'20-'21 Horizon League Handbook

If you are new to this league (Hi Bobby 'Mo) you may need a few pointers to understand the '20-'21 Horizon League

WRIGHT STATE: The Raiders are everyone's odds on favorite to win the Horizon League. Take any Horizon League preview and they are all basically Wright State followed by a roll of the dice. Followed by IUPUI and IPFW. Louden Love (aka L.L. Cool Bean) and Grant Basile are flat out intimidating folks out there. They just beat Miami (OH) in convincing fashion after collapsing late in their opening contest against Marshall. Video suggests, yeah, they're probably the team best positioned to win the league and win a game or two in the Dance. Oh and it's an early small sample, but right now Wright State is 16th in the nation in Effective FG%. They have come out of the gates as strong as expected.

DETROIT: The Antoine Davis show is fun to watch. Tune in STAT 📻. This Detroit Mercy team (0-1) almost shocked Michigan State (lost 83-76) last week to start the season. Not a bad entrance for the Titans. 6'7" big man Bul Kuol and 6'4" always-110% guard Matt Johnson compliment Davis nicely. I like Detroit's chances- except of course, when they play Milwaukee.

Detroit has the best squad besides UIC and NKU; but neither is as experienced and deep as Wright State

NORTHERN KENTUCKY: Why so low after just beating UIC (who beat Wright State) in the 2020 HLT Final and reaching the Dance That Never Happened? Well, for one, two and three- as HoriZone Roundtable pointed out- Tyler Sharpe, Dantez Walton and Jalen Tate are all graduated now. And the replacements don't appear better- yet. But Marques Warrick is rumored to be a contender for Horizon League FOY. There is still a ton of talent and Darin Horn (23-9 (13-5) in his 1st year as NKU's coach) is a proven Horizon League winner. It won't surprise me if the Norse reach Top 3 this year (they always seem to win crucial games in recent years); but until they do, I'm expecting the teams above to more seriously vie for the HLT crown.

UIC: The Flames under Luke Yachich look like a different team. Steve McClain built upon what Howard Moore put in place after years of horrible UIC hoops teams. But McClain could never quite reach the next level to get to a Big Dance or NIT. So they brought in Yachich last year (10-22) and the jury is still out on whether he'll bring UIC a Dance Ticket- but they did just beat a decent Valpo team and juniors Teyvion Kirk and Braelen Bridges are frustratingly hard to pin/solve threats on every Horizon opponent's scouting sheet.

MILWAUKEE: If everything goes according to best case scenario the Panthers will be a lot for other teams to handle. But- there is a shedload hinging on: whether once-heralded B1G recruit turned UTEP-transfer Jordan Lathon, who cleared waivers to play immediately like everyone else in this pandemic-stricken season, will combine effectively with senior Panther floor general (things didn't go according to best-case scenario) 😐-- Even if without Lathon this season, which would have been a huge boost, we are still in great hands with seasoned PG veteran and Milwaukee native Te'Jon Lucas holding down the backcourt with fellow Sr. G Josh Thomas (JT) and the newcomers. A lot will depend on how big of an impact the other transfers DeAndre Gholston and Tafari Simms can make, and whether the Panthers can get solid minutes out of their newcomer freshman guards and forwards. One thing is unfortunately all too clear: Milwaukee has a post problem. CJ Wilbourn and Amir Allen can only handle so much. The loss of Vin Baker Jr. for the season due to cartilage tear compounds our lack of size/length down low but that does open up minutes for Courtney Brown Jr. who showed flashes of brilliance last season as a wing forward stretching out zone defenses and canning 3pts at a 33% clip. All considered, I really do expect to see a big turnaround season from Milwaukee driven by fast guard play that, if we are efficient enough, can win a lot of high scoring contests.

YOUNGSTOWN STATE: Darius Quisenberry isn't the only thing the Penguins have going for them. But YSU, like IUPUI and Milwaukee, have yet to be tested due to COVID-related pauses in action. With their experienced upperclassmen and length (they have 3 guys 6'8"- all upperclassmen), I expect a very solid team to emerge even if that team doesn't reach the HLT Semifinals.

Here is the Preseason predictions from Indianapolis; we'll see what the actual final 5 All-League are...

ROBERT MORRIS: The intriguing newcomer aims to assert itself among the top teams just as it had been a top NEC team for years. I think with all the players who were going NBA and are now returning (Quisenberry, Davis) and with Milwaukee's upside that many have yet to see (Lathon, Gholston), Bobby Mo will probably be surprised at the talent in the Horizon this season and eventually settle in the middle of the pack. AJ Bramah and Olisa lead the Colonialists (jk, freshman prank Bobby), and Dante Treacy looks to build on his NEC Tournament MVP performance last season. Bobby Mo is to be respected, if not yet feared.

