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 (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 (December 21 – 27)

The Horizon League rises to 9th in conference RPI following a stellar week by the Butler Bulldogs.

Only two games other than the BracketBusters in February remain in the Horizon League’s non-conference slate.  To finish in the top 10 in Conference RPI would be tremendous for the state of this league.

In descending order…

10. Youngstown State (Overall Record: 4-6, Conference Record: 0-2, RPI: 226)

Recent Results: Lost to Kent State 71-58

Where do the Penguins go from here?  Vytas Sulskis is the lone bright spot on a team that will be hard pressed to match the 6 Division-I wins from a season ago.  My best guess is they’ll up the ante to 7 this year, but what does that mean for Youngstown State.  Since joining the Horizon League in 2001, the Penguins have been nothing but a drag on the league’s profile.  What would it take for the league to give up on this program?  A program that financially isn’t up to the task of competing in what has become a formidable conference.

Up Next: Thursday vs. UIC (4-8)

9. UIC (4-8, 0-2, 228)

Recent Results: Lost to Oregon State 74-54

Losing by 20 to a bad Oregon State team proves that UIC’s win over in-state powerhouse Illinois was more of an aberration than the norm.  Fortunately, they have a shot at their first conference win of the season with their upcoming game against conference bottom-feeder Youngstown State.  The upside for the Flames is that they’ve proved that on any given night they will be a tough out for any conference opponent.

Up Next: Thursday at Youngstown State (4-6)

8. Green Bay (5-7, 1-1, 155)

Recent Results: Beat Wyoming 68-62

Two straight wins for the Phoenix should give them some nice momentum heading into the conference portion of their schedule.  Senior guard Rahmon Fletcher has been playing like he deserves to be a first team all-conference member.

Up Next: Wednesday at Wyoming (6-6)

7. Milwaukee (6-7, 1-1, 150)

Recent Results: Santa Claus dropped off a playbook in front of the U.S. Cellular Arena.

The Panthers have really put together a nice schedule this year.  Sure, they’d like to have a few more wins, but with each win by Northern Iowa and South Dakota State, the Panthers season looks that much better.  It’ll be important for the Panthers to forget the results of the non-conference season and focus on what’s important ahead: Wright State.

Up Next: Thursday at Wright State (5-6)

6. Wright State (5-6, 0-1, 174)

Recent Results: Lost to Charlotte 57-53

The #6 spot is up for grabs in the power rankings as the Milwaukee Panthers come to town.  Wright State should be up to the challenge if Anthony Hill doesn’t play.  But if he does, he could go off against a frontcourt that includes Johann Mpondo‘s 3.8 rebounds per game.  A manageable next couple of weeks should see the Raiders get back above .500 against D-I opponents.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Milwaukee (6-7)

5. Detroit (6-6, 1-1, 197)

Recent Results: Lost to Bradley 73-65

This is not what Coach Ray McCallum Sr. had in mind when he envisioned his son, Ray McCallum Jr., leading the break for open alley-oops to Chase Simon before the season started.  The Titans certainly haven’t set the world on fire, and frankly, I’d be surprised to see them do that once the conference season gets under way.  We’ll get a chance to pass judgement later this week.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Green Bay (5-7)

4. Loyola (9-4, 0-2, 209)

Recent Results: Beat Texas Pan-American 84-76

Sure they’re 9-4, but who have they beaten?  Their best win is over 4-6 Indiana State.  Are you kidding me?  Loyola is in for a rude awakening with their next opponent, Cleveland State.  0-3 to start the conference season isn’t an easy hole to climb yourself out of.  They could find themselves dropping down these rankings like a lead balloon if they’re not able to prove themselves in conference play.

Up Next: Thursday at Cleveland State (11-1)

Valpo celebrates their 103-102 win over the Oakland Grizzlies.

3. Valparaiso (7-4, 2-0, 77)

Recent Results: Beat Oakland 103-102

I don’t even know what to say about the Crusaders’ 103-102 victory over Oakland this past week.  It defies all logic.  The Crusaders’ third leading scorer in the game, Michael Rogers, only had 10 points.  Valpo only had 18 assists on all those points.  On top of that, they had 26 fouls.  Huh??   One thing I can say for certain is that the Crusaders are for real.  They may not finish at the top of the Horizon League, but trust me…they’ll be fighting until the end.

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Ball State (5-3)

2. Cleveland State (11-1, 2-0, 11)

Recent Results: Beat South Florida 69-62

I really hate to do this, but the Vikings have officially dropped a spot in our Power Rankings.  You’ve been great Cleveland State, you really have.  I mean, it’s not you…it’s me.  I just need some space right now.  Cleveland State has had an extremely successful non-conference season, but now it’s time to show just how tough they are.  Butler, Valpo and the rest of the conference are certainly not going to back down because the Vikings have been the talk of the town since their hot start.  Time to earn your keep…

Up Next: Thursday vs. Loyola (9-4)

Where did this beautiful cookie duster go anyways?

