Four conference races are confounding expectations and predictability as they head into the home stretch (conference records in parentheses).
Horizon — While Cleveland State (now 10-5) had hardly dominated the league, they seemed like the team to beat for most of the season. But they suffered two losses in a row this week, losing to Butler at home and Milwaukee on the road. As a result, Valpo (12-4) has backed into the conference lead, after they suffered their own tough loss to Youngstown State, dropping an 18-point decision last weekend. Meanwhile, two teams who had disappointed expectations that they would compete for a conference title are suddenly back in the picture. Detroit and Butler are tied for third at 10-6. The former has won 7 of 8 and the latter 4 of 5. This sets up a great pair of back-to-back games next week, as Cleveland State takes on Detroit on Thursday, and Valpo and Butler close out their regular season against each other on Friday.
Utah Jazz: Players examine effort after dose of humility--Deseret News
Other Jazz players have plenty of room for improvement, from Devin Harris needing to improve his decision-making and ball-distribution choices; Paul Millsap needing to release the inner-beast and find ways to overcome zones and challenging defenders; to Gordon Hayward being aggressive and confident on offense; Josh Howard and C.J. Miles working their way out of their funks; and Al Jefferson continuing to involve teammates in offensive execution even while carrying the scoring load.
Utah Jazz vs. Washington Wizards: Report card--Deseret News
FORWARDS: Paul Millsap didn't shoot the ball very well, but he contributed another double-double. Gordon Hayward had a quiet game. Washington's starting forward tandem of Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker was overmatched.
Utah Jazz notebook: After catching their breath, Jazz pleased with effort--Deseret News
BUTLER DID IT — TWICE: Utah's second-year swingman, Gordon Hayward, got a chance to see his college teammate, Wizards rookie guard Shelvin Mack, on Friday.
Hayward and Mack led unheralded Butler University on a memorable run to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament two years ago.
Hayward was just a sophomore when he averaged 15.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game during the 2009-10 season and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the West Regional played at EnergySolutions Arena.
And in the title game against Duke, his last-gasp, half-court shot at the final buzzer nearly went in, which would've given the underdog Bulldogs a stunning national championship in their first-ever Final Four appearance.
Last year as a junior, Mack led Butler to a repeat performance in the NCAA tourney's title game, as he was the Bulldogs' second-leading scorer (16.0 points per game), third-leading rebounder (4.5) and led the team in assists (3.4).
Asked after Friday morning's shootaround if he was planning on having a mini-reunion with Mack before the game, Hayward said he was.
"I think we might go out to lunch," he said. "So it'll be good to see him."
And, asked if they might dine at the Olive Garden, Hayward's well-documented favorite place to eat on the team's road trips to New York City this season and last, Hayward said probably not.
"Naw, not Olive Garden," he said sheepishly.
Although Hayward will have bragging rights following Friday's win, neither one of them could talk too much smack afterward. Hayward had five points, two assists, a rebound and a blocked shot, while Mack managed three points, two assists, a rebound and a steal. Between them, they shot 3-of-12 from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
Utah Jazz open pivotal pre-break stretch against Washington Wizards--Salt Lake Tribune
Coach Tyrone Corbin won’t change his regular starting lineup of Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap.
Corbin has hinted, however, that he might tweak his rotation.
Wizards vs. Jazz: Washington has no answers in blowout loss at Utah--Washington Post
Jim Urquhart/Associated Press - Wizards guard Shelvin Mack was reunited with former Butler University teammate Gordon Hayward of the Jazz on Friday night in Utah. Mack finished with just 3 points in nine minutes while Hayward pitched in 5 points.
At a Glance: Indiana State at Butler--The Indy Star
Butler's 1st NCAA team returns--The Indy Star
Of NIT, ISU, ’62 reunion, recruiting and Illini--Indy Star Butler Insider
Indiana St. brings BracketBuster to Hinkle--Victory Firelight
Butler (16-12) Battles Indiana State (16-11)--Butler Blue Fever
Butler Hosts UIC Saturday Evening--ButlerSports.com
Bulldogs Crush Loyola 72-46--ButlerSports.com
College hoops weekend preview: BracketBusters and more--Beyond the Arc
Five more to watch
Sat. Drexel @ Cleveland State, 11 a.m.: Where Nevada-Iona will be a run-and-gun affair, this will be a heavyweight bout. Both the Dragons and the Vikings pride themselves on their defense. If you aren’t tough, you won’t be seeing minutes in this game.
Preview capsules for today's men's and women's college basketball games--Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cleveland State vs. Drexel
Tipoff: 11 a.m. at Wolstein Center.
TV/radio: ESPNU; WHKW AM/1220.
Notable: Cleveland State (20-7) looks to regain its swagger against defensive-minded Drexel (22-5), which has won 14 straight and holds opponents to 55.2 ppg. No team has scored more than 67 points on the Dragons since Dec. 28, and no team has scored more than 71 this season. CSU is on a three-game losing streak and for the third straight game will be without 6-4 swingman D'Aundray Brown (groin), who is not expected back for at least five more days.
