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

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Game One Reactions

Kevin O’Connor is earning his trip to Italy with his coverage of the experience.  Here’s a video of reactions to game one:

Shameless Recruitment: Shaq Boga

Following the commitment from J.J. Panoske last week, I spent a lot of time breaking down the roster for down the road.  We are absolutely stacked both this season and next season, and I’m proud to say that coach Jeter has put together a very talented squad.  For the first time since Chris Hill graduated, we have a dedicated point guard in Kaylon Williams and a bevy of talent at every position.

Shaq Boga, 2011

Come to Milwaukee, Shaq: you're our future.

Unfortunately, however, Williams will only be on campus for two years.  So when I look down the road at the 2012-13 season and beyond, I see the same question marks at point guard that need a different answer: Shaq Boga.

Kaylon Williams is undoubtedly the starting point guard for the Milwaukee Panthers, as he will play through the 2011-12 season in that role.  Backing him up will be Ja’Rob McCallum, who is too good of a shooter to be a full-time point guard and would be better suited on the floor at the 2 spot.  So when Williams takes his game to the professional level, who will take over for him as the Panthers’ floor general?

I’m looking at you, Shaq Boga.

The Milwaukee Panthers need a point guard of the future, and the younger brother of wing guard Lonnie Boga fits the bill for us.  Just in case you’re leaning in any other direction, allow me to educate you as to why Milwaukee is the absolute perfect fit for Shaquille Boga:

Lonnie.  Duh. Your big brother played a big part in our 2009-10 season as a true freshman along with Ja’Rob McCallum, so you know that if you want some familiarity, who else could you play with that you’re more in sync than your brother?  Not to mention the fact that Lonnie’s 2/3 guard position is the perfect compliment to your 1 guard position.  Lonnie is already one of the most vocal leaders on the team, and having that kind of leader to help you grow as a player your first couple seasons will make you a better leader by the time you become “the guy” in Milwaukee.  Don’t forget, he’s also told us how happy and proud he would be if you chose to play with him in Milwaukee.

Bradford Beach is just east of campus, more than enough to entertain yourself from May through October.

Milwaukee and St. Louis are very much alike.  Switch out Budweiser for Miller, and the Mississippi River for Lake Michigan, and you’ve got very similar cities.  No, we don’t have football, but the most storied franchise in history is just a two-hour drive up the road in Green Bay if you want to check out the NFL action.  While we don’t have the Rams, we do have Bradford Beach right off of campus, which is the place to be in the hot summer months; most of our team is on campus year round, and the City of Festivals is a great place to spend June, July and August while you take summer classes and enjoy the, uh, scenery.

The keys to the team are yours in year 2.  Kaylon Williams will undoubtedly be the starting point guard in the 2011-12 season, your freshman year.  You could put up a ridiculous practice season and take the starting gig, but I’ll follow the lead of our coaches and be honest; you most likely won’t start until 2012-13.  What I’m telling you is this: that’s not a bad thing.  In the 2005 NFL Draft, Aaron Rodgers was selected in the 20’s, the second quarterback taken.  The first? Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers.  Smith was given the reigns to the team his rookie season.  After three years backing up Brett Favre, Rodgers became the guy in Green Bay.  Who do you think is the better QB now?  Rodgers learned under Favre and McCarthy.  You’re going to learn under Williams, who led the Missouri Valley Conference in assists as a freshman, and Rob Jeter, a coach not unfamiliar with the point guard position.  Our head coach knows how to recruit a point guard: the Dallas Mavericks jersey of Devin Harris is the only one hanging on the wall of his office.  That year of tutelage, whether as the main backup or as a redshirt, will make you that much better when you take over the reigns in your sophomore or redshirt freshman season.

Kyle Kelm

Kyle Kelm (44) is just one of the offensive weapons Shaq Boga would have at his disposal.

We’ve got the pieces for you already. While most of the teams you are being recruited by are still looking for pieces down the road, we can safely say that through at least your junior year, we’ve got the pieces in place at all but one spot on the floor, and every spot through your sophomore year.  J.J. Panoske is a great player to have next to you for every year you’re in uniform; the inside-out game you two could cultivate, paired with his ability to stretch the defense past the three-point line, gives you a very potent offensive player as a target every game you’re in the Black and Gold.  And he’s only the first.  This season, freshman shooting guard Evan Richard represents a two-guard that will likely redshirt and spend 4 years next to you on the court.  While Cuba City did not play the best of the best in his senior year, Richard did score 50 points in one basketball game, and as a junior at that.  He’ll come into Milwaukee with Kyle Kelm, a 6’9” power forward that can pass the ball out of the post with tremendous ease. So you even have multiple inside-out combinations for three of your four years in uniform.  Already.  A year before you even set foot on campus.

