23 and 26 shots, as he did against Mississippi State and Albany, and only making 8.  But, once this team gets into midseason form, they have a chance to make some noise in March.

Up Next: Wednesday at Western Michigan

4. Loyola (7-2, 182)

Recent Results: Lost to Butler 65-63, Lost to Valparaiso 66-56

The Ramblers played their hearts out against the Nored-less Butler Bulldogs, but they came up empty.  Three days later, they couldn’t answer an 11-0 run by Valpo and suffered their second loss in a row.  This type of behavior has become a trend for Loyola dating back to last year.  They’ve done really well against non-conference opponents but struggled mightily against conference foes.  If Chicago Now writer John Templon’s early efficiency margins are any indication, Loyola’s conference struggles won’t end soon.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. SIU-Edwardsville

3. Valparaiso (4-2, 31)

Recent Results: Beat UIC 68-66, Beat Loyola 66-56

After an injury-riddled start to the season, Coach Homer Drew has his guys playing good basketball as we get into December.  Two early conference victories has to be a good feeling for senior F Cory Johnson.  The Duluth, MN native has led his team to 4 straight victories behind very efficient shooting.  The Crusaders have a great shot at winning 4 of their next 5 games before returning to conference play against Butler.

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Purdue (#18, 7-1)

2. Butler (3-3, 37)

Recent Results: Beat Loyola 65-63, Lost to Duke 82-70

The Bulldogs were without their point guard Ronald Nored earlier in the week due to a concussion he suffered in the win over Siena, but it didn’t matter as Butler outlasted Loyola in Chicago.  Three days later, the Bulldogs would have their chance at revenge as they traveled to East Rutherford, NJ to face the Duke Blue Devils.  It wasn’t meant to be however, as Duke defeated the Bulldogs 82-70.  This week reminded us how mentally tough Coach Brad Stevens’ players are.  I would expect nothing less than a Horizon League final game for Butler.

Norris Cole is focused on the NCAA Tournament. Do you dare doubt him?

Up Next: Thursday at Xavier (5-2)

1. Cleveland State (9-0, 17)

Recent Results: Beat Green Bay 83-75, Beat Milwaukee 82-59

The Horizon League’s visibility (thanks largely to Butler) and the Vikings outstanding play has put them at #31 in the AP Top 25 and #33 in the ESPN/Coaches Poll.  Also, Cleveland State is #1 in CollegeInsider.com’s Mid Major Top 25 poll ahead of the likes of Gonzaga, Old Dominion, St. Mary’s and Butler.   Norris Cole has been the biggest reason why Cleveland State has been so dominant, and he is the early favorite for the Horizon League’s POY.  Expect a nationally ranked and undefeated Cleveland State team to travel to West Virginia on December 18th to give the Mountaineers all they can handle…

Up Next: Tuesday vs. West Virginia Tech

Horizon League Power Rankings (Week 2)

Following the second full week of the season, the Horizon League is 34-21 against Division I opponents.

Plenty of movement in the rankings this week as will continue to be the case in the early part of the season.

In descending order…

10. UIC (3-3, 190)

Recent Results: Lost to Central Michigan 62-52, Beat Toledo 63-62

I know they have a .500 record so far, but I simply can’t be impressed by the Flames’ two victories over Toledo so far.  Toledo is in the bottom 10 teams in the entire country.  This is a team the Flames are supposed to beat, and with the help of a game-winning Robo Kreps three, fortunately they did.  To be fair, this isn’t the same lowly UIC team from a year ago.