 

1. Butler (8-4, 1-0, 9)

Recent Results: Beat Utah 74-62, Beat Florida State 67-64, Beat Washington State 84-68

No team in the nation has had a better week than the Bulldogs.  Winning the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu was quite the Christmas present for Shelvin Mack and the boys.  Matt Howard has arguably been the conference player of the year so far, while mentoring Andrew Smith to be the consistent big man Howard needs by his side.  The road to defending their conference crown resumes Saturday against Valpo.  Just how good can this Butler squad be?

Up Next: Saturday vs. Valpo (7-4)

Horizon League Power Rankings (Dec. 14 – 20)

The Horizon League rises to 10th in conference RPI following a couple great wins over some tough opponents.

The non-conference games are winding down (save the BracketBusters), and the Horizon League should feel fairly satisfied with its performance.  Whoever comes out of the Horizon League should be pretty battle tested come tournament time.

In descending order…

10. Youngstown State (Overall Record: 4-5, Conference Record: 0-2, RPI: 234)

Recent Results: Lost to North Carolina State 67-50

Not a lot of excitement this week for the Penguins, and there doesn’t seem to be much on the horizon either.  A game against the Golden Flashes of Kent State should be a difficult game for Jerry Slocum‘s bunch.  Senior guard Vytas Sulskis continues to be the team’s best player, and as he goes, so too do the Penguins.  Unfortunately, he needs a little more help than he’s received.

Up Next: Tuesday at Kent State (8-3)

9. Green Bay (4-7, 1-1, 172)

Recent Results: Beat North Dakota 72-68

I know the Phoenix just beat North Dakota, but they were very fortunate to do so.  Needing a furious rally late in the second half, the Phoenix were able to pull out a close one, but this team will struggle mightily come January if they can’t get more production from their bench.  Alec Brown has been an outstanding freshman for Green Bay, but as should be expected, much of his play has been quite inconsistent.

Up Next: Wednesday at Wyoming (6-6)

8. Milwaukee (6-7, 1-1, 166)

Recent Results: Lost to DePaul 61-47, Beat Bowling Green 72-69

The Panthers look frustrated on the court.  They lack on the court leadership and are easily rattled.  DePaul put on a clinic with their full court pressure that caused the Panthers to turn the ball over time and time again.  Milwaukee needs to find consistent point guard play, and if they want to run their offense through the post, they need to find a post player that is capable of letting the offense flow through him.  Anthony Hill hasn’t proved that he’s the guy for the job yet.

Up Next: December 30th at Wright State (7-5)

The Flames have reason to celebrate after upsetting the Fighting Illini

7. UIC (4-7, 0-2, 206)

 

Recent Results: Lost to Northern Illinois 82-80, Beat (#14) Illinois 57-54

Like the Panthers, UIC has been quite inconsistent so far.  Their loss against Northern Illinois was a tough one, but their victory over in-state rival Illinois was HUGE.  Coach Howard Moore has shown early in his career that he has the ability to be an outstanding coach in this league.  Employing the 1-3-1 zone against Illinois was brilliant and shows that Moore isn’t going to just trot his guys out there and hope for the best.  A few other Horizon League coaches could learn something from what Moore has done in his short time at UIC.

Up Next: Wednesday at Oregon State (4-6)

6. Valparaiso (5-4, 2-0, 77)

Recent Results: Beat IPFW 63-47, Beat Eastern Michigan 74-67

Two easy home wins were highlighted by the Crusaders’ victory over IPFW.  Coach Homer Drew has been able to get a lot of production from his bench with Kevin Van Wijk and Jay Harris being the main weapons.  The Crusaders will be a very tough team in the Horizon League during the stretch run.

Up Next: December 20th vs. Ball State (5-3)

5. Wright State (5-5, 0-1, 126)

Recent Results: Beat Central Michigan 53-49, Beat Miami (OH) 66-51

Wright State has had a solid non-conference but I’m still skeptical they’ll fare as well in Horizon League play due to their lack of frontcourt depth.  Their victory over Oakland earlier in the season was an example of what they can do when everything comes together.  But their loss against Southern Illinois leaves doubt in my mind that they’ll come to play each and every game.  Still, they should be good enough to finish in the middle of the pack this year.

Up Next: Wednesday at Charlotte (5-6)

4. Loyola (8-4, 0-2, 214)

Recent Results: Lost to DePaul 81-74

As the schedule gets hotter, the Ramblers seem to get colder.  Much like last year, Loyola has beat up several bad teams which has inflated their record.  Loyola is a better team than they were last year, but the big question is, can they win in the Horizon League?  Geoff McCammon and Ben Averkamp are trying to prove that they belong in the upper echelon of the league.  Only time will tell…

Up Next: Wednesday at Texas-Pan American (3-10)

3. Detroit (6-5, 1-1, 177)

Ray McCallum Jr. has been everything the Titans could hope for...

