So…most of the league is a mess, and I’m going to run out of goofy ways to rank everyone between 3 and 11 if I use them all up this early. I guess I’ll just try to rank a bunch of wildly inconsistent teams using…logic and reasoning. Lame.
This week, Milwaukee finally proving that teams could punch up at Cleveland state was the biggest story. If the Panthers can pull it off without Tafari Simms – who came out of nowhere to become one of the league’s more potent offensive threats – the Vikings perceived easier path to a Horizon League Title might not prove so easy.
All 12 teams in the Horizon League were in action so nobody will be left out of the rankings.
- Wright State Raiders (11-4, 9-3 in Horizon League play)
Despite still leaving the weekend in second place in the Horizon League, Wright State retakes the top spot in the power rankings. The Raiders manhandled IUPUI twice for the team’s weekend sweep since the weekend after Christmas. On Friday, the Raiders took the lead at 8-6 with 16:25 to play in the first half and never looked back in a 95-65 victory. Saturday was a nearly identical result, with WSU taking an 8-6 lead with 15:54 to play in the first half and rolled to a 100-72 win.
Grant Basile put up two of the best games of his career in the wins. He was the Raiders’ scoring leader in both games, averaging 22 points and 7 rebounds on an incredibly efficient scoring weekend. His effective field goal percentage for the weekend was an insane 86.8 percent. 24 points on Friday marked a new career high, and Basile did it in just 26 minutes in the dominant weekend.
- Cleveland State Vikings (10-5, 10-2 in Horizon League play)
Last week, Cleveland State retained the top spot in the Power Rankings despite getting blown out by Wright State a day after scoring the game-winner with less than two seconds to play. The Vikings kept the top spot thanks to a two game lead in league play resulting from the team’s ability to avoid losses to lesser Horizon League teams. That run ended this weekend with a weekend split against Milwaukee. In Friday’s nationally televised game, the Vikings jumped out to a 23-2 lead and withstood a furious Milwaukee rally that ended with the Panthers ahead by a point early in the second half to win 64-53. Saturday looked like it was going to be a much more straightforward affair, with CSU leading by double-figures nearly the entire second half. With 2:46 to play, the Vikings led 66-52 before a furious Milwaukee rally forced overtime. After a back-and-forth overtime session, Cleveland State found itself on the opposite end of last weekend’s thrilling last-second win when DeAndre Gholston hit scored the game-winner with under three seconds to play.
- Milwaukee Panthers (6-5, 5-4 in Horizon League play)
Following its win over Cleveland State, Milwaukee is now 3-1 in its last four with a serious signature victory and one of just two teams left to be ranked this week with a league record above .500. The fact that Milwaukee is ranked third is really a testament to what a mess everything outside of the top two has been this year. Nobody would be surprised if the team went out and got swept against last-place IUPUI this weekend. But for now, every team in the rest of the rankings is deeply flawed to the point where these rankings are going to be chaotic for the rest of the season.
Te’Jon Lucas averaged 23.5 points per game over the weekend, but the differences in his two performances are a big part of why the team went 1-1. On Friday, Lucas scored 16 points on 3-for-12 shooting with two assists and five turnovers. Saturday, he put forth the type of performance that’s been missing this year with 31 points. on 11-for-19 shooting with five assists to three turnovers. If the Preseason Second Team All-League pick can get out of the shooting slump that’s plagued him for most of the year, Milwaukee might have a chance to remain near the top of the rankings. Unfortunately for the Panthers, consistency hasn’t really been in the vocabulary of teams 3-12 in the rankings.