So take a long hard look at Milwaukee.  Because while you might get to see big college football and play in a conference like the Big Ten, you won’t find a situation nearly as beneficial for your college career as the one at Milwaukee.

McCallum to back up Williams

McCallum and Coach Jeter. Photo from UWMPanthers.com

Milwaukee Panthers sophomore Ja’Rob McCallum will be the primary backup for JUCO transfer Kaylon Williams, PantherU learned this week.  McCallum spent the 2009-10 season playing both point guard and shooting guard in the Panthers line-up behind Ricky Franklin.  As a freshman, McCallum averaged 7.8 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game as a combo guard.

Williams figures to be the first true point guard to don the Milwaukee Panthers uniform since Chris Hill, part of the greatest teams in Milwaukee history. Hill is currently enjoying a successful career overseas, and will take part in Joah Tucker’s Banner Boys Charity Game tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. at Mount Mary College.  Williams, who transferred from Evansville after his freshman year and played last season at Kirkwood CC, led the Missouri Valley Conference in assists as a freshman and figures to get the brunt of the minutes at the “1”.

McCallum’s freshman year was wildly successful, a year that culminated in him winning the Sporting News Freshman of the Year award in the Horizon League.  McCallum has spent this summer playing in the Milwaukee Pro-Am, organized by former Sports Bubbler head and friend of PantherU, Jim Ganzer.

McCallum will be part of a loaded back court for the Panthers.  Returning with McCallum are Tone Boyle, Jerard Ajami, Patrick Souter and Lonnie Boga, who will be joined by Williams, Ryan Allen, and Evan Richard.

Milwaukee Pro-Am cures withdrawal

Detractors call it unorganized, pick-up nonsense.  It’s not basketball so much as it’s the And One Mixtape Tour.  Is it true?  Partially.  The dunks are frequent, the pace is frantic at times, and the defense is a little lax.  But the fact of the matter is this: if you are a college basketball fan of Marquette, Milwaukee, Green Bay or in general, there is no reason you should be sitting at home on your couch instead of attending the Milwaukee Pro-Am.

Jim Ganzer’s inaugural smash is better than advertised.  I came in expecting to see a lackluster all-star game with no one putting forth the effort.  Of the four games I saw today, not one lacked the heart of a college basketball game.  The best part about the Pro-Am, for the fan, is that this isn’t the Bradley Center, the Resch Center or the Cell.  This is Homestead High School, where the two gyms provide extremely close proximity for the price of admission (a whopping free).  Fans are on top of the action, and the action is excellent.

Meier is working on conditioning and defense this off-season

There are three days left, August 4th and 6th at Homestead lead up to the culmination, a tournament on Sunday August 8th at the Al McGuire Center.  I would recommend making it on Wednesday the 4th and Sunday, because even I won’t be there on Friday the 6th; there’s no way I’m missing the Joah Tucker Charity Game (details coming soon).  Now, some notes on Panthers and other players at the Pro-Am on Saturday:

– James Haarsma, for lack of a better word, is a beast.  6’7” he is not; I would hazard a guess and say he’s much closer to 6’4”.  But he’s wide in the shoulders, extremely strong, and fights for everything on the court.  His hustle in the Pro-Am, where you wouldn’t expect the effort, gives me good feelings about the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with Haarsma at the power forward slot.  He has a nice, quick jumper that he can hit from the mid-range.  I didn’t see him take a three, but there’s more Pro-Am to come!

– Tony Meier is stronger than he was last year, when he struggled in his sophomore season after a stellar freshman campaign.  He still has the sweet outside shooting touch, canning a wide-open three that broke the back of the opposing team, led by Jarvis Williams of Green Bay.  Meier definitely improved on his conditioning, as he played the full game without coming out.  A funny moment came in garbage time when several dunks in succession by both teams were followed by a lay-up by Meier, who was chided by Lonnie Boga from the stands that he was “Breaking the flow.”  The next time down the court, Meier threw down an excellent jam that got a standing ovation from the Panther section.

– Ricky Franklin played most of the summer with NBA players and prospects, and it shows.  Rick played the point flawlessly for the Athletico team, dishing out several assists and feeding the monster that Darius Johnson-Odom has become.  His play is more crisp, and he looks the part of a pro point guard.  A long pro career awaits him, most likely overseas.