OAKLAND: What has happened to Oakland? This is a team that I expected to elevate the Horizon League and it seems they have played down to our lowest of levels and time after time have failed to rise to the occasion when they have all the weapons to win yet find an improbable way to lose winnable games. They have tread a route only slightly better than Milwaukee since 2014: as a middling Horizon team that churns out an NBA star every few years. I expect better from the Grizzlies. Kampe and staff chose to play a crucible of a non-con slate and the Griz have made it through- COVID free at least. Oakland, led by juniors Jalen Moore and Rashad Williams, sits at 0-6 after losing contests to four Power 5 schools (they did play Michigan close), Toledo and Bradley. Perhaps this character and experience-builder of a season-start regimen will pay dividends in conference play.

C'mon now Oakland... You've known some greatness.

GREEN BAY: Will Ryan marks a new era for Green Bay Basketball in his 1st year at the helm after taking over a Green Bay program that was already in seemingly good shape under Linc Darner who got rather unexpectedly canned at the end of last season's 17-16 Phoenix campaign. With the returning players in explosive sophomore guard Amari Davis (he is expected to make a jump this season) and senior forward Trevian Bell, the Phoenix will need to prove that this coaching change was the right decision and not a case of Green Bay's new AD thinking that "the grass is always greener on the other side"- the side with my stamp on it; we know this scenario here in Milwaukee all too well.

IUPUI: The Jaguars have some pieces. But they play so discombobulated it'll be tough for them to win more than a half dozen conference games. More talented, better coached Horizon teams will run circles around the Jaguars. Marcus Burk may make All-Horizon 1st or 2nd Team but he can only score so much and their sloppy play (see graphic below from KenPom.com) left them at the bottom a season ago and may well do the same this season unless they can get a better handle (literally) on the ball. Jaguar fans should hope for double digit wins as a building block to better days. IUPUI like Milwaukee, has yet to play a game due to COVID.

IUPUI has to clean up its sloppy play or it will remain in the RPI 250-300 range 

CLEVELAND STATE: Cleveland has a lot to prove before they can convince me they are contenders. Freshman Jayson Woodrich and senior Craig Beaudion seem to both have potential but it won't be enough to take out the likes of Wright State and Detroit. I hate to put it this bluntly, but Cleveland State has not had more than 11 wins in a season since 2015.

IPFW: This is the 1st official year of the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastadons being a Horizon League member. They didn't prove much last season, and there isn't a lot on paper to suggest help is on the way. Jalen Pipkins handles the majority of their possessions but he will need a lot of help to dig out of the cellar I expect them to be tethered to until they can build something more competitive. The Mastadons may improve this season, but that improvement will likely be marginal at best until they can put together a bigger, faster, more coordinated (hoops IQ) team.


The above represents my best guess as to the relative strength of each Horizon team based on some great Horizon League previews and the few games I've seen played already on ESPN+ (by those programs who have been so fortunate- several programs have had pauses and Milwaukee is among the programs who have yet to play a single contest). I expect to see a junkyard dogfight for #1 seed in the ever-important Horizon League Tourney.

That's the only way anyone dances these days in the Horizon. Just facts. Sucks but true.

If we all (all of us Horizon League conference members) continue to underperform in non-con games and in the Big Dance, we will have to get used to being a 1-bid league. This is sad, because for many years, even after Butler, the Horizon routinely produced at-large invites.

This is made more sad by the fact that your own Milwaukee Panthers reached the Sweet 16 in 2005; Butler reached the Sweet 16 in 2003 and 2007 and then shocked the nation (not once but twice!) by reaching the NCAA National Championship game in 2010 and 2011; and Loyola (~4 years removed from the Horizon League) reached the Final Four in 2018.

We used to be a league of ballers 😐

Now we are just a league who should realize how lucky it is to have the talents we do have like Antoine Davis, Te'Jon Lucas and Darius Quisenberry. We as a conference must turn this around prontisimo. We, the Milwaukee Panthers as a team, need to strive for inclusion in the MVC when it expands again in the next few years.

Overall, the '20-'21 Pandemic Season Horizon League has a few NBA-bound and several internationally-bound stars complimenting a lot of inexperienced but promising talent. Led by Louden Love, Wright State is poised to win the HL conference regular season title (again) AND the HLT this time around. Detroit, Youngstown State, Milwaukee and Northern Kentucky are the most likely to stop this from happening.

Remember that this will be a season of double features (back-to-back contests on successive days) so posts here will cover both games in 1. And in a kind of neat way I guess (if your team drops the opening bill), prepare to be able to get revenge- the very next day.

The Milwaukee Panthers (picked for 10th place in the Horizon by most media) look to gel their 11 new pieces together quickly and be the dark horse hoops team that shows up in unbeatable, inimitable form either all season or at least when it counts most (March).

go panthers
the future is now.