Cleveland State picked to repeat as champion
Cleveland State has been selected to repeat as Horizon League champion in a poll of HoriZone Roundtable writers and podcast staff. The Vikings bring back virtually all of last season’s rotation that shared the Horizon League Regular Season Title and won the league tournament, and the team added multiple players likely to be worked into prominent spots in the rotation.
Fellow regular season co-champion Wright State was picked second despite the graduation of two-time Horizon League Player of the Year Loudon Love. The addition of five-star recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. vaulted last year’s eighth place finisher Milwaukee to third in the HoriZone Roundtable projections, narrowly beating out Detroit Mercy and its own Player of the Year candidate Antoine Davis. With all five starters returning and a host of promising newcomers, Northern Kentucky was picked for fifth. Oakland and 2021 All-Horizon League First Team guard Jalen Moore round out the top half.
Purdue Fort Wayne is another team projected to make a jump in 2022, thanks in part to the addition of former Mount Saint Mary’s standout Damian Chong Qui. Youngstown State lost stars Naz Bohannon and Darius Quisenberry to the transfer portal but added a number of experienced college players, which proved enough to convince voters the Penguins aren’t destined for the league’s cellar. Last year’s last-place finisher Robert Morris added multiple strong transfers and is projected to finish tenth in the school’s second year in the Horizon League. Green Bay suffered massive roster turnover following Will Ryan’s first season as coach, and is projected for eleventh. IUPUI wraps up the rankings following the departure of stars Marcus Burk, Jaylen Minnett and Elyjah Goss.
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Cleveland State is our pick to win the Horizon League after the Vikings lost just one rotation player from last year’s Horizon League regular season and postseason champion. First Team All-League wing Torrey Patton leads a deep and talented group that could be even better this year than last. The question this season may be about how CSU will fit experienced newcomers like Broc Finstuen (Pacific), Nathaniel Jack (Florida State) and Anderson Mirambeaux (Trinity Valley Community College) into its already deep rotation.
Wright State lost the two-time defending Horizon League Player of the Year, but following a breakout year from Grant Basile the Raiders may pick up right where they left off. After erupting into an All-League player last year, Basile and teammate Tanner Holden could both be in the running for Horizon League Player of the Year with Love in the professional ranks. Former Milwaukee forward CJ Wilbourn will be one of several players vying to fill Love’s spot in the lineup.
Milwaukee makes a giant leap in the projected standings thanks to the addition of Top 10 recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. The league’s highest ranked high school recruit ever has the potential to be the Horizon League Player of the Year in his first (and likely only) year on campus. Baldwin and returning All-League candidate DeAndre Gholston give the Panthers an excellent 1-2 punch of perimeter scorers with great size. Replacing transfer Te’Jon Lucas will pose the biggest problem for Milwaukee making a significant jump with Baldwin, as the two-time All-League performer ate major minutes at point guard over the last two seasons.
Detroit Mercy has Antoine Davis back for at least one more season, and the team will likely go as far as he can take them. For the second year in a row, he should have some nice supporting pieces. Noah Waterman showed significant potential in his first full season of NCAA basketball, and could be poised to make a big jump in 2022. The Titans need to figure out how to replace All-League wing Bul Kuol, but transfer D.J. Harvey — a spot-starter at Vanderbilt last season — looks like he has the potential to do just that.
Northern Kentucky has something in common with each of the top two teams in the HoriZone Roundtable poll. Like Cleveland State, the Norse return five players with extensive starting experience from last year’s team. Like Wright State, NKU has an ex-Horizon League rival transferring in and looking to take a spot in the starting lineup. Despite all the returning starters, former Detroit Mercy forward Chris Brandon seems likely to have a chance to break into NKU’s starting lineup alongside All-League performers Marques Warrick and Trevon Faulkner, point guard Bryson Langdon and big man Adrian Nelson.
Oakland brings back the 2021 NCAA assist leader Jalen Moore, who may be in a position to post even higher totals this year. Former Marquette wing Jamal Cain — who averaged 9.6 points per game last year — transferred into the program while Daniel Oladapo left for Pittsburgh. As a result, the Golden Grizzlies’ most talented lineup might be one without a single traditional post player. If forward Chris Conway isn’t ready for a large role this season, last year’s 50th ranked team in terms of Pace of Play may need to do even more running.
Purdue Fort Wayne returns four starters from last year’s Horizon League Tournament 10-seed that took eventual tournament champion Cleveland State to triple overtime. More than just returning talent, the optimism for All-League guard Jarred Godfrey and the Mastodons stems from the addition of Mount Saint Mary’s guard Damian Chong Qui. Chong Qui was a First Team All-NEC selection in 2021 after leading the conference tournament champions in scoring and assists. Chong Qui’s addition will allow Godfrey to play off-ball and focus more on creating his own shot.
Youngstown State is our highest projected of several teams that were hit hard by the transfer portal, losing 2021 HoriZone Roundtable First Team All-League forward Naz Bohannon to Clemson and 2020 All-League guard Darius Quisenberry to Fordham. To replace the team’s two departing stars, it added several NCAA Transfers, some from Division I and others from lower divisions. Expect Division I transfers Dwayne Cohill (Dayton) and Chris Shelton (Hampton) as well as lower level transfers like Tevin Olison (Cumberlands – NAIA) and Collen Gurley (Mount Union) to fight for minutes right away. While losing two stars is tough to overcome, our voters expect the combination of experienced transfers and promising young talent from last year to keep the Penguins from falling too far in the standings.
UIC struggled in Luke Yaklich’s first year at the helm, battling COVID-19 related issues with a roster full of new players on its way to an eleventh place finish in the Horizon League. Leading scorer Teyvion Kirk and starter Rob Howard are gone, but most of the rotation returns. Look for Michael Diggins, Mo Commander and a number of incoming transfers to work to replace the departing starters’ production this season.
Robert Morris had a rough first season in the Horizon League, finishing in last place and losing leading scorer and rebounder AJ Bramah to the transfer portal before the end of the regular season. After multiple offseason departures, it seemed possible that the Colonials would retain that bottom spot in projections for this year. But following the additions of Rasheem Dunn from St. John’s and All-NEC guard Michael Green III from Bryant it looks like RMU might have one unit that’s actually much stronger than last year. Size will still present problems for the Colonials, but a last place finish seems less likely.
Green Bay avoided a complete overhaul of the roster in 2020 after Linc Darner’s uptempo system was replaced by Will Ryan’s more defensive-minded and methodical one, but after a seventh place finish in Ryan’s first year that overhaul is here. Eight players — including All-League guard Amari Davis — are leaving and the Phoenix have entered a complete rebuild. Expect Manny Ansong — who followed Ryan to Green Bay from Wheeling University — to be one of the go-to players for the Phoenix this year.
IUPUI‘s key to victories for the last two years has been to lean heavily on Marcus Burk, Jaylen Minnett and Elyjah Goss. With Goss and Burk pursuing professional opportunities and Minnett transferring to Missouri State, first year head coach Matt Crenshaw will have to put together an entirely new strategy for the Jaguars this season. Former Detroit Mercy guard B.J. Maxwell is one of several newcomers who could feature prominently into IUPUI’s plans this season.
Miss anything from Preview Week? Check it all out below:
Cleveland State • Wright State • Milwaukee • Detroit Mercy
Northern Kentucky • Oakland • Purdue Fort Wayne • Youngstown State
UIC • Robert Morris • Green Bay • IUPUI
Green Bay (WBB) • Cleveland State (WBB)