Horizon League announces Preseason Poll

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Wright State picked to repeat; league voters trust NKU to contend

The Horizon League released its Preseason Poll on Thursday. The poll was voted on by Horizon League Head Coaches, Sports Information Directors and some media members.

Unsurprisingly, Wright State was the overwhelming favorite and earned 37 of 44 first place votes. If anything, it’s a bit surprising to see teams other than Wright State get so many first place votes given that the Raiders suffered far less roster turnover than any of the other three teams that made it to the Horizon League Tournament Semifinals.

Last year’s fourth place finisher Youngstown State earned three first place votes on its way to being selected in second place. 2020 regular season runner-up and Horizon League Tournament Champion Northern Kentucky was selected for third place with four first place votes despite losing three All-League performers from last year’s roster. Robert Morris was picked for fourth place in its first season in the Horizon League. UIC is projected fifth after losing four key seniors from a fourth place team that made a run to the Horizon League Championship game a season ago. Oakland rounded out the top half of the league, narrowly edging out 2020 Horizon League Coach of the Year Dennis Gates and Cleveland State.

Following a coaching change and serious roster turnover, Green Bay is picked to finish in eighth place. Detroit Mercy’s large cast of experienced newcomers wasn’t enough to get the team picked higher than ninth place. Milwaukee, Purdue Fort Wayne and IUPUI round out the projection.

While there are a number of similarities between the HoriZone Roundtable Preseason Poll and the league’s official poll, there are some stark differences as well. Here’s a look at the two side-by-side:

HoriZone RoundtableHorizon League
Wright StateWright State
Youngstown StateYoungstown State
Robert MorrisNorthern Kentucky
Cleveland StateRobert Morris
UICUIC
OaklandOakland
Northern KentuckyCleveland State
Detroit MercyGreen Bay
Green BayDetroit Mercy
Purdue Fort WayneMilwaukee
MilwaukeePurdue Fort Wayne
IUPUIIUPUI

Both polls like the returning talent on Wright State and Youngstown State, with the first major difference being opinions on Northern Kentucky. While HoriZone Roundtable voters seemed to think the loss of four significant upperclassmen could cause the Norse to drop, Horizon League voters appear to have serious faith in Darrin Horn to get the team to jell.

Next, the two polls differ greatly on Cleveland State. While our poll likes the returning talent on the Vikings, the official league poll seems to think the Vikings spent too much time feasting on lesser competition last year to be a serious threat at the top of the league. From this HoriZone Roundtable voter’s perspective, it seems like the league’s tendency to undervalue newcomers might be seeping over into the Preseason Poll. Not only do elite Junior College recruit D’Moi Hodge, composite 3-star freshman Alec Ogelsby and a large crop of newcomers inject a ton of talent into a hard-nosed Vikings team, they provide offensive firepower and 3-point shooting that the team was sorely lacking in 2020.

It seems the team has the talent that league voters valued heavily with Wright State and Youngstown State plus highly touted newcomers that seem primed to star in the league quickly, but still didn’t get nearly the respect that the Raiders and Penguins got. Another consideration that could easily come into play is that CSU might be the deepest team in the league, and voters might’ve been coming from a perspective that the league won’t see several players forced out of several games due to mandatory quarantine periods.

None of the rest of the discrepancies between the HoriZone Roundtable and Horizon League polls are very significant, with every other school projected within one spot of their official projection. Of the remaining options, the one that might stand out the most is Detroit Mercy versus Green Bay.

While the Phoenix were obviously very successful in 2020, the team fired Linc Darner and hired Will Ryan after a single year at Division II Wheeling University where he led the Cardinals to a 14-13 record. Following several transfers, the Phoenix were left with just three returning players with meaningful Division I experience: projected First Team All-League guard Amari Davis, 2020 HoriZone Roundtable Sixth Man of the Year PJ Pipes, and Illinois State transfer guard Josh Jefferson. While Green Bay’s incoming class looks good on paper, its frontcourt starters and every bench player except former walk-on Jiovanni Miles will be making their NCAA debuts in just a few weeks.

On the flipside, Detroit Mercy brings back 2020 First Team All-League performer Antoine Davis and a number of players with Division I experience DASH both with the Titans and with other schools DASH for what could finally be the team Head Coach Mike Davis has tried to assemble. The most notable of the newcomers is former Syracuse and Seton Hall big man Taurean Thompson. Thompson averaged 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game with Syracuse before transferring to Seton Hall. While he didn’t get the playing time he wanted with the Pirates, he looks like he could be a supremely talented big man like the ones that Davis had success with in the past. Both Aaric Murray and Trayvon Reed thrived under Davis at Texas State after previously receiving high acclaim at bigger schools.

It seems voters believe in Ryan to put together a scrappy team like he had at wheeling more than they trust Davis to finally surround his son with players that allow the Titans to thrive.

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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