At the midway point of the Horizon League Tournament, the rankings have been cut in half as several teams head into the offseason. Monday night’s Horizon League Semifinals will take two more schools out of contention for the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, but all four – the league’s top four remaining seeds – should have opportunities to play in some sort of postseason this year.
- Wright State Raiders (25-6 overall, 15-3 in Horizon League play) &
- Northern Kentucky Norse (21-9, 13-5)
Not surprisingly, there isn’t much to add for the top two teams in the league, who received double-byes into tonight’s Horizon League Semifinals before last week’s regular season-ending rankings came out.
The Raiders and Norse have been set at 1 and 2 in the rankings for what feels like months because it seemed clear they’d be the two positioned to have a week off after the end of the regular season. While they’re not immune to losing to either UIC or Green Bay – with both of the top two seeds splitting each regular season series against the three and four seeds – they’re both solidly favored for tonight’s games.
As with last week, Wright State is the team that established itself as head-and-shoulders better than the rest of the league when it beat Northern Kentucky in the regular season finale. The win completed a regular season sweep of the Norse.
NKU often seemed to put up more convincing wins than its travel partner WSU on its way to locking down the two-seed. The Norse will need to beat a UIC team that was responsible for the one instance where Wright State definitely outperformed NKU for a weekend. When the Flames visited BB&T Arena, they came away with a stunning 73-43 victory.
- Green Bay Phoenix (17-15, 11-7)
In its lone game of the week following a first round bye resulting from Detroit Mercy’s Postseason APR ban, Green Bay easily disposed of an Oakland team that was one of the hotter teams in the league with Rashad Williams in its lineup down the stretch.
The Phoenix disposed of the Golden Grizzlies relatively easily, building a 14-point lead early in the second half and never looking back. With a theoretically easier opponent and a neutral-site environment, Green Bay might be able to prove that it’s first victory over the Norse wasn’t a fluke that happened largely because of an injury to NKU forward Dantez Walton.
- UIC Flames (17-16, 10-8)
It felt like moving the Flames up would’ve been rewarding them for losing a chance at the three-seed and the double bye instead of winning to keep pace with Green Bay two weeks ago.
The team’s 93-59 drubbing of IUPUI was no doubt impressive – it once looked like the Flames could double-up the Jaguars and break 100 points – but the team was in that situation because it failed to knock off Oakland in the final weekend of the regular season.
For most of the second half of the season, there has been little separation between the teams fighting for third place. If either wins, the lack of consistency both have shown will wind up being largely a matter of who comes out stronger tonight.
- Youngstown State Penguins (18-15, 10-8)
The Penguins manage to stay on the Power Rankings by virtue of accepting an invitation to play in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament next week. The school’s tournament hopes are dashed, but they’ll pony up the money to continue to play.
With a young team, I respect the move. It should play dividends next year.