#HLMBB Power Rankings — Week 2

Jamal Cain

I don’t know why I’ve insisted on starting up the Power Rankings early the last two seasons. With two weeks in the books, the information we have on this year’s Horizon League is…inadequate. Oakland looks to have locked up a superstar in the transfer portal and came away with a pair of really impressive wins, but otherwise the only teams that have played enough Division I competition to give us any idea about their abilities have shown they might be in for long seasons.

Here’s a look at the first Horizon League Men’s Basketball Power Rankings of the 2022 season:

Wright State22
Cleveland State31-2
Northern Kentucky45+1
Detroit Mercy54-1
Purdue Fort Wayne77
Youngstown State98-1
Robert Morris1010
Green Bay1111

Oakland has played one of the tougher schedules of any team in the league so far, and the Golden Grizzlies have come away 2-2. On Wednesday, Jamal Cain led OU with 29 points and 17 rebounds in a dominant 80-59 win over a Toledo team picked to finish third in the MAC. On Friday, Oakland was no match for Alabama but Cain once again starred with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Not only should Cain be a shoo-in for Horizon League Player of the Week, but the Marquette transfer has immediately emerged as a contender for League Player of the Year. Cain is averaging 22.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game through four difficult contests.

Wright State gets the second spot in this week’s rankings thanks to the competitive game it gave to a Marshall team that ranks higher than anyone in the league on KenPom right now. The Raiders fell behind for good once Grant Basile fouled out with a career-high 37 points that helped him win Horizon League Player of the Week last week. This week’s contest against Purdue wasn’t quite as promising, but with 7-foot-4 standout Zach Edey in the middle, it was going to be hard for a team that relies on its 6-foot-9 post player to have much success.

Cleveland State secured its first Division I win on Saturday against Canisius, but had to do it without starting point guard Craig Beaudion. Beaudion missed the team’s last two games with an injury, and things have been a bit of a struggle in his absense. While the Vikings added several nice pieces to last year’s league champion, those pieces were primarily on the wing and the absence of the team’s experienced floor general is a significant loss. Pacific transfer Brock Finstuen has been an excellent addition for CSU so far. The wing is averaging 10.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest off of the bench.

With just two Division I games played and both against mid-major competition, Northern Kentucky might be the toughest team to figure out in the league right now. The Norse were one basket away from getting to this point undefeated, but neither UNC-Greensboro nor Eastern Michigan is expected to be more than a middle-of-the-road mid-major this year. This might be a little too high for the Norse at the moment, but Marques Warrick has yet to find his shot this year. The 2021 runaway Freshman of the Year winner is averaging just 7.0 points and 2.3 assists per game this season.

Ranking winless Detroit Mercy this high feels odd, especially after the team’s season-opening beatdown at the hands of Wyoming. But the Titans have seemed to make leaps and bounds every game against a strong schedule, and they’ve done it without Noah Waterman. Naturally Antoine Davis has carried the scoring load through the first four games, but it’s the contribution of Madut Akec that could pay serious dividends when UDM is back at full strength. The USF transfer is second on team with 14.5 points per game, and leads the way with 8.8 rebounds per contest.

I might be overreacting to a mostly competitive loss to post-Cameron Krutwig Loyola and a win over Valparaiso, but I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from UIC this season. Led by Damaria Franklin’s 16.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, the Flames have played some very nice basketball. The Valpo game was well-executed and a lot of fun to watch from start to finish.

Purdue Fort Wayne‘s win over Austin Peay immediately looked better when APSU turned around and took down Dayton…aside from the fact that Dayton would be 0-4 with nothing but losses to mid-majors had UIC been able to hang on in its season-opener. Nonetheless, the little information we have for PFW this year has been pretty solid. The Mastodons were overwhelmed by Big 10 team Minnesota, but that’s been a recurring theme for most of the league so far. While the season is still young, it’s been a little surprising to see returning starter Jalon Pipkins leading the way for PFW so far. Pipkins is averaging 16.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game so far.

Milwaukee drops significantly from its preseason ranking after floundering for 30 minutes in its lone contest against a team that looks like it would be a middle-of-the-road caliber Horizon League team in Eastern Kentucky. The Panthers easily beat a bad North Dakota squad and were clobbered by a Florida team one game removed from cruising past perennial NCAA Tournament team Florida State, so the EKU result winds up the only one that can give much valuable information at this time. The team fought back late for a respectable looking 77-71 loss, but it wasn’t pretty for a majority of the contest. As expected, five-star freshman Patrick Baldwin Jr. has been the go-to-guy for the Panthers, leading the team with 17.7 points and 8 rebounds per game. There is room for some hope for the Panthers: Baldwin is shooting just 21.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc after coming into college touted as an elite perimeter scorer.

Youngstown State looked to be on its way to proving it was decisively better than the lower ranked teams in the OVC and Summit League through the first two weeks. The Penguins clobbered Southeast Missouri State, finished off a hot-shooting St. Thomas and looked to be on the way to holding on against Southern-Illinois Edwardsville in the first two weeks of the season when a late 7-0 run against the Cougars that ended with a game-winner from well beyond the 3-point arc prevented YSU from holding a winning record. To make matters worse, returning starter Garrett Covington was lost for year due to an Achilles injury. Michael Akuchie already looked to be doing his best Naz Bohannon impression by erupting into the team’s leading scorer (18.0 per game) and rebounder (7.5 per game), but now might need to do even more to move the Penguins up the rankings.

Like Detroit Mercy, most of Robert Morris‘ results so far aren’t a surprise. The Colonials dropped games against Kentucky, UCF and the Ohio team that cruised past Cleveland State. It’s the loss to former NEC rival Mount Saint Mary’s that’s going to sting. RMU led 51-36 before a 16-0 Mount Saint Mary’s run put the Colonials behind. The teams went back-and-forth until overtime, where the Mountaineers got the upper hand to win 74-70. Last year’s mid-season addition Kahliel Spear is leading the way for Robert Morris, pacing the team with 14 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Green Bay didn’t face the number of high-level opponents that fellow winless teams Detroit Mercy and RMU took on, but the Phoenix are also the winless team most likely to be truly devastated not to have a winning record right now. The team held leads against Indiana State, UNC-Greensboro and FIU before fading late and losing in heartbreaking fashion to drop to 0-5. Donovan Ivory has been a pleasant surprise for Green Bay. After failing to log significant minutes in stops at UMass-Lowell and Boise State, Ivory burst onto the scene and currently leads the Phoenix in scoring with an efficient 16.2 points per game.

Following a decent showing at Butler, IUPUI looked like it might not be destined for the bottom of the Power Rankings. Then the Jaguars took part in a Multi-Team Event featuring three of the fifteen worst ranked teams on KenPom, as well as host UTSA that was coming off of a loss to unranked Division II opponent Texas A&M-Commerce and came away with an 0-5 record on the year. Given everything the team lost it’s not a surprise that the Jaguars have a lot to figure out in Matt Crenshaw’s first year, but there have been some intriguing pieces. B.J. Maxwell has been far and away the best player on IUPUI in his return to the Horizon League, leading the team with 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

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