- Oakland Golden Grizzlies (6-13, 6-6 in Horizon League play)
Detroit Mercy beat Oakland for the first time in over four years on Saturday, but the Golden Grizzlies remain near the top of the rankings because the team was finally able to string together three straight wins and there was a good deal of chaos through the rest of the league. Oakland looked like it was going to run away with an easy win on Saturday, taking a 50-23 lead less than a minute into the second half. But the Golden Grizzlies couldn’t contain Antoine Davis down the stretch and nearly gave up the whole lead. Oakland led just 82-81 after a Detroit Mercy layup with 18 seconds to play, then held on to win 86-81. OU continued to find. away to figure out Davis on Saturday, only pulling within one possession for less than a minute of the second half in an 82-72 loss.
Zion Young had by far the best game of his Oakland career on Friday, shooting 9-for-9 from 3-point range and finishing with 28 points. He broke the effective field goal percentage stat, finishing the game shooting 135%. He didn’t have nearly the same touch in Saturday’s loss, missing all four of his shots to finish the night scoreless.
- UIC Flames (8-5, 5-3 in Horizon League play)
It might seem difficult to justify ranking one of the Horizon League’s four teams with a winning league record below a .500 team that the Flames already swept this season, but COVID-19 has really thrown UIC’s season out of whack. The Flames are 3-1 over the last two weeks, but both opponents are among the bottom three in the league. The last time UIC beat someone outside of the bottom three was over a month ago. This weekend, UIC needed a borderline miracle to split with tenth place Youngstown State. Friday featured one of the highlights of the Horizon League season when Michael Diggins caught a Teyvion Kirk airball and put up a Lorenzo Charles-esque game-winning putback for the 67-66 UIC win. The Flames dug too deep a hole on Saturday, trailing by as much as 18 before a late rally fell short and UIC lost 85-77.
One major difference between the two games was the production of starting forward Rob Howard. Howard scored 15 points with an effective field goal percentage of 65.0 in Friday’s win. He was held to six points on 2-for-6 shooting before fouling out in just 19 minutes in Saturday’s loss. Howard missed last season with an injury, and foul trouble has been a serious problem for him this year. He’s averaging an astonishing 4.4 fouls per game, up almost one foul per game from his 2019 average. To be fair, COVID-19 stoppages surely aren’t helpful for a player that needs to shake off the rust of missing an entire season. If UIC can stay on the court and Howard gets a chance to…stay on the court, he should be a serious problem for opponents down the stretch. He’s averaging 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in just 23.3 minutes per game while hitting 50 percent of his shots both inside and outside the arc.
- Detroit Mercy Titans (4-8, 3-5 in Horizon League play)
Detroit Mercy is 3-1 in its last four games. Considering what a mess the league is, that’s enough for a team that was winless in Horizon League play two weekends ago to jump into the top half of the Power Rankings. Not only did the Titans escape the last two weekends with an overall winning record, they did it against teams that swept their other series in that time.
Antoine Davis had another incredible weekend for the Titans, averaging 28.5 points and 6.5 assists with just 2.5 turnovers per game. He finished with an effective field goal percentage of 68.1. After struggling with efficiency and failing to score 20 in each of his first four games of Horizon League play, Davis has been on a tear the last two weekends. Suddenly, he’s averaging 21.8 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of 55.9.
- Green Bay Phoenix (5-11, 5-7 in Horizon League play)
Green Bay bounced back nicely from being swept by Detroit Mercy by sweeping Purdue Fort Wayne. The Phoenix win what’s essentially a tiebreaker over Northern Kentucky despite the worse Horizon League record because the Phoenix were swept by a seemingly stronger opponent two weekends ago and swept Oakland the weekend before that. This weekend Green Bay joined NKU as the second team to shut down Jarred Godfrey in league play, holding the star guard who came in averaging 20.5 points per game in league play to 21 total points for the weekend. That and uncharacteristic 3-point shooting woes for the Mastodons led to Green Bay winning 77-59 on Friday and 87-72 on Saturday.
Josh Jefferson had another fantastic weekend off the bench for the Phoenix. Jefferson averaged 18.5 points per game, and while he didn’t have his most efficient effort on Friday he did score 16 points in just 11 minutes. With Jefferson coming off the bench, the Phoenix are 4-3 – with one of those losses being his first game back where he took just 4 shots in 12 minutes – after starting 0-6 with him in the lineup.
