Top seed: Valparaiso. The Crusaders won 11 of their final 13 Horizon League games and have a 5-1 record against the top four teams in the conference.
Tournament stakes: Although Valparaiso has three good wins against Akron and Cleveland State — twice against the Vikings — the Crusaders almost certainly wouldn’t get an at-large bid if they slip in the semifinals or championship game. The same is true of Cleveland State, which would have received at-large consideration before an injury-induced five-game slide.
Spoiler alert: No. 5 Butler. Outside the season finale at Valparaiso, the Bulldogs have been on fire recently, especially on defense. Only two opponents in eight games this month have scored more than 60 points and only one team scored more than one point per possession. And does anyone ever want to see Butler in a win-or-go-home tournament at this time of year?
Predicted champ: No. 2 Cleveland State. The Vikings get to avoid Butler, if the Bulldogs find a way into the semifinals. If the two meet in the championship, it’d be Butler’s fourth game in a week as opposed to Cleveland State’s second, and it’d be in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Cleveland State’s press was effective against Valparaiso in two losses to the Crusaders. The offense just failed the Vikings. If D’Aundray Brown is healthy after recuperating from a groin injury, Cleveland State should look more like the team that started 20-4 rather than the one that finished 2-5. That’s gambling a lot on a gimpy groin, but this senior will do everything he can to get out there and lift the Vikings to their first NCAA Tournament since 2009.
2012 Horizon League Tournament Preview--Run The Floor
Champ Week: Setting up Week 1--ESPN
When: Tues., Feb. 28, through Tues., March 6
Where: First round at higher seeds; second round and semis at 1-seed Valparaiso; championship at highest remaining seed.
The favorite: Valparaiso has climbed to the top of the Horizon League with a 47.2 percent shooting clip from the field, No. 1 in the league. Ryan Broekhoff (14.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Kevin Van Wijk (14.4 ppg) have anchored that offensive attack. Van Wijk, however, has been hampered by a knee injury in recent weeks.
The top challengers: Cleveland State looked like the league favorite entering the conference slate, but the Vikings have won just two of their past seven games. A groin injury has kept D'Aundray Brown (2.6 spg) out for seven of the team's past eight games. Milwaukee, Butler and Detroit all finished the regular season at 11-7. Butler, the surprising star of the past two NCAA tourneys, has to win the Horizon League tournament title to get an invitation to this year's Big Dance. But the Bulldogs have built up momentum -- they've won five of their past six games. Detroit has the league's top scoring offense (72.3 ppg). Milwaukee defeated Valparaiso 57-55 on Dec. 29.
Three players to watch: Ronald Nored (5.3 apg) has competed in the past two national title games, so he has the leadership skills that will be crucial for the Bulldogs. Ray McCallum Jr. (15.1 ppg) has been up and down for Detroit, but he can prove that he's a star in the conference tournament. Kendrick Perry (16.8 ppg) leads the league in scoring and could shift this tournament for No. 6 seed Youngstown State.
My pick: I realize they aren't the favorites and are very vulnerable, but I'm not going to bet against the Bulldogs. They finished fairly strong and they're mentally equipped for the challenge, considering their past two postseasons and Brad Stevens' coaching ability. Butler. Again.
A Tempo-Free Look at the Horizon League’s Award Winners--Horizon League Hoops
Loyola, UIC hope to finish strong--The Chicago Tribune
2.28 Championship Week Update--Anonymous Eagle
Kurt Kragthorpe: Jazz can’t give up on this season quite yet--Salt Lake Tribune
So the answer is just gradually increasing the minutes for Favors and Kanter. On the wings, the Jazz eventually should start Alec Burks and bring Gordon Hayward off the bench. That would help both of them, because Hayward’s game will expand only when he becomes a bigger part of the offense, such as playing with the second team.
Jazz notes: Utah coach Tyrone Corbin glad Kings staying in Sacramento--Salt Lake Tribune
Because Howard played so well, there’s a chance Corbin will start Howard even if Bell can play. Another option would be starting Howard and Bell and bringing Gordon Hayward off the bench.
Non-Conference Opponents Update: February 27--Hammer and Rails
Butler Bulldogs - 18-12, 11-7 Horizon, RPI: 119 - Oh Butler, it was all right there for the taking. A win at Valpo in a game the Crusaders had nothing to gain would have given you the No. 2 seed and a bye to the Horizon semifinals. Instead, your five game win streak was snapped 71-59. Now the Bulldogs have to host Wright State tomorrow night before going to the Horizon quarterfinals at Valparaiso. Butler swept Wright State and a Horizon tourney win that gets them into the Dance would put Butler's profile above the 100 line, but that is much harder now.
Butler guard Ronald Nored named Horizon League's first two-time Defensive Player of the Year in basketball--The Indy Star
Men's college basketball preview: Wright State at Butler--The Indy Star
Butler's Nored named Horizon's top defender--The Indy Star
Horizon’s NCAA streak could end--Indy Star Butler Insider
Roosevelt Jones is Runner-Up for the StatSheet Horizon Freshman of the Week - February 27th, 2012--Butler Blue Fever
Butler Finishes the Season Against Wright State--Butler Blue Fever
Ronald Nored, Roosevelt Jones Earn All-League Honors--ButlerSports.com
Butler Hosts Wright State In League Tournament--ButlerSports.com
WBB: Tour of Lambeau Field--ButlerSports.com
The rising: Erik Spoelstra pushes for 'next level' for Heat--South Florida Sun Sentinel
The Heat not only have developed consistency on both ends of the court, but also in the rotation. Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier enter late in first quarters, followed by Norris Cole and then Mike Miller, only foul trouble altering the sequence.