Next for CSU: Tuesday, at Green Bay, 8 p.m.
Cleveland State vs. Milwaukee
Tipoff: 1:30 p.m. at Wolstein Center.
Notable: The Cleveland State women (9-16, 4-10 Horizon League) look to get only their second conference home win of the season and a series sweep vs. Milwaukee (7-17, 3-10).
Next for CSU: Thursday, at Detroit, 7 p.m.
Struggling Cleveland State men's basketball team knows the time is now to turn it around--Cleveland Plain Dealer
Cleveland State (20-7) Takes On Drexel (22-5)--Vikings Ball
Vikings Host Milwaukee In Play 4 Kay Contest--csuvikings.com
Detroit (16-12) Takes On James Madison (11-17)--Titans Update
On this day 5 years ago - Feb 17, 2007--Titans Update
James Madison Visits Saturday for Sears BracketBusters--detroittitans.com
Saturday's matchup: UIC at Eastern Illinois--The Chicago Tribune
UIC (7-18) and Eastern Illinois (12-14) Square Off--Flame Fanatic
Flames Travel to Eastern Illinois for BracketBusters Saturday--uicflames.com
Women's Basketball Looks to Extend Win Streak at Butler on Saturday--uicflames.com
Saturday's matchup: Loyola at Bradley--The Chicago Tribune
Loyola (Chicago) (6-19) Takes On Bradley (7-21)--LU Wolf Ball
Injury Sidelines Walt Gibler Indefinitely--LoyolaRamblers.com
Women's Basketball Aims For Season Sweep of Valparaiso--LoyolaRamblers.com
MAC BracketBusters Preview: Gettin' To Know The Opposition--Hustle Belt
2:00 p.m. — Eastern Michigan (11-15, 6-6) at Green Bay (11-14, 7-8 Horizon)
What to know about UWGB: This is another very middlin' team but unlike EMU they're a little more average on the offensive/defensive sides, rather than relying on a slow tempo and killer defense. They're centered around a 7'1" man named Alec Brown who is also their team leading scorer (13.8), rebounder (7.7) and shot-blocker (2.9).
Knowing EMU's interior size this could resemble Godzilla-Mothra in the paint if you squint hard enough. It may not be a pretty game but there will be battles. Their lack of defending the three leads me to believe that it might require Darrell Lampley or Antonio Green to start hitting shots early from out there to keep that defense honest. Otherwise it might not be a pleasant showing for the Eagles.
Men's basketball: Turnovers hound UWGB's Cougill--Green Bay Press Gazette
Green Bay (11-14) Goes Up Against Eastern Michigan (11-15)--Phoenix Fever
Green Bay Breaks from League Play, Hosts EMU Saturday--uwgbathletics.com
Today's women's basketball preview: Youngstown State vs. UWGB--Green Bay Press Gazette
No. 11/12 Green Bay Wraps up Road Swing at Youngstown State--uwgbathletics.com
UWM aims for back-to-back wins--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Salute the Seniors--PantherU
Milwaukee (16-12) Takes On Fairfield (16-10)--UWM Update
Video: Seniors Ready For Final Regular Season Home Appearance--uwmpanthers.com
Milwaukee Looks To Continue Climb Up Standings At Cleveland State--uwmpanthers.com
Today's Specials: Mid-majors rule the day--Eye On College Basketball
We usually don’t do a “Today’s Specials” on Friday, but Bracket Busters kicks off tonight and we need to bring you into the weekend right.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.
Second-best game: Valparaiso at Loyola Marymount (9 p.m., ESPNU). Two teams that are hitting their strides at the right time. Valparaiso has won nine of its last 11 games, and currently sits atop the Horizon standings with a 1.5-game lead on Cleveland State. Loyola Marymount is coming off a 15-point road win at Saint Mary’s, and has won five of its last six. Loyola Marymount’s perimeter defense will look to stifle the Crusaders’ shooters, while Valparaiso has to keep LMU off the foul line.
Crusaders fall to LMU--The Post-Tribune
Crusaders come up short in California--The NWI Times
Valparaiso Flops In 61-53 Loss to Loyola Marymount--Valpo Daily
StatSheet Projects Valparaiso as NCAA Tournament Bubble Team 16 Seed: 02/18/2012--Valpo Daily
1961-62 Valpo Men’s Basketball Team to Be Honored at Halftime of Butler Game--valpoathletics.com
Crusaders Drop BracketBusters Matchup at Loyola Marymount--valpoathletics.com
VU women take on Loyola--The Post-Tribune
Valpo Hosts Loyola Saturday Afternoon--valpoathletics.com
Preview: Wright State vs. Missouri-Kansas City--Dayton Daily News
WSU's Donlon not eager for BracketBusters game--Dayton Daily News
Updated: Wright State (12-16) and Missouri-Kansas City (10-18) Square Off--Rowdy Review
Youngstown State (14-12) Takes On Austin Peay (9-19)--ysusports.com
Women's Basketball to Celebrate Senior Day on Saturday--ysusports.com
Valpo Drops Late Night Contest at Loyola Marymount to Open Sears BracketBusters X--Horizon League Network