Horizon League announces ESPN TV schedule


Baldwin Jr. poised to be heavily featured on national TV

The Horizon League announced its ESPN TV schedule on Wednesday. The league will have five regular season games televised on the ESPN family of networks, with three of them being selected between a pair of options closer to the games. 2021 Regular Season co-Champions Wright State and Cleveland State feature to be heavily featured, as does Milwaukee and five-star recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. The Horizon League semifinals and championship game will also be nationally televised on the ESPN family of networks on March 7 and 8.

Following the addition of Baldwin Jr., a McDonald’s All-American and the Horizon League’s highest rated high school recruit of all-time, Milwaukee has the chance to feature prominently in this season’s ESPN games. The Panthers’ game against Robert Morris on December 4 will be the league’s first game televised on the ESPN networks, and the Panthers could be selected for all three dates that are currently up in the air. One of those games — January 7 at Detroit Mercy — would have Baldwin Jr. and the Panthers matching up against fellow coach’s son and Horizon League Player of the Year frontrunner Antoine Davis. Here’s a look at how the ESPN regular season games breakdown:

December 4 Noon EST Robert Morris @ Milwaukee ESPNU
January 77 PM ESTMilwaukee @ Detroit Mercy/Cleveland State @ Robert Morris ESPN2
January 289 PM ESTCleveland State @ Wright StateESPNU
February 117 PM ESTWright State @ Milwaukee/Oakland @ Robert MorrisESPNU
February 189 PM ESTWright State @ Oakland/Cleveland State @ MilwaukeeESPN2

Another interesting possibility following the announcement of the ESPN games is that Robert Morris could be the school featured the most. In addition to the game against Milwaukee, the Colonials could be chosen for two other nationally televised games. RMU finished in last place in its first season in the Horizon League, and seems likely to be the only school projected to finish in the bottom half of the league who will even be an option to be on national TV.

On the flipside, Northern Kentucky — which returns the core of its roster that earned a 4-seed in the 2021 Horizon League Tournament — isn’t an option to be selected for a single nationally televised game. With All-League guards Trevon Faulkner and Marques Warrick as well as All-League candidate Adrian Nelson returning, this looks like it has a strong possibility of being a regrettable decision. The Norse have finished near the top of the league standings every season since 2017.

Aside from the league’s ESPN debut, the other game that doesn’t have an option to flex between two matchups is when defending Horizon League Regular Season co-Champions Cleveland State and Wright State square off on January 28. Last season, the Vikings beat the Raiders on a last second alley-oop en route to removing all doubt that they were legitimate and taking a two-game lead into the halfway point of the Horizon League season. The Vikings followed the regular season title with a Horizon League Tournament trophy and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Both CSU and Wright State project to contend for the league title this year.

Scheduling for this season’s games was undoubtedly more complicated than in past seasons, as instead of having the majority of the league playing on Fridays the games are far more spread out. This year, most games will be on a Thursday/Saturday schedule, leading to multiple stretches where there will be Horizon League action every day from Thursday through Sunday. There will even be a stretch where Horizon League games will be played every day from Wednesday January 5 through Monday January 10.

A major downside of the league’s ESPN schedule is that it features fewer nationally televised games than previous seasons. Even last season with COVID-19 throwing massive amounts of uncertainty into things and delaying the release of the ESPN schedule until December, the league had six nationally televised regular season games.

Another unfortunate result of the games being more spread out is that the league’s marquee rivalries aren’t on Fridays, and as a result aren’t options to be televised. Wright State and Northern Kentucky, as well as Oakland and Detroit Mercy all seem likely to project as top half finishers in the Horizon League but their rivalry matchups aren’t options to be selected for national broadcasts.

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