– Joah Tucker has not lost a step since his college days.  His three-point shot seems more reliable and he can throw down like he’s still 22 years old.  In fact, one of his dunks reminded me of the monster jam he laid on James Augustine in the Sweet 16 back in 2005.  Tucker is putting together his Charity Basketball Game that benefits the high school named after his cousin, whom he lost in 2001 to a battle with cancer.  The game is August 6th at Nicolet High School; yes, it will still be there, they will have the floors ready.  Alando Tucker, Carl Landry and perhaps Wes Matthews, who played at the Pro-Am today, may be playing in the game.  You can bank on players such as Larry House from Creighton and Quemont Greer from DePaul to play in the event, as well as a dozen or so former Milwaukee Panthers.

– Jarvis Williams, the Junior College transfer from Green Bay, will be their best player this season not named Bryquis Perine or Rahmon Fletcher.  He is extremely athletic, although he does not have much size to him and may have difficulty banging in the block with big  Horizon League opponents.  Should the Phoenix find a decent post player to take eyes away from Williams, watch out – he can jump out the gym, has an all right shot and hustles as much as Haarsma.

No Milwaukee Pro-Am next weekend, as it’s an off week.  The final two days at Homestead will be Wednesday the 4th and Friday the 6th.  The championship tournament will be Sunday the 8th at the Al McGuire Center.

The Interview: Lonnie Boga

Boga will have to shoulder more of the load in Franklin's absence. Photo credit: Benny Sieu, JSOnline.

While the coaches are hot on the recruiting trail, most of the players are on campus practicing and going to class. I caught up with Lonnie Boga, sophomore guard and owner of the nickname Waka Flocka Flame or Milli (with Ja’Rob McCallum as Vanilli), depending on what mood Klotsche Krazie Travis Wacker is in.

Jimmy Lemke: How’s the summer going? Taking any classes?

Lonnie Boga: The summer is going good.  Still getting used to being a sophomore, but it’s all good. I’m taking English this month and I took history in the first session in June.

JL: That last game, with Butler, was close until about a minute left. Is that the game you’re looking forward to the most, or which one is most important to you?

LB: I’m really looking forward to the first game of the season, just to see where the team is at. That last game [at Butler] is so far behind us now.

JL: Last year, between yourself, Ja’Rob, Ricky [Franklin], and Jerry [Ajami], the two guard spots got spread between four players. You lose Ricky, but gain Kaylon Williams at point guard. Do you think your role will change now that the team has a true point guard?

LB: I think my role will be the same.  Rebound, play tough defense, score but I have to give more because Rick is gone.  Instead of the spurts I had, I have to have complete games the whole year.

JL: Excited for the Italy trip? What do you wanna do there besides play basketball?

LB: I’m very excited for the Italy trip.  I’m just excited to have the opportunity, I’m really anxious to travel the cities and have fun with the team while playing ball.

JL: Your brother Shaq is being recruited by our coaching staff. What would you think about playing with your brother again?

LB: On the court, he’s not my brother, he’s my team mate.  Off the court, I’m harder on him than anybody. But subconsciously I’m going to be happy and proud if I get the chance to play with him again.

JL: What’s the chances your brother brings a state title to McCluer?

LB: It’s a good chance. He’ll be experienced and he has the pieces around him to get the job done.

JL: What part of your sophomore year are you looking forward to?

LB: I’m really looking forward for a chance to play for anything important and winning.  I want to play in the “big game” and win it.  Whether it’s the Horizon League tourney or the NCAA tourney I want to play for something big and win.

Shaq Boga gaining street cred

The future at point guard

Jeff Goodman is a busy man.  The college basketball czar for Fox Sports recently discussed basketball with 30 of the elite recruits in the class of 2011.

He asked what the recruits thought about some of their fellow players.  One of the questions posed was this: who is the most underrated player?  Only one player, Michael Carter-Williams, had three of the top 30 recruits call him the most underrated player in the class.  Who’s next on that list?

That would be Shaquille Boga, point guard from McCluer High School, and if coach Rob Jeter and staff have it their way, future floor general for the Milwaukee Panthers.  Shaq Boga has had an offer from Milwaukee longer than any other team, and the Panthers have the inside track for many reasons: Milwaukee’s similarity to St. Louis, the earliest offer and highest interest from coaching staffs, and last but not least, the opportunity to play alongside his older brother Lonnie, a sophomore-to-be for the Panthers.

We at PantherU want to tip our cap to Shaq Boga, one of the most underrated recruits in the Class of 2011.  Hopefully we’ll see the Boga Brothers tearing up the Horizon League in 2011-12.