#HLMBB Games Preview – February 23rd – 25th

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Athletics

You know what? Your guess is as good as ours at this point.

With Robert Morris pulling upsets against both Milwaukee and Youngstown State, the top spot in the Horizon League standings, which comes with the coveted No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, is still up for grabs, with Cleveland State in a position to take the crown away from the Penguins. Beyond that, this week’s games will be the most important of the regular season, without a doubt.

Thursday, February 23rd

Northern Kentucky at Detroit Mercy, 7pm ET (ESPN+): The first game at Truist Arena was enough of a nail-biter, with the Norse sliding past the Titans in OT. With the venue shifting to Calihan Hall, where Detroit Mercy has been outstanding, Northern Kentucky will have to rely on its defensive prowess, no small feat considering Antoine Davis has averaged 30 points a game in-conference.

Wright State at Oakland, 7pm ET (ESPN+): The Golden Grizzlies are pretty dinged up, with Rocket Watts the most recent player to fall to injury. The Raiders aren’t smarting in a physical way, but losing two on the road to Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne, the latter on a last-second heave that was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter, was a real bummer. With the first contest at the Nutter Center a two-point win that went to Oakland, the Grizz, injuries and all, will look to complete the sweep and put the Raiders in a real bind in terms of tourney seeding.

Robert Morris at IUPUI, 7:30pm ET (ESPN+): The way the scheduling came about with 11 teams, this will be the last regular-season contest for the Colonials. They are, however, rolling, and look to stake their claim on that fifth seed with the first-round tournament bye that comes with it. Standing in RMU’s way are the Jaguars, who made it a game against Oakland before running out of gas. Undoubtedly, IUPUI wants another conference win, and the Colonials, if they’re not looking, could be in for some trouble.

Purdue Fort Wayne at Milwaukee, 8:30pm ET (ESPN+): The Panthers had a horrendous road trip, getting blown out by both Youngstown State and Robert Morris. While they finish up at home, the Mastodons, who are always dangerous, will look to score another win after Damian Chong Qui’s game-winning heave gave them a glimpse of hope of staying out of ninth place. Milwaukee needs much more out of BJ Freeman, who was limited to 11 points against the Colonials and 10 against the Penguins.

Cleveland State at Green Bay, 9pm ET (ESPN+): Because chaos reigns in the Horizon League, this has to be the trappiest of trap games for the Vikings (if trappiest is even a word). Cleveland State only won by five in the first contest against the Phoenix, and Green Bay hasn’t been shy about firing away from beyond the arc. But the Phoenix have been hit hard with injuries, including Brock Heffner, who was out of the Youngstown State blowout with a concussion. Should Green Bay be any more short-handed than it has been recently, expect the Vikings to hit the Phoenix with every body on their bench.

Saturday, February 25th

Wright State at Detroit Mercy, 1pm (ESPN+): The Raiders bested the Titans at home in the first match-up. Depending on the outcome of the Oakland game, this will, in all likelihood, be a must win for both teams, the Detroit Mercy’s homecourt advantage given the Titans the edge. Also, with this being Antoine Davis’ last regular-season home game (or last home game period, potentially), you can be sure that he’ll want to put on a show for the edges, especially given he’s still within reach of Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record.

Northern Kentucky at Oakland, 3pm ET (ESPN+): The Golden Grizzlies were one of the only two Horizon League teams (Milwaukee being the other) to hand the Norse a loss at home. With a first-round bye and second-round home game could still be on the line here, so even with the injuries, Oakland will have to gut it out the beat NKU, who will look to look to its stars, particularly Marques Warrick and Chris Brandon in the frontcourt, to come away from the O’rena with a win.

Purdue Fort Wayne at Green Bay, 5pm ET (ESPN+): The Mastodons be the Phoenix in Fort Wayne, but it was a rather lackluster performance. Purdue Fort Wayne has to get its offense in gear and avoid what fell the Mastodons against Robert Morris and almost against Wright State, which is to give up a significant lead. The Phoenix, in what is likely interim head coach Freddie Owens’ swan song at the helm, will look to go out on a high note, but may end up wanted the season to just end.

Youngstown State at IUPUI, 7pm ET (ESPN+): The Penguins can’t possibly lose this game, can they? No, no they won’t. YSU is going to take its loss to Robert Morris out one someone, and, unfortunately for the Jaguars, they’re just simply in the way. The Penguins slapped 101 points on IUPUI in the first contest, so don’t be surprised if they try to top that in the finale.

Cleveland State at Milwaukee, 8pm ET (ESPN+): This game could be for all the marbles for the Vikings and will essentially complete the passing of the torch from Dennis Gates to Daniyal Robinson as far as sustained success is concerned. The Panthers got out of Cleveland with a win in overtime and, by all accounts, was poised to give Bart Lundy a little of the success he experience at his previous school, Queens. But Milwaukee has struggled as of late, while the opposite has been true of Cleveland State. It’s appropriate in what has essentially been a completely unpredictable season, this contest, which could see the Vikings sharing the Horizon League title for the third year in a row, makes all the sense in the world.

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