Semi Final Viking Voyage to Valpo--Let's Go Vikes!
3 Vikings Awarded With All League Honors--Let's Go Vikes!
Anton Grady Wins the StatSheet Horizon Freshman of the Week - February 27th, 2012--Vikings Ball
Harmon, Brown and Grady Earn All-League Honors--csuvikings.com
Detroit Mercy opens Horizon League tourney play tonight vs. Loyola--The Detroit Free Press
Detroit Mercy rambles into conference tournament on upbeat note--The Detroit News
Detroit Closes Their 2011-2012 Season Against Loyola (Chicago)--Titans Update
McCallum and Holman Earn Horizon League Honors--detroittitans.com
Detroit Hosts Loyola in HL Tourney Opener--detroittitans.com
Take Note, Women's Basketball Game Time Change For Saturday At Valparaiso--detroittitans.com
Talton honored by Horizon League--Whoosh!Net
UIC Closes Their 2011-2012 Season With Milwaukee--Flame Fanatic
Flames Begin Postseason Run at Milwaukee Tuesday Night--uicflames.com
Gary Talton Named to Horizon League's All-Newcomer Team--uicflames.com
Kiara Strickland's Standout Senior Season--uicflames.com
Loyola (Chicago) Closes Their 2011-2012 Campaign With Detroit--LU Wolf Ball
Ramblers Open Horizon League Championship At Detroit Tuesday Night--LoyolaRamblers.com
Ben Averkamp Named Second Team All-Horizon League--LoyolaRamblers.com
Tonight's Horizon League tournament game preview--Green Bay Press Gazette
Men's basketball: UWGB's Brown, Sykes collect Horizon hardware--Green Bay Press Gazette
Rob Demovsky column: Blowout changed UWGB's fortunes--Green Bay Press Gazette
UWGB's Brown named to first team, Sykes to all-newcomer team--UWGB Basketball
Alec Brown is Runner-Up for the StatSheet Horizon Player of the Week - February 27th, 2012--Phoenix Fever
Green Bay Closes the Season Against Youngstown State--Phoenix Fever
Sykes' Homecoming Week Culminates with Player of the Week Honor--uwgbathletics.com
Brown, Sykes Collect Horizon League Postseason Honors--uwgbathletics.com
Horizon League's Hottest Team Opens Tourney Tuesday at YSU--uwgbathletics.com
Women's basketball: UWGB's Wojta earns fifth player of week award--Green Bay Press Gazette
Wojta Earns Horizon League Co-Player of the Week Honors--uwgbathletics.com
Wojta Playing at High Level as Regular Season Play Winds Down--uwgbathletics.com
Horizon tournament champs? Why not UWM?--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Valparaiso Travel Guide--PantherU
Tony Meier Wins the StatSheet Horizon Player of the Week - February 27th, 2012--UWM Update
Milwaukee Closes Their 2011-2012 Season With UIC--UWM Update
Meier Claims Horizon League Co-Player Of The Week Honors--uwmpanthers.com
Williams Captures All-League Honors, Allen On All-Defensive Team--uwmpanthers.com
League Tourney Starts Tuesday With Panthers Hosting UIC At Klotsche--uwmpanthers.com
Tucker Shares Horizon League Player Of The Week Honors--uwmpanthers.com
Three variations on a Michigan State 1-4 stack--Run The Floor
Broekhoff named Horizon League Player of the Year; Drew Coach of the Year--The Post-Tribune
Valparaiso hopes home-court advantage will make the difference--The Post-Tribune
Broekhoff, Drew earn Horizon League's top honors--Off The Mark
Valpo's Kenney should be OK--The NWI Times
Experience pays off for Valpo transfers--The NWI Times
Previewing the Horizon League tournament--The NWI Times
Broekhoff named Horizon League Player of the Year; Drew earns Coach of the Year--The NWI Times
VU, NWI officials prep for economic jolt from Horizon League tourney--The NWI Times
Ryan Broekhoff Receives Honorable Mention for the StatSheet Horizon Player of the Week - February 27th, 2012--Valpo Daily
Broekhoff Named HL Player of the Year; Drew Coach of the Year--valpoathletics.com
Valpo-Detroit Women’s Hoops Moves Start Time Saturday--valpoathletics.com
Mays named Newcomer of the Year n Horizon League--Dayton Daily News
Wright State tourney opens at Butler--Dayton Daily News
Wright State junior named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year--Wright State University Sports
Wright State Finishes Their 2011-2012 Campaign Against Butler--Rowdy Review
Mays Named Newcomer of the Year; Second Team--wsuraiders.com
Never-Made-The-NCAA-Tournament Club, February 28, 2012--Sippin' On Purple
Youngstown State university men’s basketball | More news and notes--Youngstown Vindicator
Perry earns Horizon League honors--Youngstown Vindicator
Green Bay, YSU meet for third time tonight--Mahoning Valley Tribune Chronicle
Eargle, Perry honored by league--Mahoning Valley Tribune Chronicle
Youngstown State Finishes Their 2011-2012 Season With Green Bay--Guin Report
On this day 13 years ago - Feb 28, 1999--Guin Report
All or nothing--The Jambar
Kendrick Perry, Damian Eargle Earn Horizon League Postseason Awards--ysusports.com
No. 6 Men's Basketball Hosts No. 7 Green Bay in Horizon League First Round--ysusports.com
Green Bay's Sykes, Milwaukee's Meier Share Player of the Week Accolades--Horizon League Network
Horizon League Announces Men's Basketball Award Winners--Horizon League Network
First Round Kicks Off With Memorable Rematches--Horizon League Network
Milwaukee's Tucker and Green Bay's Wojta Named Co-Women's Basketball Players of the Week--Horizon League Network