Recent Results: Beat Central Michigan 75-49

In their latest victory over Central Michigan, Ray McCallum finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists.  With the Newcomer of the Year award already sewn up, McCallum looks to lead a streaky Detroit team into conference play.  There’s no question that they have the ability to stay with any team in the Horizon League.  Its just a matter of which Detroit team will show up.

Up Next: Wednesday at Bradley (5-5)

2. Butler (5-4, 1-0, 44)

Recent Results: Beat Stanford 83-50

Matt Howard.  Yep, that’s all you need to say.  The senior forward has finally seemed to live up to his potential posting 27 points and 10 rebounds in a romp over Stanford.  If Howard and Shelvin Mack can continue to take turns shouldering the load for the Bulldogs, another trip to the tourney is in the cards.

Up Next: Wednesday vs. Utah (7-3)

1. Cleveland State (10-1, 2-0, 14)

Recent Results: Lost to West Virginia 74-63

The Vikings put up a good fight against West Virginia, but came up a few possessions short.  The reality is that Cleveland State probably hasn’t built up a good enough profile to earn an at-large bid in the tournament.  They’ll need a victory over South Florida and a win in the BracketBuster to improve their standing, but at this point, the only thing that matters is the conference schedule.  Win the conference, and you’re in….

Up Next: Wednesday vs. South Florida (6-6)

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

Top Five Dominating Post Players in the Horizon League

Post players, especially the good ones, are a lot fewer in number than the guards in the Horizon League.  Because of that, fans tend to remember post players a lot more; they’re larger than life, and fans get behind their big behemoths.

I decided to take a bit of time and try and rank my best post players in the Horizon League.  I did leave out a couple guys that deserve to be on the list (Aaron Pogue, for one) but I think I at least have a decent top five:

Anthony Hill can take over games.

5. Anthony Hill – You know I wasn’t going to get this list going without giving a heads up to the Panthers, and Anthony Hill is by far the best in the post we’ve got.  He’s got the biggest problem with sharing the ball among the post players here; not because he doesn’t share it, but because unless Kaylon Williams is on the floor, all five players are scorers; Hill won’t be the guy to score twenty a night, although he can.  Matt Howard cannot take Hill, flat out.  Hill scored 18 and 21 points in the two regular season match-ups, and 15 points in only 20 minutes of the conference semifinals.  Hill seems to save his biggest games for the biggest opponents.  He does have a tendency to shoot the three if given the wide-open opportunity, even though his ability is marginal outside the arc.  He belongs down in the block, where he has more post moves than anybody and can use them.  On a worse team, he’d be putting up 18 a night, but with the balance he hovers around ten.

He's injury-prone, but when healthy there are few that can stand up to Andy Polka.

4. Andy Polka – The Loyola post from Oshkosh is definitely the best rebounder in the conference.  He has a nose for the ball and the strength to push even the biggest opponents around under the glass.  The problem with Polka, of course, is that he should have graduated by now, but redshirted last year because of injuries.  He might have been higher had he been healthy, but Polka has been injury-prone for much of his career.  The lack of talent around him will be a problem for him this season; none of the other players on the list will be asked by their coaches to carry the load as much as Polka will be asked by Whitesell.

3. Cory Johnson – If this were a discussion of the best forwards inside and out, Cory Johnson may be #1 on the list.  However, this is all about who can dominate the low block, and Johnson’s jack of all trades status means he’s the jack in the post, not the ace.  That’s probably unfair, because Johnson is a pure scorer more than any of the players on this list, and he can go off for 25 on any given night.

2. Matt Howard – Believe me, I labored long and hard trying to decide who was number one, and while Matt Howard doesn’t have a lot of downside, I’m still dropping him in the two spot.  You’re more than welcome to disagree in the comments section.  Howard is the smartest basketball player in the conference; disagree if you want, but he knows where the ball is at all times, has great reaction on defense, and knows how to work the officials better than anybody else.  He can draw a foul from anyone, and it’s a good game; he shoots almost 80% from the line.  On the downside, he can be dominated, as we’ve seen with Anthony Hill.  But he’s consistently good, and that’s why he’s been all-conference three years in a row.

He's just a monster, the best post player for 2010-11.

1. Eli Holman – He’s terribly inconsistent, with games of four points against Wright State and 21 against Valpo. When I explain Holman’s game to people who haven’t seen him, I use one word: anarchy.  It’s powerful, it’s incredibly talented, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  If you gave him Matt Howard’s basketball IQ and Anthony Hill’s offensive post moves, he’d be the best player in the nation, I’m convinced of it.  He, above all the others, has NBA size (6’10”, 255) and the game to match.  He’s pure athleticism, the best post player that Detroit has had since who…Dave Debusschere? We’re going to be modest and say Ryvon Covile.  Holman’s 2.5 blocks per game last season are enough to prove that he’s one of the best defensive post players the conference has seen in awhile, and his nine rebounds are proof that he owns the area around the basket.  If coach Ray McCallum Sr. can get him going consistently, the Titans will be the best team to challenge Butler since Wright State got it done with VD and Wood in 2007.