HORIZON LEAGUE PREVIEW
-1. LOYOLA, IL. The Ramblers started off well last season and although they tapered off at the beginning of the conference schedule, they really finished strong and should be a big force in the league this year. Four starters are back, which makes them one of the more experienced teams in the league. They also have arguably the best backcourt with guards Blake Schilb
(19.1ppg) and Majak Kou (12.8ppg). Schilb is a great all around player who can also go to the glass despite being a guard. J.R. Blount is also a good perimeter player who averaged in double figures a season ago. Leon Young came off the bench last year, but was a very productive forward in the minutes he saw and actually managed to average double figures himself. This is a very good team who has a chance to win the title and go to the NCAA Tournament.
-2. ILLINOIS CHICAGO. This league is really a toss up between the two Chicago teams this year. Both teams have four starters coming back and both finished very strong down the stretch last season. In addition to four starters returning, they have six of their top eight scorers back. They have a lot of size in the front court in Jovan Stefanov and Danijel Zoric. Othus Jeffers is another forward who contributes a lot of scoring. Josh Mayo was a good guard for the Flames last year and should step up big again this year.
-3. WISCONSIN GREEN BAY. They Phoenix were very young last year and although they were inconsistent last season, they still showed signs of promise. All five starters are back and if they can continue to grow and gel they could really have a dangerous team this year. Guard Ryan Evanochko is among the best in the league. He is probably the best all around player for the Phoenix averaging 15.8ppg and 5.2rpg. Mike Schachtner and Josh Lawrence make up a pretty strong front court as well.
-4. DETROIT. The Titans have a young team and will probably look to some newcomers to step up. A lot of them doing well in this league depends on Brandon Cotton
being able to stay healthy. They are clearly much better with him than without him. In case you didnt know, he is a pro prospect who averaged 17.5ppg in the games he played in last year and was instrumental in their strong finish to the season. Jon Goode is another guard who rounds out a very good backcourt for the Titans. Consistency has always been a problem for this team, and since they are relying on so many new players that may once again be the case. Still, the potential is there for them to do well.
-5. WRIGHT STATE. The Raiders underwent a coaching change in the offseason and hired Brad Brownell, formerly of UNC Wilmington. It was a great hire and he should really build up this program, but he certainly has his work cut out for him this year. Four starters return, including guard DeShaun who led the team in scoring with 17.9ppg last season. They are a little thin up front, but do have two productive players in forwards Jordan Pleiman and Drew Burleson, who both averaged double figures and rebounded well for the Raiders a season ago. This team does have an opportunity to surprise some people in the league this year. Wins have not been easy to come by for the Raiders, but they are getting better and should get a big boost from Brownell.
-6. BUTLER. Look for the Bulldogs to be good this year, but it will be difficult to contend for the league title like they did last season. Brandon Polk, who was probably the best player in the league, is now gone. They do have two starters returning to the lineup in guard A.J. Graves
and forward Brandon Crone. Graves averaged 13.4ppg last season and Crone proved effective on the boards. This is a team that did not go to their bench much last season so it will be hard to determine how effective last years reserves will be.
-7. WISCONSIN MILWAUKEE. The Panthers have been the class of the league for the past two years winning or tying for first place each year, and winning the conference tournament after that. Theyve also made a splash on the national scene advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year and to the Sweet Sixteen in 2005. The bad news is that none of their starters are back from last year and it looks as though it is time to reload. They lost nearly all their scoring and will now have to rely on the newcomers and the guys that came off the bench to step up. One would assume that the recruiting class will get a ton of minutes, but its hard to say how well they will do.
-8. CLEVELAND STATE. The Vikings also have a new coach in Gary Waters this year, who is formerly of Rutgers. Four starters do return to the team and they may be able to step up in the conference this year, but they won just five conference games last year and didnt look good at all down the stretch. Forward JNathan Bullock led the team in scoring last year and should be a force again this year. This team doesnt have a very strong rebounder and that could be a problem. They also just dont seem to match up well against the rest of the league. However, a new talented coach and experience could result in them surprising some people.
-9. YOUNGSTOWN STATE. Its been awhile since the Penguins were a force in this league and it doesnt look like this will be their year either. They do have an extremely talented backcourt with Quin Humphrey (19.2ppg, 8.2rpg) and Keston Roberts (14ppg), but dont have any sort of frontcourt whatsoever. Quin Humphrey leads the team in rebounding, but hes also a guard. If one of the big men could rebound as well as he could that would be a nice start in this team improving. They did show signs of improvement and being able to compete though, and we should se more of that this year, but I still dont expect them to finish all that high in the standings.
RANDOM ORDER OF FINISH
-For those that missed my first blog entry, each conference preview will also include a random order of finish. It sounds just like what it is. Teams are drawn at random and placed in order. The purpose for this is to demonstrate that at the end of the season, generally every single major and minor media preseason preview (including my own) isnt all that more accurate than simply randomly picking the teams.
3. Loyola, IL
4. Youngstown State
5. Wright State
6. Wisconsin Milwaukee
7. Wisconsin Green Bay
8. Cleveland State
9. Illinois Chicago
-Please feel free to send me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org, whether its good or bad. Some conferences are harder to research and write about than other conferences, so every comment and critique helps so long as its constructive