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Horizon League Power Rankings (December 21 – 27)

The Horizon League rises to 9th in conference RPI following a stellar week by the Butler Bulldogs.

Only two games other than the BracketBusters in February remain in the Horizon League’s non-conference slate.  To finish in the top 10 in Conference RPI would be tremendous for the state of this league.

In descending order…

10. Youngstown State (Overall Record: 4-6, Conference Record: 0-2, RPI: 226)

Recent Results: Lost to Kent State 71-58

Where do the Penguins go from here?  Vytas Sulskis is the lone bright spot on a team that will be hard pressed to match the 6 Division-I wins from a season ago.  My best guess is they’ll up the ante to 7 this year, but what does that mean for Youngstown State.  Since joining the Horizon League in 2001, the Penguins have been nothing but a drag on the league’s profile.  What would it take for the league to give up on this program?  A program that financially isn’t up to the task of competing in what has become a formidable conference.

Up Next: Thursday vs. UIC (4-8)

9. UIC (4-8, 0-2, 228)

Recent Results: Lost to Oregon State 74-54

Losing by 20 to a bad Oregon State team proves that UIC’s win over in-state powerhouse Illinois was more of an aberration than the norm.  Fortunately, they have a shot at their first conference win of the season with their upcoming game against conference bottom-feeder Youngstown State.  The upside for the Flames is that they’ve proved that on any given night they will be a tough out for any conference opponent.

Up Next: Thursday at Youngstown State (4-6)

8. Green Bay (5-7, 1-1, 155)

Recent Results: Beat Wyoming 68-62

Two straight wins for the Phoenix should give them some nice momentum heading into the conference portion of their schedule.  Senior guard Rahmon Fletcher has been playing like he deserves to be a first team all-conference member.

Up Next: Wednesday at Wyoming (6-6)

7. Milwaukee (6-7, 1-1, 150)

Recent Results: Santa Claus dropped off a playbook in front of the U.S. Cellular Arena.

The Panthers have really put together a nice schedule this year.  Sure, they’d like to have a few more wins, but with each win by Northern Iowa and South Dakota State, the Panthers season looks that much better.  It’ll be important for the Panthers to forget the results of the non-conference season and focus on what’s important ahead: Wright State.

Up Next: Thursday at Wright State (5-6)

6. Wright State (5-6, 0-1, 174)

Recent Results: Lost to Charlotte 57-53

The #6 spot is up for grabs in the power rankings as the Milwaukee Panthers come to town.  Wright State should be up to the challenge if Anthony Hill doesn’t play.  But if he does, he could go off against a frontcourt that includes Johann Mpondo‘s 3.8 rebounds per game.  A manageable next couple of weeks should see the Raiders get back above .500 against D-I opponents.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Milwaukee (6-7)

5. Detroit (6-6, 1-1, 197)

Recent Results: Lost to Bradley 73-65

This is not what Coach Ray McCallum Sr. had in mind when he envisioned his son, Ray McCallum Jr., leading the break for open alley-oops to Chase Simon before the season started.  The Titans certainly haven’t set the world on fire, and frankly, I’d be surprised to see them do that once the conference season gets under way.  We’ll get a chance to pass judgement later this week.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Green Bay (5-7)

4. Loyola (9-4, 0-2, 209)

Recent Results: Beat Texas Pan-American 84-76

Sure they’re 9-4, but who have they beaten?  Their best win is over 4-6 Indiana State.  Are you kidding me?  Loyola is in for a rude awakening with their next opponent, Cleveland State.  0-3 to start the conference season isn’t an easy hole to climb yourself out of.  They could find themselves dropping down these rankings like a lead balloon if they’re not able to prove themselves in conference play.

Up Next: Thursday at Cleveland State (11-1)

Valpo celebrates their 103-102 win over the Oakland Grizzlies.

3. Valparaiso (7-4, 2-0, 77)

Recent Results: Beat Oakland 103-102

I don’t even know what to say about the Crusaders’ 103-102 victory over Oakland this past week.  It defies all logic.  The Crusaders’ third leading scorer in the game, Michael Rogers, only had 10 points.  Valpo only had 18 assists on all those points.  On top of that, they had 26 fouls.  Huh??   One thing I can say for certain is that the Crusaders are for real.  They may not finish at the top of the Horizon League, but trust me…they’ll be fighting until the end.

Up Next: Tuesday vs. Ball State (5-3)

2. Cleveland State (11-1, 2-0, 11)

Recent Results: Beat South Florida 69-62

I really hate to do this, but the Vikings have officially dropped a spot in our Power Rankings.  You’ve been great Cleveland State, you really have.  I mean, it’s not you…it’s me.  I just need some space right now.  Cleveland State has had an extremely successful non-conference season, but now it’s time to show just how tough they are.  Butler, Valpo and the rest of the conference are certainly not going to back down because the Vikings have been the talk of the town since their hot start.  Time to earn your keep…

Up Next: Thursday vs. Loyola (9-4)

Where did this beautiful cookie duster go anyways?

 

1. Butler (8-4, 1-0, 9)

Recent Results: Beat Utah 74-62, Beat Florida State 67-64, Beat Washington State 84-68

No team in the nation has had a better week than the Bulldogs.  Winning the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu was quite the Christmas present for Shelvin Mack and the boys.  Matt Howard has arguably been the conference player of the year so far, while mentoring Andrew Smith to be the consistent big man Howard needs by his side.  The road to defending their conference crown resumes Saturday against Valpo.  Just how good can this Butler squad be?

Up Next: Saturday vs. Valpo (7-4)

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