Up Next: Thursday at Valparaiso

9. Milwaukee (Record: 3-4, RPI: 246)

Recent Results: Lost to Western Michigan 67-55, Lost to Marquette 75-72

The Panthers drop to 9th despite performing admirably against cross-town rival Marquette on Saturday.  Losing two home games in a week is never a good thing, especially when one of them comes to the hands of Western Michigan in the form of a blowout.  Even though it still counts in the loss column, their game against Marquette revealed that Ja’Rob McCallum (19 points) is ready to step up.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Youngstown State

8. Wright State (2-3, 201)

Recent Results: Beat Oakland 82-79, Lost to Richmond 71-61, Lost to Southern Illinois 56-50

I’m not yet sure what to make of the Raiders.  Obviously, they’re going to get destroyed in the post all season.  They’re ranked 323rd in the nation in rebounds per game!  The problem with that is they’re only making 40.1% of their shots…  This will become a severe problem this week against Cincinnati and Detroit.  Don’t be surprised to see them fall farther down this list.

Up Next: Wednesday at Cincinnati

7. Green Bay (2-3, 175)

Recent Results: Lost to IUPUI 63-46, Beat North Dakota State 71-69

Yikes!  The Phoenix have had quite the up and down week.  After being destroyed by a pretty pathetic IUPUI team, the Phoenix come back with a nail biter at home against North Dakota State.  This team is going to take its lumps this year if Bryquis Perine can’t find a more consistent shooting stroke (38.2% from the field).

Up Next: Thursday vs. Cleveland State

5. Valparaiso (2-2, 61)

Ryan Broekhoff

Stud sophomore Ryan Broekhoff has been a key cog for Valpo early

 

Recent Results: Lost to Ohio 78-75, Beat Northern Colorado 76-61, Beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 68-62

Sophomore G Ryan Broekhoff has been a breakout star for the Crusaders early in the season.  In their loss against Ohio, the Australian sharpshooter tallied 24 points on 9-13 shooting and 7 rebounds.  One point of concern however, has been Brandon Wood‘s dismal shooting.  He had been making up for it with brilliant point guard work until Saturday when he laid an egg against Texas A&M-CC (4 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist).  Once he snaps out of it, the Crusaders will be a well oiled offensive machine.

Up Next: Thursday at UIC

5. Youngstown State (4-1, 149)

Recent Results: Beat Toledo 73-67, Beat St. Francis (PA) 91-63

Break up the Penguins!  Led by senior G Vytas Sulskis, the Penguins have a whole new attitude this year and have been the surprise of the Horizon League early.  Damian Eargle has been a shot-blocking force and is a strong presence down low, while Devonte Maymon has added the scoring punch necessary to see his team in the top 100 of Division I teams in scoring so far this season.  The schedule gets a tad more difficult in the coming weeks.  We’ll see if the Penguins are for real.

SPOILER ALERT: they’re not

Up Next: Thursday at Milwaukee

4. Detroit (3-3, 150)

Recent Results: Beat Albany 84-82, Beat Bowling Green 71-62, Beat Niagara 96-77

It took them a little while, but it looks like the Titans are starting to get it together.  Despite needing 2 overtimes to dispatch of the mediocre Great Danes of Albany, Detroit has been on fire offensively.  Eli Holman has looked like an all conference player, and as a team, the Titans have the 18th most rebounds per game in the country.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Akron

3. Butler (2-2, 76)

Recent Results: Beat Siena 70-57, Lost to Evansville 71-68

Without Ronald Nored, who could miss up to another week with a concussion, the Bulldogs look a bit lost on offense. Shelvin Mack struggled to get open and was forcing shots (3-13 from the field) that just couldn’t find the bottom of the net.  At this point, Butler looks like it could lose by 30 to defending champion Duke, who they will face in a rematch this week.  This is not the cinderella story of yesteryear.

Up Next: Wednesday at Loyola

2. Loyola (7-0, 69)

Recent Results: Beat Alabama State 74-46, Beat San Francisco 63-62

The Ramblers have taken a similar path to last season in non-conference play.  The question again is, can they continue their dominant play to the conference portion of the schedule?  Last week I mentioned Jordan Hicks’ true shooting percentage.  This week I need to point out G Terrance Hill‘s.  The man has a 70.2% true shooting percentage, which highlights just how efficient he has been from the field.  Eventually, some of these numbers will come back to earth.  Rambler fans are hoping it doesn’t happen until AFTER their upcoming tussle with Butler.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Butler

Norris Cole

Norris Cole has done it all early for CSU. Will he get help from his teammates in their quest for the Big Dance?