- Northern Kentucky Norse (7-8, 5-5 in Horizon League play)
While NKU is just a week removed from giving last place IUPUI its only two wins of Horizon League play, the Norse get the edge here for being the only team left to be ranked that got through the weekend 2-0. Friday’s game was a back-and-forth contest until the Norse pulled ahead midway through the second half and never let RMU get into position to catch up en route to an 81-76 victory. On Saturday NKU fell behind quickly, but successfully battled back to force overtime and pull ahead for a 79-74 win.
Marques Warrick continued to make me look foolish for leaving him off of my All-Freshman Team picks this weekend. He won his fifth Horizon League Freshman of the Week after averaging 18.5 points per game on efficient shooting. His effective field goal percentage for the sweep of Robert Morris was 62.5.
- Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (6-7, 5-7 in Horizon League play)
A cold shooting weekend knocks Purdue Fort Wayne down to the bottom of the 5-win teams in Horizon League play, but the Mastodons have a chance to make a big jump with another pair of games against a top 5 team in Oakland. Prior to this weekend, the team was coming off of a pair of sweeps: first over UIC, then Milwaukee.
Loyola transfer Jalon Pipkins led the Mastodons in scoring both nights, though he averaged just 13.5 points for the weekend. While Godfrey gets all the attention, Pipkins has quietly been putting up a very nice season. He’s scored in double-figures in 10 of Purdue Fort Wayne’s 13 games while shooting 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. He’s tied with Godfrey for the team lead in assists with 3.2 per game, but he’s committing 1.4 less turnovers per game.
- Youngstown State Penguins (8-8, 4-8 in Horizon League play)
Youngstown State earned a split with UIC this weekend, but finishes tenth in this week’s Power Rankings thanks to the four straight losses preceding it. At 4-8 in Horizon League play, the Penguins are in tenth place not just in the Power Rankings, but in the league’s standings as well.
Naz Bohannon got back on track, averaging 21.5 points and nine rebounds per game for the Penguins. While his shooting percentages were worse than how he’s typically produced this year and just one more make on Friday would’ve resulted in a YSU sweep, Nonetheless, Bohannon is positioned very well to live up to his Preseason All-League projection. If the Penguins can dig out of the bottom of the league, a First Team selection is in play.
- Robert Morris Colonials (3-7, 2-5 in Horizon League play)
Because of how few games RMU has played relative to much of the rest of the league, four straight losses dropped the team from near the top of the rankings to near the bottom. The Colonials might be better than the team’s record, as they’ve lost all but one Horizon League game by five points or less.
Once again, AJ Bramah starred for the Colonials over the weekend. He averaged 23 points and eight rebounds per game, slightly raising his scoring in Horizon League play to 22.7 points per game, but causing his rebounding numbers to drop to 10.9 per game. Like Youngstown State’s Naz Bohannon, Bramah is an excellent candidate for First Team All-League if his team can climb out of the bottom of the standings. Unlike Bohannon, he’s doing things that could get him to first team without it. Bramah has led the Colonials in scoring in every game this season, and led the team in rebounding against every Division I opponent this year. Outside of the UIC series, he’s maintained high-level efficiency along the way.
- IUPUI Jaguars (3-6, 2-6 in Horizon League play)
After winning two games against Division I competition in a row for the first time in almost two years, IUPUI was tasked with taking on Wright State. The Jaguars clearly weren’t up to the task and got blown out in both games.
A major problem for IUPUI out of the gate was that Marcus Burk was forced to miss the first half of Friday’s game due to COVID-19 protocols. He played just 17 minutes, but did manage to put up 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He was able to play a full game on Saturday and erupted for a career-high 34 points on 14-for-21 shooting. Unfortunately for IUPUI, it didn’t matter and they were blown out anyway.