Horizon League Power Rankings – Week 13

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With another week of Horizon League play in the books (and another beginning in a few hours…sorry about that!) we actually got some valuable information during Week 13. Namely, the gap between Wright State and a Dantez Walton-less Northern Kentucky is pretty significant. The Raiders hosted the Norse and delivered a more-than-convincing 95-63 beatdown on ESPNU last Friday.

Results across the rest of the league left things about as confusing as they were at the start of the week, but we got some wildly entertaining basketball out of it. Green Bay at Youngstown State, UIC at Detroit Mercy and IUPUI at Oakland were all exciting to the end; albeit with varying degrees of quality throughout the game.

  1. Wright State Raiders 18-4 (8-1 in Horizon League play)

    There’s no way to deny it. The Raiders made up for a hiccup against UIC and cemented the league’s top spot for the near future with a blowout win over the only other team that seems capable of entering the discussion for first place.

    Wright State’s 96-63 victory over Northern Kentucky gave the Raiders a two-game lead in the Horizon League halfway through the league schedule. While the rumored upcoming return of Dantez Walton should give NKU hope for the rest of the season, there’s no debate about who’s first right now.
  2. Northern Kentucky Norse (14-7, 6-3)

    Northern Kentucky going 0-1 and losing by 32 in that lone contest seems like a clear way to open up discussion about competition for this spot, but we’re not there yet. Even ignoring the mess that the other three teams vying for third created this week, NKU went into Dayton with three straight 25+ point wins and 5 straight double-digit victories. They were closer to first than third. Now they’re closer to equidistant from both.

    With that said, another week of games should quickly tip that scale in one direction or the other. NKU travels to Wisconsin to take on Green Bay and Milwaukee this weekend. If the Norse are still without Walton on Friday, avoiding a sweep by Green Bay with him sidelined will be key to any realistic chance of getting a share of the Horizon League title.
  3. Green Bay Phoenix (10-12, 5-4)

    In a week where two of the three teams grouped together after the league’s good teams went on the road to play the third, it seemed like there might be some clarity in this range. At the end of the week it seems we did get some new information, it just isn’t all that helpful for a power ranking. Green Bay, Milwaukee and Youngstown State are all about equal and spending too much time deciding between them is probably a waste.

    Nothing makes that more evident than Green Bay jumping above Youngstown State after…losing to Youngstown State. The game was incredible, and if you have ESPN+ and you didn’t see it I highly recommend you check it out!

    Ultimately, the reasoning for the movement here is that an overtime road loss is hardly an indictment and the Phoenix still have a chance for revenge on the final weekend of the regular season.
  4. Milwaukee Panthers (10-11, 5-4)

    It’s official! Until someone in this group does something to separate itself, I’m ranking them alphabetically.

    Just kidding, but now that I’m thinking about it…

    In all seriousness, the Panthers had a chance to take hold of the third spot in the rankings after dealing Youngstown State its first loss at the Beeghly Center this season and promptly dropped the ball. Milwaukee seemingly forgot what time its game against Cleveland State tipped off and lost 70-53.

    While the Panthers have a strong argument for third – head-to-head road wins over both Green Bay and Youngstown State that would give the team the 3-seed if the season ended today – getting waxed by a team other than Wright State or NKU is tough to swallow. The Panthers overtake the Penguins based on the head-to-head win at YSU, but the margin is still practically non-existent.
  5. Youngstown State Penguins (12-10, 5-4)

    Youngstown State’s prospects looked so promising last week. With more home games remaining than either of its main competitors for third and a perfect league record at home, it looked like the Penguins had the inside track on the 3-seed. A week later with two of those home games burned, Youngstown is still tied with the Wisconsin schools and hasn’t had a win that didn’t come down to the final possession in a month. Even worse for the Penguins, two of its remaining road games are against Green Bay and Milwaukee.
  6. UIC Flames (9-13, 4-5)

    Next up on the list of wildly entertaining games from the weekend is UIC @ Detroit Mercy. While I can’t classify this as a great game like the Green Bay-Youngstown game, it was definitely an entertaining one. The Flames were getting buried before going off on a 22-0 run to take the lead…and promptly squandering it.

    Like with Green Bay, I’m not going to hold it against UIC that they lost a tight game on the road. In fact, having a return trip in their pocket when the margin is clearly razor-thin only seems to bode well for the Flames and their chances at getting revenge.
  7. Detroit Mercy Titans (6-16, 4-5)

    Detroit Mercy started off by making the most of one of the league’s easiest remaining schedules by going 2-0 with wins over UIC and IUPUI. The Titans seem to be in a promising spot to get to .500 in league play with in-state rival Oakland coming to town this week. While the Golden Grizzlies have a strong head-to-head advantage in the rivalry overall, this year’s squad is floundering and its head-to-head home win seems like ancient history at this point.
  8. Cleveland State Vikings (8-14, 4-5)

    The Vikings ended a four-game skid in convincing fashion with the dominating win over Milwaukee. While the team is currently ranked eighth and in the lesser of the two apparent tiers in the middle of the league, it’s not out of the question that a pair of home games against one of the easiest sets of travel partners combined with a little bit of chaos could allow the Vikings to leave that four-game skid in the rearview and make a significant jump this week. The Vikings take on IUPUI tonight and UIC on Saturday. If CSU can go 2-0, finishing in the top half of the next rankings isn’t out of the question.
  9. Oakland Golden Grizzlies (7-15, 2-7)

    I’m fending off some peer pressure from the rest of the HoriZone Roundtable crew here. There’s a strong argument that IUPUI deserves this spot over Oakland, particularly after going into the O’rena and beating the Golden Grizzlies. But OU stays out of the cellar right now for a couple reasons.

    First, the Golden Grizzlies have done a better job of being competitive in games. It’s a bit of a difficult time to argue that when the team’s other contest this weekend was a 30-point loss at home against UIC, but prior to that game Oakland’s only true blowout loss in league play was against Wright State. Oakland’s struggles relate partially to not closing out games. IUPUI’s struggles relate mostly to failing to stay in games in the first place.
  10. IUPUI Jaguars (6-16, 2-7)

    The winners of the third game that anyone who made it this far into this article should check out on ESPN+, IUPUI actually sees a way out of tenth place following a 89-85 overtime win at Oakland.

    The Jaguars were a little too far behind the rest of the league for this win alone to propel them out of last place, particularly when you consider how they did it. Much like IUPUI’s first win of league play, the Jaguars beat the Golden Grizzlies on a night where both Jaylen Minnett and Marcus Burk put up efficient nights on a high volume of shots. The Jaguars’ dynamic duo took 48 shots, but combined for 69 points on an effective field goal percentage over 60. The more surprising outcome here isn’t that IUPUI won, but that it only won by four in overtime against a team it’s now tied with in the league standings.

    Given the aforementioned struggles IUPUI has had even remaining competitive in most of its other league matches, the Jaguars need to do more to get out of last place here.

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