Tim Ross predicts the Horizon League Tournament

Game #1 – Cleveland Sate vs Green Bay: Green Bay won both regular season meetings by 20 and 17 respectively. In both of the meetings Cleveland State got off to good starts but they were not able to maintain the lead. Turnovers were a big problem for Cleveland State in both games, committing 23 and 18 in the two regular season games. Cleveland State may keep this close for half as they have previously but Green Bay and the defensive pressure of Jordan Fouse and Carrington Love should be able to win this comfortably. Pick: Green Bay Phoenix
Game #2 – Northern Kentucky vs Milwaukee: The Panthers and Norse split two regular season with each team winning on their home floor. The Norse have lost six consecutive games and eight of nine. The only game the Norse have won in the last month was the second game with the Panthers. The Panthers took care of the game at Panther Arena but lost an 11-point lead with 11 minutes remaining in the second game.  In that game the Panthers only scored 11 points over the final 11 minutes of the game. The offensive drought featured the Panthers missing shots including several lay-ups and committing several turnovers. Jalen Billups caused the Panthers interior defense problems in the second game as he scored 20 points. The Panthers will have a roster that has more experience dealing with the pressures of March. In the conference tournament the intensity and pressure take a noticeable jump compared to the regular season. The Panthers will have an advantage in that department. The key for the Panthers in this one will be a good start. They are facing a team that has one win in the last month and will be lacking in the confidence department. It is important for the Panthers to jump on the Norse. Pick: Milwaukee Panthers
Game #3 – UIC vs Wright State: The Raiders and Flames split two meetings during the regular season with each team winning on their home floor. A big reason that the Raiders fell in the second meeting with the Flames was Dikembe Dixson. Dixson was named the conference freshman of the year earlier this week.  While he is completing his freshman season, he has proven himself to be a dangerous scoring threat especially in the back half of the season. Dixson has scored over 20 points in each of his last seven games and 11 of his last 12. He broke the conference scoring record for points by a freshman in the Flames final game of the regular season. Wright State is led by Mark Alstork and JT Yoho who both connect from long range at a near 40% rate. UIC bears keeping an eye on down the road as they have more talent and depth then the Flames. The Raiders should be able to get this opened up by the middle of the second round and be able to advance to the next round. Pick: Wright State Raiders
Game #4 – Youngstown State vs Detroit: The Titans defeated the Penguins in both meetings during the regular season. The Penguins lost seven of their final nine games of the regular season. They had to make adjustments to their offense following an injury to Bobby Hain who was their best post player. He was hurt just prior to the beginning of the conference season. The Penguins have since gone to more of a spread out up tempo offense. Their outside based attack is led by sophomore guard Cameron Morse, who averages 20 points per game and attempts an average of five long balls per game. The Titans closed the regular season by losing to the conferences two best teams. Prior to that they had won three consecutive games. The Titans have talented players who can score both inside and outside. Their top two outside shooters are Anton Wilson and Chris Jenkins, who both shoot better than 40% from long range. The best overall player for the Titans is first team all-conference representative Paris Bass who is the team leader in both scoring and rebounding. If there is a “home court” advantage to be found in this tournament Detroit figures to have it. This game should be one of the more entertaining fast paced games of the first day and I like the Titans to get the win. Pick: Detroit Titans
Game #5: Green Bay vs Milwaukee Panthers: The Phoenix and Panthers split two meetings during the regular season decided by a combined three points. The key for the Panthers in this game will be taking care of the ball. The Panthers had only eight turnovers in the first meeting compared to 16 in the second. If the Panthers take care of the ball I like them here to pull a seed upset of Green Bay here. Pick: Milwaukee Panthers
Game #6: Wright State vs Detroit: The Raiders and Titans split two meetings during the regular season, with each team winning on their home floor. I expect this to be another tight game with Detroit pulling out the win. Pick: Detroit Titans
Game #7: Milwaukee Panthers vs Valparaiso Crusaders: If everything holds to this point the Panthers will be playing their third game in as many days while Valpo will be playing their first game of the tournament. Valpo is the regular season conference champion as they are three games clear of everyone else in the conference. Valpo has defeated Milwaukee in both meetings during the regular season, the most recent meeting decided in overtime at Panther Arena last week. Valpo is coached by Bryce Drew who was picked as conference coach of the year. The Crusaders best player is first team all-conference representative Alec Peters who is averaging 17.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. Peters had 23 points and six rebounds last week against Milwaukee. Valpo has one of the best defenses not only in the conference but in the entire country. They rank seventh in the country in scoring defense and fifth in the country in opponent field goal percentage. Valpo also has the sixth best rebounding margin in the country. I am going to hope this prediction is wrong but I think the double-bye makes a difference for the Crusaders and they edge the Panthers in a tight game. Pick: Valparaiso Crusaders
Game 8: Detroit vs Oakland: Oakland won the second double-bye thanks to a head-to-head tie breaker advantage over the Raiders. Oakland defeated the Titans in both of their head-to-head meetings during the season. Oakland is led by the conference player of the year, Kahlil Felder, who is near the top of country in scoring and assist totals. Felder has the shooting ability to score outside and the quickness to blow past defenders and get to the rim. Max Hooper is the definition of a three point specialist as he has attempted 229 shots, all of them have been three point shots. The Grizzlies best inside player is Jalen Hayes. He is their second leading scorer and leading rebounder. Detroit will be in the same position as the Panthers on Monday night and I think they meet the same fate. Pick: Oakland Grizzlies
Game 9: Oakland vs Valparaiso: I could see any of at least three teams winning this tournament, but if everything falls in place the way I have it predicted we are left with the top two teams from the regular season. Valpo won both meetings during the regular season and I like them to do it again. They have experienced players and coaches who have handled this tournament and all the pressure involved with it. That experience is invaluable and gives the Crusaders the slight edge to again be the Horizon League representative in the NCAA tournament. Pick: Valparaiso Crusaders

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