Dante Hicks one of the main characters from the movie “Clerks” always quipped that he wasn’t supposed to be here today (here being work, of course). Even this far into the conference slate, some would argue that neither Green Bay nor Oakland is supposed to be at the top of the Horizon League standings, especially the Phoenix, who were picked last in the official preseason poll.
The teams and, more importantly, the fans are inclined to disagree with that notion. But this being the HL, the games don’t get any easier for their squad, if they want to stay at the top of a heap filled with teams dying to knock them off. All games ET and on ESPN+
Wednesday, January 17th
Youngstown State at Oakland, 7pm: The Golden Grizzlies will get the first test of who will ultimately be King of the Hill this week, facing a Penguins lineup that scampered past Wright State on national television to stay within a half game of first. For Oakland, DQ Cole has emerged as a key offensive weapon and perfect complement to Trey Townsend for Oakland. That said, YSU has made no secret that at any given moment, someone on their rotation will go off, as Brett Thompson and Ziggy Reid did against the Raiders.
IUPUI at Purdue Fort Wayne, 7pm: The Jaguars really don’t need another road game against a team that’s been struggling. But that’s exactly what they’re facing, as the Mastodons are in the middle of something they haven’t experienced all season: a losing streak. With IUPUI still struggling to defend against the three, Purdue Fort Wayne will be all too happy to exploit that weakness and are certainly poised to snap out of its funk.
Detroit Mercy at Robert Morris, 7pm: Against Northern Kentucky, a different Titans squad showed up. Well, another different Titans squad showed up, seeing as how that rotation changes as the wind blows. Jayden Stone is back and scoring in bunches for Detroit Mercy, Marcus Tankersley is still a major contributor and potentially a third option in Mak Manciel has emerged, although given how inconsistent the Titans have been outside of Stone and Tankersley, that’s subject to change. Does this give Detroit Mercy the edge to finally win its first game? Not necessarily, as Markeese Hastings, the hero of the Purdue Fort Wayne game, and Stephaun Walker give the Colonials a decided advantage in the frontcourt.
Thursday, January 18th
Green Bay at Wright State, 7pm: The Phoenix began its surge up the Horizon League standings beating the Raiders at the Resch Center as part of a run that has seen Green Bay win five of six. Wright State appeared to be back on track after drubbing Robert Morris but fell apart against Youngstown State. When these two teams clash this time around, the pressure will be on the Phoenix to keep the momentum going, as the Raiders will be out for revenge, as well as to get the bad taste of the Penguins loss out of their mouths.
Milwaukee at Northern Kentucky, 7pm: The Norse received a major scare on the road against Detroit Mercy, pulling that win out by only a mere five points. The Panthers, on the other hand, rode the wave of a 27-point swing to take care of business against Cleveland State at home. It would be easy to pencil in BJ Freeman and Marques Warrick as they key match-up in this contest here, but that would be a disservice to Trey Robinson, LJ Wells, Kentrell Pullian and Erik Pratt. In addition, the battle for the boards will be critical. Keeyan Itejere has emerged as NKU’s force in the paint, while Milwaukee, between Darius Duffy, Faizon Fields and Langston Wilson, is still feeling its way around.
Saturday, January 20th
Robert Morris at IUPUI, noon: Does anyone expect that the Colonials will put another 40-point hurting on the Jaguars, especially on the road? No. But Robert Morris does have a golden opportunity to claw itself further away from the bottom of the conference standings and closer to .500 in league play. Rebounding will once again be a major key to this game, with the Colonials decidedly favored over IUPUI.
Purdue Fort Wayne at Cleveland State, 2pm: It’s a good thing that the Vikings are back at home, because the Wisconsin trip was not kind to them at all, having lost leads in both of those tilts to ultimately lose. Fortunately for Cleveland State, it returns to the Wolstein Center, where it hasn’t lost in over a year, to face a Mastodon team itching to turn things around. Cleveland State will have to keep Purdue Fort Wayne from getting hot from beyond the arc (no easy task) but will also have to take control of the boards, something the Vikings have had trouble doing, in spite of their size.
Youngstown State at Detroit Mercy, 4pm: The Titans may have nearly surprised Northern Kentucky at Calihan, but the Penguins have come to expect anything and made the appropriate adjustments. Stone’s return for Detroit Mercy still doesn’t solve the issue up front, where Youngstown State, with a healthy rotation of big bodies, are more than happy to give the Titans headaches the entire game.
Green Bay at Northern Kentucky, 6:30pm: The Phoenix road trip, already tough as a result of a game at the Nutter Center, remains that way with a contest at Truist Arena, where the Norse have, over the years, taken care of business against their conference foes. NKU will likely key on Reynolds as best it can, even though that will be a daunting task. For Green Bay, it will need to keep up the good work on the glass, courtesy of Elijah Jones and Rich Byrhe. The Phoenix will also make the Norse beat them with someone besides Warrick.
Milwaukee at Wright State, 7pm: If you’re looking for a high-scoring affair, the last game of the week in conference play will probably be it. In the first contest in Milwaukee, the Panthers came out with the 91-83 win, with Freeman and Pullian chipping in 20+ points apiece. There’s no reason to think that the return game in Dayton will be any less exciting. For the Raiders, they will need to get Brandon Noel going even moreso than they did in the first game. And while Tanner Holden was a major factor at Milwaukee, Trey Calvin’s performance that day was more muted. For Wright State to win, Calvin will have to be more prominent.