A week of non-league opponents…helped?
One of the challenges of non-league play when putting together the Power Rankings is balancing different teams playing wildly different opponents. This week actually wasn’t too painful on that front, with several games that paired Horizon League schools with opponents who had already played against the league. The week’s big winner was Youngstown State, which is now on a three-game win streak. Biggest loser — in large part because of those common opponents — is Purdue Fort Wayne, though getting blown out by a team Chicago State beat doesn’t help either.
Here’s a look at this week’s rankings:
|Purdue Fort Wayne||8||5||-3|
Oakland finally faltered against a seemingly very beatable opponent, losing to Bowling Green 73-72. Still, the Golden Grizzlies retain the top spot because the win would’ve been the team’s sixth non-league KenPom Top 200 victory while the other 11 schools are all searching for a first. In other words, it’s hard to knock Oakland for losing a game nobody else has shown they could win. Jamal Cain’s counting statistics were fantastic in the loss, with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Given the minuscule margin, a better shooting night from the field than the 7-for-18 performance would’ve allowed OU to escape unscathed. Cain did shoot 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc, which allowed him to finish the game with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 47.2, so it wasn’t a horribly inefficient performance.
Cleveland State and Wright State retain their spots in the rankings after having the week off.
Youngstown State makes a big jump in this week’s rankings after beating Central Michigan 84-77 and absolutely obliterating a Canisius team that has played three games against Horizon League opponents by a score of 71-43. The Penguins 28-point win is by far the most impressive margin of victory of the three Horizon League pairings, with Cleveland State winning by 10 and Northern Kentucky by 13. Dwayne Cohill won a share of the Horizon League Player of the Week Award after averaging 19 points and 6.5 rebounds in the two victories.
Detroit Mercy split a pair of MAC matchups, losing to Kent State 69-52 then blowing out Western Michigan 83-64. Both games were pretty comparable, but with different outcomes for the Titans. In each, the winner established itself early, went into half with a multiple possession lead and never let the opponent get back into things. Unsurprisingly, Antoine Davis starred for the Titans, averaging 19.5 points and 8.5 assists while securing the second double-double of his career (and of December 2021).
UIC got off to a hot start in the team’s lone matchup this week at Central Michigan, but ended up needing to hold off a late rally in a 71-67 victory. The Flames jumped out early, taking a 31-18 lead in the first half and going into the half up eight. Kevin Johnson had 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the victory before fouling out late.
Milwaukee lost its only game of the week, but gets bumped up a spot after looking good for 35 minutes in a 65-54 loss to Pac 12 opponent Colorado. Jordan Lathon had an impressive night for the Panthers, hitting four of his six three-point attempts and finishing with 14 points. The UTEP transfer had struggled from beyond the arc heading into the game.
Outside of Saturday’s 78-65 win over Southeast Missouri State, it was a pretty rough week for Purdue Fort Wayne‘s status in the Power Rankings. Not only did the Mastodons get blown out 80-59 by a Southern Illinois-Edwardsville team that lost to Chicago State, but the team now has common opponents with several Horizon League foes that have performed better in those same matchups. The Western Michigan team that Detroit Mercy beat previously defeated PFW. SIU-Edwardsville also beat Youngstown State, but did so on a last-second miracle heave after YSU controlled most of the game. Even the win over Southeast Missouri State wasn’t nearly as impressive as Youngstown’s 97-79 beatdown of the Redhawks in the first week of the season. For the Mastodons’ sake, at least Florida Gulf Coast easily beat Robert Morris as well. Jalon Pipkins was the x-factor for PFW this week. He shot just 2-for-11 with 10 points in the blowout loss, but put up an outstanding 10-for-14 shooting night and 24 points in the victory over Southeast Missouri State
Northern Kentucky secured its own win over Canisius, beating the Golden Griffins 75-62 on Wednesday. On Sunday the Norse easily cruised to a victory over non-Division I Alice Lloyd, another matchup that doesn’t move the needle. NKU is in a difficult spot in the rankings. Despite a victory by double figures, I can’t justify moving the Norse above a team that dominated it just a few days prior. That could change pretty quickly if Marques Warrick keeps putting up performances like he had against Canisius. After a disappointing start to his sophomore campaign, Warrick posted 30 points on 10-for-14 shooting in the win on his way to winning a share of Horizon League Player of the Week.
Green Bay lost a pair of games over the weekend, first 64-55 to Kansas City (shortly after I criticized the Kangaroos’ candidacy for the MVC, though I’m not flinching) then 82-64 Sunday afternoon against Kansas State. In both games, the Phoenix stick around until a massive run by their opponents put the game out of reach. Friday it was a 14-1 run early in the second half, and on Sunday a 17-4 run to end the first half. Kamari McGee shined for Green Bay in both games. He put up 19 points against Kansas City and 14 against Kansas State, led the team in assists in both games and had an effective field goal percentage of 59.1 on the week.
Robert Morris finally secured a win this season, but it was a non-Division I victory over Lancaster Bible College so it doesn’t move the needle. In the Colonials’ other game of the week, the team suffered an 85-74 loss to Florida Gulf Coast where it trailed by double figures in the first half. Kahliel Spear posted an impressive double-double against FGCU with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while shooting 8-for-11 on the night.
IUPUI‘s brutal season continued when it took on a Tennessee State team that was fresh off of a 10-point loss to Chicago State and lost 70-44. K.J. Pruitt became the first player other than B.J. Maxwell to lead the Jaguars in scoring against a Division I opponent, scoring 10 and adding a team-leading 5 rebounds in the loss. Next up, IUPUI will have a chance to prove that transitive property loss was a fluke and get the team’s first win of the year when it takes on Chicago State.