 

1. Cleveland State (8-0, 25)

Recent Results: Beat Akron 64-51, Beat St. Bonaventure 69-51, Beat Robert Morris 58-53

Here you have it.  The Horizon League’s top team after this week.  Norris Cole has officially put this team on his back.  In the last 7 days, Cole has averaged 21.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2 steals per game.  Two key road league games this week will be a true test for the Vikings, but they could legitimately win both if they can get consistent play from Aaron Pogue, and dominating guard play from their trio of sharpshooters Cole, Jeremy Montgomery and Tre Harmon.

Up Next: Thursday at Green Bay

Horizon League Power Rankings (Week 1)

Following the first full week of college basketball action, it seems like a good time to begin the weekly Horizon League Power Rankings.  After about a week and a half of play, the Horizon League comes in at 19-12, which doesn’t include the Non-Division I opponents because, well, those wins just don’t tell us a whole lot.

You’ll find that after the first week and a half some surprise teams occupy spots near the top and bottom of the league.

In descending order…

10. Valparaiso (2-1)

Recent Results: Beat Indiana-Northwest 111-64, Lost to Kansas 79-44, Beat Purdue-North Central 98-44

One of two teams in the league without a Division I win, the Crusaders have shown that they have an explosive offense.  Holding Kansas under 80 is, at worst, a moral victory.  The question is: do the Crusaders have the capable bigs to keep up with the Eli Holmans of the Horizon League?  Giving up 34 points to Kansas’ Morris twins isn’t a good sign.  Coach Homer Drew is hoping that F Cory Johnson can come back quickly from plantar fasciitis in his foot and be a factor on the offensive AND defensive end come conference play.  Don’t expect to see Valpo in this spot as early as next week.

Up Next: Tuesday at Ohio

9. Detroit (1-2)

Recent Results: Lost to New Mexico 63-54, Lost to Syracuse 66-55, Beat Indiana Tech 93-62

Don't expect to see this talented trio so low in the power rankings again...

The Titans are the other team without a Division I victory.  Though they lost their first two games of the season, they showed signs of being a very good defensive team.  Eli Holman has been an absolute beast early on with averages of 17.7 PPG, 10 RPG and shooting 59% from the field.  I don’t expect Detroit to toil in the bottom half of the league for long as their schedule becomes far less difficult following their game in Starksville tonight.

Up Next: Monday at Mississippi State

8. Wright State (Record: 2-1)

Recent Results: Lost 67-44 to Indiana, Beat Northwood 75-55, Beat Southern 66-43

The Raiders have experience at the guard position, which is the main reason it would be no surprise to see them finish in the top 6 of the league.  However, since they’ve only played three games, they only have one win against a Division I opponent, and were destroyed on the boards by Indiana.  Their achilles all season will be their lack of depth and size up front, but as long as Vaughn Duggins is in the game, the Raiders have a chance.

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Oakland

7. Green Bay (2-2)

Recent Results: Beat Minnesota-Duluth 75-36, Lost to Marquette 89-69, Lost to San Diego State 79-70, Beat Miami (OH)

The Phoenix showed their potential in the first 10 minutes against San Diego State, but completely imploded in the final 30.  A lack of depth on the roster could come to haunt them as it did in a grueling battle against the Aztecs, but the talent is there.  Troy Snyder has been a pleasant surprise, and senior guards Bryquis Perine and Rahmon Fletcher will give the Phoenix an chance in every game, evidenced by their victory over the Redhawks of Miami.

