There wasn’t a ton of Horizon League action on the court this week, but the league more than made up for it with news off the court. The return of UIC star Marcus Ottey and anticipated return of Flames’ big man Jordan Blount, Skyelar Potter’s transfer from Wright State, updates on injuries to a pair of Green Bay post players, word that Oakland’s Rashad Williams will not be freed, and minor injuries to a pair of returning All-League players stuffed the headlines in a week without a ton of actual basketball.
On the court Northern Kentucky took care of business to solidify its standing, Milwaukee missed a golden opportunity, IUPUI showed again it should occasionally be able to punch above its weight class and Detroit had a shockingly strong result without the Horizon League’s Preseason Player of the Year.
- Northern Kentucky (8-3) Despite a mid-week scare, Northern Kentucky did enough to comfortably put away its opponents for a 2-0 week. Eastern Kentucky put up a good fight until the Norse seemed to settle in late and exploit the full-court press to secure a 76-57. On Sunday, Tyler Sharpe went off for 30 points as Northern Kentucky beat Illinois State 79-64. Dantez Walton’s streak of Horizon League Player of the Week Awards and 30-point performances against D-I opponents both came to an end; but a week with 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game is nothing to turn your nose up at.
- Wright State (8-3) Wright State played one opponent and beat them by a comfortable margin this week. The Raiders beat Southern 85-62 with Bill Wampler joining Loudon Love on the injury list, though the expectation is for Wampler to return from concussion protocol in time for Wright State’s game against Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday.
- Oakland (5-6) – The Golden Grizzlies are in a strange spot. Despite the team’s only result this week being a 23-point beatdown at the hands of Michigan State, Oakland doesn’t budge in the rankings because at this point that will require another team to come up and take the spot from them. UIC may be up to the task as its starting lineup looks to be on the verge of returning to full strength, but a 20-point loss to DePaul won’t move the needle for now.
- UIC (4-7) UIC’s wild ride of a season continued when Marcus Ottey returned to the lineup and Jordan Blount took to Twitter to announce he would be returning to action this week. The Flames started off as one of the league’s favorites, proceeded to look like a league bottom feeder, and now appear poised to contend for at least a Top 4 spot. Part of that goes back to last week, where the fourth spot in the rankings went to Green Bay on the basis that someone had to take it. Now it’s UIC’s turn to hold the spot, but things could change quickly when the Flames take on Illinois State and UC-Irvine this week.
- Green Bay (3-8) – Green Bay moved a step closer to heading into the January with two Division I wins after a 72-62 loss to Evansville. The game followed a similar pattern for the Phoenix: Evansville jumped out to an early lead and maintained it until the last 10 minutes of the game, when Green Bay began a rally that fell short. While the metrics still prefer Green Bay, UIC is set to be close to full strength this week. Add an injury to one of Green Bay’s few big men Josh McNair and the news that Tank Hemphill’s season is over and you have two teams whose current rosters don’t necessarily match their resumes.
- Youngstown State (6-5) – The Penguins remain a difficult team to get a good read on. A convincing 65-50 win over Southeast Missouri State was a nice result, but the Redhawks are cut from the same cloth as the other Division I teams that Youngstown has defeated this year. With a 3-7 record and metrics that seem to indicate it’s one of the 50 or so worst teams in Division I, it’s hard to figure out how much can be taken from this game.
- Milwaukee (5-6) – Milwaukee had an opportunity for a big jump in the rankings this week not only because Te’Jon Lucas’ undisclosed injury turned out to be minor, but because the Panthers were hosting a seemingly beatable Eastern Illinois team that was fresh off of clobbering Green Bay. But the Panthers were unable to take advantage, getting buried early before losing 75-68 a late rally fell short. It’s a concerning trend for Milwaukee, as outside of this week’s 95-68 loss to Kansas the Panthers have been within range to win every game before letting them slip away. The end result is a sub-.500 record that’s likely to get worse with Milwaukee’s non-conference finale at Wisconsin on Saturday.
- IUPUI (4-8) – With the bottom of the Horizon League Power Rankings so close, IUPUI’s 2-0 week featuring a win over future Horizon League member Purdue Fort Wayne was enough to jump the Jaguars two spots in the rankings. In the process, the Jaguars secured another strangely good win for their resume. Just before it’s current stretch against Horizon League opponents, the Mastadons knocked off Grand Canyon in Phoenix and the Eastern Illinois team that has wreaked havoc against the Horizon League’s Wisconsin schools. It doesn’t change the fact that IUPUI is probably a team that’s only capable of pulling off a handful of surprising upsets while its overall record remains poor, but it’s worthy of a boost for now.
- Cleveland State (4-7) – Nothing really changed for the Vikings this week. Losing 72-58 at Bowling Green is hardly a surprise for a team at the bottom — or really anywhere outside of the Top 3 — in the Horizon League, so it’s hard to ding Cleveland state for that. While the team may eventually drop to tenth if it’s proven it can’t consistently beat the league’s other bottom feeders, for now I’m going to throw the Vikings a bone.
- Detroit Mercy (1-9) Playing without Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy played a surprisingly competitive game against apparent MAC contender Toledo before falling 80-72. Despite losing, a competitive result in a seemingly hopeless situation would’ve normally bolstered Detroit’s standing if not for IUPUI’s win over Purdue Fort Wayne.