Horizon League Releases 2020-21 Schedule

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Could the format impact the Horizon League race in 2021?

The Horizon League released the 2020-21 league schedule on Wednesday. In doing so, the league confirmed rumors of a 20-game schedule where each team would play back-to-back days against the same opponent at the same location. Following the additions of Purdue Fort Wayne and Robert Morris, that means each team will play all but one league opponent.

In a release sent on Wednesday, the conference announced that league play would start on December 19th. Like several conference around the country, the Horizon League will play the 2020-21 season with back-to-back games at a single site.

For the first two weeks of the schedule, teams will play on Saturdays and Sundays, meaning that there are games slated right after Christmas, on December 26th and 27th.

Starting on New Year’s Day, the Horizon League will shift the conference schedule to Fridays and Saturdays. This is most likely to accommodate the league’s partnership with ESPN, which has broadcast features contest on one of the its family of networks. In addition, all conference games will remain available either on ESPN3 or ESPN+.

As for attendance, the Horizon League stated that for at least the start of the schedule, there will be no spectators at any venue. This doesn’t apply to non-conference games, which will be determined by each individual school.

Like the threat of losing key players to mandatory quarantines, the unbalanced schedule is an element of this bizarre season that probably didn’t get enough consideration with early Preseason Polls. The HoriZone Roundtable Preseason Poll’s projected second place finisher Youngstown State, third place finisher Robert Morris and fourth place finisher Cleveland State all have to travel to Dayton for a pair of road games against projected champion Wright State. If our projections would’ve held in a normal season it looks like the Raiders could wind up with an inflated lead over the rest of the league, and they were already the overwhelming favorite to win the regular season crown. It could also allow the teams that the Raiders play twice on the road like projected fifth place UIC, sixth place Oakland and seventh place Northern Kentucky to steal victories over Wright State and move into the upper echelon of the league.

Projected second place finisher Youngstown State is probably the contending team that got the toughest draw this year. The Penguins travel to Wright State, Robert Morris, Cleveland State, Oakland and Northern Kentucky while missing the opportunity to play our projected eleventh place finisher Milwaukee. With many projecting the middle of the league to be even more competitive than last year, that could mean the Penguins finish lower in the standings than they might’ve in a normal season.

If the league goes as predicted with Wright State ahead of the pack, the team that avoids playing them would have a serious advantage under this format. Purdue Fort Wayne is our projected tenth place team, but by avoiding a pair of games against Wright State that’ll wind up in 0-2 records for several Horizon League foes, the Mastodons might end up positioned better purely by luck of the draw.

With the Horizon League providing the final pieces of information as to how the regular season will happen in this bizarre season, all we’re left waiting on is information on the Horizon League Tournament. It was already going to be new information following the addition of two teams, but fan-free league games could throw things into even more uncertainty if they’re extended beyond December.

Miss anything from Preview Week(s)? Check it all out below:

Predictions
HoriZone Roundtable Preseason PollPreseason All-League Teams
If we had an All-Newcomer Team…All-Freshman Team Picks

Team Previews
Wright StateYoungstown StateRobert MorrisCleveland State
UICOaklandNorthern KentuckyDetroit Mercy
Green BayPurdue Fort WayneMilwaukeeIUPUI

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