Love’s late surge helps him win Player of the Year
With the Horizon League regular season over, it’s time for the HoriZone Roundtable postseason awards and All-League Teams. We’ll lead things off with our men’s basketball awards, with the women’s coming shortly and All-League teams later today.
This year, our writers and podcast staff collaborated on the men’s basketball awards and All-League teams.
|Loudon Love||Wright State||Player of the Year|
|Dennis Gates||Cleveland State||Coach of the Year|
|Torrey Patton||Cleveland State||Defensive Player of the Year|
|Marques Warrick||Northern Kentucky||Freshman of the Year|
|Josh Jefferson||Green Bay||Sixth Man of the Year|
For the third time time in a row (preseason and postseason selections), Loudon Love and “wins” bested Antoine Davis and “stats” for Horizon League Player of the Year. Dennis Gates won Coach of the Year from the top of the standings despite our projected last-place finisher arguably having a stronger resume than the one Gates won the award with last year. Torrey Patton emerged from a large field of candidates to narrowly win Defensive Player of the Year. Marques Warrick made official what we’ve known was coming for a long time as our Freshman of the Year. And finally, voters decided that five Horizon League starts wasn’t too many to disqualify Green Bay’s second leading scorer Josh Jefferson as Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year.
Player of the Year: Loudon Love, WSU
HoriZone Roundtable Preseason Player of the Year Loudon Love has lived up to expectations and is our 2021 Horizon League Player of the Year.
It was a result that definitely developed over the season, as although Love was consistently flirting with averaging a double-double in Horizon League pay it wasn’t until the a string of dominant performances that began in late January where he established himself as this season’s go-to-guy over wing Tanner Holden.
Over halfway into Horizon League play, Love was averaging 14.5 points per game in league contests while Holden was averaging 17.8. It would be one thing if that difference were the result of Holden taking a much higher volume of shots, but through thirteen Horizon League games, Holden’s effective field goal percentage was actually nearly seven points higher than Love’s. Love had a substantial lead on the boards and had the advantage of being the defending Player of the Year, but there was a legitimate discussion about which WSU player would have deserved to win the award.
That’s when Love took over. He averaged 22.7 points per game on 59.4 percent shooting along with 10.7 rebounds in the last seven games of league play. At the same time, Holden started to fade into the background. The end result is that Love is comfortably ahead of Holden in both scoring and rebounding, and Wright State’s best Player of the Year candidate is a no-brainer.
After Antoine Davis won our Preseason Player of the year for 2019-20, Love has now picked up two postseason Player of the Year awards as well as being our Preseason Player of the Year this season. Wins have a clear advantage over stats among our voters.
Coach of the Year: Dennis Gates, CSU
Interestingly, Gates was the pick this year from the complete opposite perspective that he won it from last year. A season ago his Cleveland State team was the overwhelming pick to finish last in the league and wound up with a surprising 7-11 record in league play, narrowly missing a first round home game in the Horizon League tournament. The dramatic overachieving got him selected over Wright State’s Scott Nagy, who was just meeting expectations by winning the league by two games as the near-unanimous preseason champion.
This year, the Vikings were projected to finish fourth in the HoriZone Roundtable Preseason Poll and finished as the regular season champion. Like Cleveland State last year, IUPUI was a consistent last-place pick in our preseason poll. Due to COVID-19 stoppages, the Jaguars actually played fewer Horizon League games this year than schools played in 2020. Nonetheless, Byron Rimm’s team finished with a 7-9 Horizon League record, matching Gates’ 2020 win total with two less losses.
For all intents and purposes, both the predictably successful coach at the top of the league and the projected last-place finisher had stronger resumes this season. Ultimately, Gates gets the nod because a fourth place projection and first place finish is an impressive overachievement instead of simply meeting expectations.
Gates will almost certainly win the official award, as the league’s official voters thought CSU would finish in seventh place.
Defensive Player of the Year: Torrey Patton, CSU
This vote was out of control. Four Cleveland State players and two Wright State players — along with a couple others — were nearly even in the vote and it wasn’t until the final vote was cast that I could make the call that Torrey Patton is our pick for Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year.
Much like CSU’s defense, which shifts from man-to-man into zone, versatility is a big part of what makes Patton so valuable to the Vikings defensively. The 6-foot-5 senior forward is primarily a perimeter player, but with three true guards starting alongside him in the Vikings’ lineup Patton is the guy who will slide into the post to defend next to Spider Johnson when an opponent plays a more traditional lineup. Much like how his reliability on offense is a big part of CSU’s success, his versatility is a big part of the team’s defensive success.
In the end, one of our Cleveland State guys was torn between Patton and another CSU player. He decided to flip a coin to come up with his answer, and wound up casting the tie-breaking vote for Patton.
So if you’re like the vast majority of our staff and disagree with our pick? That’s OK, there were a number of strong contenders and the field was wide open this year. But don’t get mad at us, get mad at the coin.
Freshman of the Year: Marques Warrick, NKU
Not to say I told you so, but…
OK, so there hasn’t been a doubt on this one since the first half of the season. In a few hours Warrick is probably going to pick up his seventh Horizon League Freshman of the Week award of the 13 awarded. He could’ve played worse down the stretch than he did through the first half of the season and still won Freshman of the Year. Instead, he played better. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.4 points per game during the first half of Horizon League play, which was already a huge improvement over the 10.2 he averaged in non-league play. In the last ten games he’s bumped his scoring up once again, averaging 18.4 points per game.
And it’s not just that Warrick is taking a bunch of shots to rack up high scoring totals, he’s maintained a high level of efficiency along the way. On the season, Warrick shot 46.4 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from long range. In league play, those numbers jump to 47.4 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from long range. His effective field goal percentages of 54.6 overall and 55.7 in Horizon League play are definitely a big part of why Northern Kentucky finished 11-7 in Horizon League play and gets a bye in the first round of the league tournament. As a result, Warrick is garnering not just Freshman of the Year consideration, but All-League consideration as well.
Sixth Man of the Year: Josh Jefferson, Green Bay
There’s always some gray area when it comes to this award. Grant Basile came off the bench for Wright State in nine of Wright State’s first 10 games, but started the final 13. In our eyes, starting more than half of the season — and 60 percent of the Horizon League season — takes Basile out of contention
Jefferson started every game from Green Bay’s season opener to the end of its first weekend of Horizon League play, then three of the last four games for the Phoenix. That adds up to nine of 24 games, but just five of the team’s 20 Horizon League games. As he wasn’t a starter for 75 percent of Horizon League play, most of our voters clearly felt comfortable picking him.
Once you get over the hurdle of whether he qualifies, Jefferson is arguably just as much of a lock for this award as Warrick is for Freshman of the Year. The 6-foot-2 senior finished the year averaging 14.8 points per game, good for second place on the Phoenix despite starting the majority of the team’s games on the bench. While a number of hot shooters this season might make it hard to tell, Jefferson’s Horizon League effective field goal percentage of 49.5 is a very respectable number that compares well to several players that earned All-League honors last year.