Up Next: Monday vs. IUPUI

6. Youngstown State (2-1)

Recent Results: Beat Samford 64-61, Beat Buffalo 64-53, Lost to Akron 91-84

The Penguins have probably peaked in our power rankings, but their victories over Samford and Buffalo are solid wins.  There are so many unknowns with the Penguins, but one thing is for sure, the new group of guys are not quitters.  Devonte Maymon has been a pleasant surprise so far, and Vytas Sulskis has been the veteran presence they need.  The news isn’t all good.  The Penguins are not well suited to sustain the success over a grueling conference schedule.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Toledo

5. UIC (3-2)

Recent Results: Lost to Pitt 97-54, Beat Roosevelt 94-54, Beat Toledo 57-51, Lost to Charleston 78-66, Beat Rhode Island 74-68

After an uninspiring first four games of the year, the Flames posted a very impressive victory over the Rams of Rhode Island.  Expect an up and down first season for Coach Howard Moore as he tries to figure out who will stick around next year.  Forming rotations with a bunch of guys who you’ve only known for a couple months has to be incredibly difficult, but fortunately for Coach Moore, he has veterans Robo Kreps, Zavion Neely, and Paul Carter at his disposal.  The Flames will be a tough opponent for any Horizon League team.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Central Michigan

4. Milwaukee (3-2)

Recent Results: Lost to Portland 80-60, Lost to Florida Atlantic 85-76, Beat UC-Davis 73-62, Beat Niagara 90-73, Beat Northern Iowa 65-63

A lackluster start to the year could have put the Panthers at or near the bottom of these power rankings.  But after a couple of really solid wins, things are looking up in Milwaukee.  Tone Boyle has found his stroke, and the Panthers have gotten a ton of energy from sophomore G Lonnie Boga and newcomer Ryan Allen.  Milwaukee has a tough week ahead, but against an extremely athletic Marquette team, their depth COULD be the key to a monumental upset.

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Western Michigan

3. Butler (2-1)

Recent Results: Beat Marian (Ind.) 83-54, Lost to Louisville 88-73, Beat Ball State 88-55

Bulldog fans are hoping Shelvin Mack doesn't have to shoulder all the burden in their march towards madness.

This might be the lowest you’ll see Butler all year, but there are some legitimate concerns with this team.  Their loss at Louisville should absolutely not be considered a bad loss, but it revealed that this team might struggle to find scoring at times.  If Matt Howard can’t stay out of trouble, Butler is essentially putting all their hopes on Shelvin Mack to score.  My bet is that someone (Shawn Vanzant?) will emerge to be a consistent threat on the wing opposite Mack, so no need to panic…yet.

Up Next: Tuesday at Siena

2. Cleveland State (5-0)

Recent Results: Beat Bryant 71-57, Beat Iona 78-68, Beat Kent State 69-66, Beat Urbana 83-49, Beat Louisiana-Lafayette 60-55

The first of two undefeated teams in the Horizon League, the Vikings are fully capable of continuing that trend through the first 12 games of their season.  Behind spectacular point guard play from senior Norris Cole, Cleveland State hopes to pile up non-conference wins in a fairly weak non-conference schedule.  The Vikings have gotten quality minutes from junior F Aaron Pogue and have all the potential to be the last time standing come conference tournament time.

Up Next: Tuesday at Akron

1. Loyola (5-0)

Recent Results: Beat Eastern Kentucky 73-57, Beat Indiana State 86-74, Beat UT-Pan Am 79-57, Beat Eastern Illinois 73-62, Beat Western Michigan 82-64

The Ramblers’ schedule is littered with weaker non-conference opponents, but you simply cannot dismiss Loyola’s average margin of victory so far.   On average, the Ramblers have beaten their opponent by 15.8 points per game.  That is remarkable against any 5 opponents, and when looking further into what’s behind their success…why is everyone so surprised?  Returning their entire starting lineup from a year ago has been key to their success early as Jordan Hicks has been a man among boys with a true shooting percentage of 71.5%.

Up Next: Monday vs. Alcorn State