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)