Finally, a split vote
The first round of the Horizon League Tournament featured just one upset, but still threw most of our staff’s brackets into chaos thanks to wins by 10-seed Purdue Fort Wayne and 8-seed Milwaukee. While the Panthers were favored, the vast majority felt that Marcus Burk’s hot run would continue. The league’s top teams are back in action this week, but once again our panel overwhelming projects one upset.
Bob McDonald, Matt Dudek, Kyle Craven, Alec Kwait, Marc Weems, Horizon Boy, and Will Baptist joined me to project the league quarterfinals. While picks in three of four matchups were still fairly one-sided, we finally have an even split.
Cleveland State vs. Purdue Fort Wayne
In the lone upset of the opening round of the Horizon League Tournament, Purdue Fort Wayne knocked off Green Bay in double overtime with the help of a Jalon Pipkins buzzer-beater at the end of the first extra session. Due to the league’s re-seeding, PFW will take on Cleveland State for the third time in four games. For CSU, it’ll be the third straight matchup with PFW following a first round bye in the Horizon League Tournament. Despite the last series ending in a split, our panel overwhelmingly prefers the Vikings.
How can Cleveland State win?
The Vikings faced Purdue Fort Wayne a total of four times during the regular season due a COVID-19 cancelation from Robert Morris to begin CSU’s conference season. The Vikings went 3-1 in those matchups, all on the road, including a series split in the regular season finale. The Mastodons come into this quarterfinal matchup riding a wave of momentum, after a first round upset over Green Bay. Jalon Pipkins and Jarred Godfrey present a unique challenge as two guards who can shoot the ball effectively from both outside and inside the three point arc.
Despite that, the Vikings should be fresh and well prepared following a first round bye. If Cleveland State starting center Deante Johnson is back at 100% following a late season ankle injury, look for the Vikings to prevail in a game that could be closer than the experts think due to Fort Wayne’s offensive firepower.Alec Kwait
How can Purdue Fort Wayne win?
Purdue Fort Wayne has a tall task ahead of them after completing the upset over Green Bay in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament. They will face off against the No. 1 seed Vikings, who have arguably the best defense in the conference. The Mastodons need their role players, such as Bobby Planutis and Demetric Horton, to step up big, just like in their victory over the Vikings on February 19. The key will be knocking down three pointers at a high clip, which is their strong suit, and focusing on securing rebounds to not give the Vikings any second chance points.Will Baptist
Wright State vs. Milwaukee
Regular season Co-Champion Wright State is back after a week off. As the 2-seed in the Horizon League Tournament, they’ll take on a Milwaukee team that won last week as an 8-seed despite most of our staff picking the Panthers’ opponent IUPUI. The Raiders and Panthers meet due to the Horizon League opting to re-seed the tournament this year and Purdue Fort Wayne upsetting 7-seed Green Bay. As with the Cleveland State-PFW series, the Co-Champ is the unanimous pick to win.
How can Wright State win?
When Wright State played Milwaukee three weekends ago, the Panthers put forth two of their strongest shooting performances of the season, with effective field goal percentages over fifty percent in both games. They played hard and as a team for 40 minutes in both games…
…and lost by double figures twice.
WSU’s size has proven to be too much for Milwaukee twice this season. To win, the Raiders likely just need a decent shooting night from its perimeter players.John Parker
How can Milwaukee win?
The path for Milwaukee is much less clear. The Panthers need to play as well as they did offensively last time while limiting the damage that the Raider perimeter players do from the outside. The Raiders shot over 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first two matchups that the teams had.
Early Loudon Love foul trouble seems to be about the only other way for Milwaukee to avoid getting buried early. Love averaged 25 points per game in the regular season series.John Parker
Oakland vs. Youngstown State
6-seed Youngstown State enter the Horizon League Quarterfinals winners of six out of its last seven league games and 9-11 overall in Horizon League play, but without a single win in that stretch against a team that’s played at home in the league tournament. 3-seed Oakland hasn’t been nearly as consistent down the stretch against a stronger schedule, but enters today one game better with a 10-10 record in league play. With all of that in mind, it’s not a shock that for the first time in two rounds we have some variety from the panel.
It’s time to exorcise some demons for Oakland. Look for them to overcome the troubles of beating a team 3 times as well as their YSU tournament bugaboo. Oakland got the thing they needed most with some rest. Look for a reinvigorated and rested backcourt to lead the way to a win.Matt Dudek
How can Youngstown State win?
Despite two tough road losses at Oakland back in January, this isn’t the same team. With a healthy Darius Quisenberry, this team is different. The dynamic changes a bunch and this team finally looks like what everyone thought it would’ve been back when most picked the Penguins near the top of the league. That along with all the other talent makes me feel like a little upset.Marc Weems
Northern Kentucky vs. Detroit Mercy
Fifth seeded Detroit Mercy continued its strong run last week with a win over Robert Morris. Just days after finding out he wasn’t the Horizon League Player of the Year, Antoine Davis set Horizon League Tournament records for points (46) and 3-pointers (10). On the other side, Northern Kentucky had the week off after earning the 4-seed in the league tournament. Clearly, our staff are largely believers in Davis and the momentum he’s had late in the season.
How can Detroit Mercy win?
NKU will be the next victim of the Detroit buzzsaw. The Titans have found their groove, winning 9 of their last 10. In the first round, Antoine Davis tossed up a cool 46 points in the faces of all who snubbed him for player of the year. Watch out for Kuol and Waterman to reach double-digits in a crushing defeat of the Norse. Forget that Vegas has this game as a toss up… Detroit will win big and we can only hope they have Mercy.Horizon Boy
How can Northern Kentucky win?
It’s hard to think of a hotter team in the Horizon League than Detroit Mercy, but if there is one that’s even close, a case could be made for the Northern Kentucky Norse. Since falling to 3-5 after getting swept by an IUPUI team that had never won a game at BB&T, the Norse rallied, winning 8 of their final 10 games of the season, including 6 straight. Their 2-2 finish to the season included an overtime loss at Green Bay and a 2nd game loss by 6 to Wright State after having beaten them by the same mark the night before. The Norse have not lost a home conference tournament game since 2015 when they lost in Regends Hall to Lipscomb State in the A-Sun Tournament.
This will not come as a surprise to Norse fans, but the team loves to shoot the 3. Lately, it seems like the Norse have done a fantastic job of playing inside-out rather than the opposite, though. That is to say, while they are shooting a lot of 3s still (as is their calling), they are shooting higher percentage shots by way of working the ball inside and rotating it back out, catching the defense out of position. The Titans play a lot of zone, so the Norse will need to keep the ball moving and not be afraid to make an extra pass if needed.Kyle Craven