#HLMBB Games Preview – January 10th – January 14th

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Photo courtesy of Youngstown State Athletics

As if it’s set by Holy Decree, the Horizon League standings, specifically from second place down to about eighth, have to be either even or within a game of each other. In some years, the first-place team gets looped into this logjam as well.

We’ve observed this phenomenon throughout this time and sad to say, like you, we’ve had a lot of trouble making heads of tails of the whole thing other than throw out some arbitrary words like “balance” or “parity.” This week’s contests could make some headway in making some clear distinctions, but, as we’ve learned, it’s more likely that the logjam will continue. At least the games won’t be boring, though. All games ET and on ESPN+, unless noted.

Wednesday, January 8th

Green Bay at IUPUI, noon: The Jags are in desperate need of a win, not just a game where they have fought bravely (read: the Cleveland State and Youngstown State tilts). If this was last year, this game against the Phoenix would be the perfect remedy. Not anymore. Green Bay’s resurgence under Sundance Wicks has been on full display as the conference schedule heats up, and it’ll take a lot for IUPUI to overcome this and get out of its doldrums.

Purdue Fort Wayne at Youngstown State, 6:30pm: Despite the loss to Wright State, the Mastodons remain at the top of the HL heap, but it doesn’t get any easier from here, as a road trip to Youngstown is another tough test. The Penguins, for their part, will do everything they can to lean into their home-court advantage at Beeghly. However, YSU ran into some issues defending the three-pointer against IUPUI, which is Purdue Fort Wayne’s specialty. The key difference is that unlike the Jags, who coughed up the ball 28 times, the Mastodons will certainly do a much better job on this front, which could spell trouble for the Penguins.

Wright State at Robert Morris, 7pm: The Raider squad everyone expected before the season started showed up in a big way last week, dispatching league-leading Purdue Fort Wayne and Cleveland State. For the Colonials, their sole contest was a 44-point destruction of IUPUI. Robert Morris has been on the cusp of breaking out of its rotten luck on the court, but with Wright State on a roll, particularly in the frontcourt with Brandon Noel, a win for RMU will be yet another steep climb.

Northern Kentucky at Oakland, 7pm: With a mascot like the Norse, you’d expect that NKU would be used to epic battles. It certainly seemed that way last week, with close games against Youngstown State (win) and Cleveland State (OT loss) under their Norse’s belts. Going into the O’rena, there’s a good chance another contest like the ones last week is in the offing, especially considering that the Golden Grizzlies beat back challenges of their own against the Wisconsin teams.

Friday, January 12th

Purdue Fort Wayne at Robert Morris, 7pm: The Mastodons and Colonials started the season with the same question: How would they adjust to the off-season changes in their respective rosters? So far, Purdue Fort Wayne has answered that question with a resounding “no problem,” while Robert Morris can only manage a shrug. The Colonials will have a difficult time managing the likely barrage of three-pointers coming their way, courtesy of the Mastodons. Purdue Fort Wayne, on the other hand, will need to offset Markeese Hastings, who has had himself quite a campaign, particularly up front.

Cleveland State at Milwaukee, 8pm: The last time the Vikings and Panthers met, it was in Indianapolis, and CSU came out victorious. The Vikings head up to UWM Panther Arena in the first of a two-game thrip through Wisconsin that has once again turned daunting for any Horizon League team after years of, well, not being that. Cleveland State will need to find a way to contain not only BJ Freeman, who’s aiming to put his injury behind him, but also Kentrell Pullian and Erik Pratt. The Panthers, on the other hand, need to keep the Vikings off the offensive glass, a strong spot for CSU this season.

Wright State at Youngstown State, 9pm (ESPN2): Given the national spotlight, the Raiders have to know that the Beeghly Center is going to be insane. They also have to know that the Penguins probably have at least two or three plans to keep Noel from going off (one of them probably being freshman block machine Gabe Dynes). Given that both teams have players who can score in bunches, the only surprise would be if neither team scored at least 90 points.

Saturday, January 13th

Northern Kentucky at Detroit Mercy, 1pm: All indications will be that Jayden Stone, the Titans’ best and only consistent scorer, will be back on the court after sitting out with an ankle injury suffered during the Loyola Marymount game. Given how Detroit Mercy has performed in his absence, however, there’s little doubt that the Norse will focus on making the Titans beat them with anyone besides Stone. NKU will also be sure to exploit Detroit Mercy’s penchance for turnovers, as well as the tendency for the Titan big men to get into foul trouble.

Oakland at IUPUI, 2pm: The Jags have a rebounding problem and a three-point shooting problem. Even when one of these issues clears up during a game, another, such as turnovers, seems to crop up. Three-point defense is also a real issue and given how the Grizz have shot the ball from beyond the arc lately, that will be a problem. To make matters worse, Trey Townsend has been on a tear for Oakland, and there probably isn’t much that IUPUI can do about it.

Sunday, January 14th

Cleveland State at Green Bay, 1pm: Even though this Phoenix is much improved from years past, the one thing they will have to contend with when the Vikings come in will be defense. Cleveland State will aim to keep Green Bay’s shooters from getting hot from beyond the arc, while using its size to keep the Phoenix off the boards. Noah Reynolds, who has emerged as one of the best players in the league, will likely have something to say about that.

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