2016 Horizon League Basketball Tournament Predictions
I am more into writing feature stories, articles, and columns, rather than making prognostications. But it is tourney time. So let’s have some fun and make some predictions!
Round 1 (Saturday)
Cleveland State (9) vs. Green Bay (4). Expect the Phoenix to get a big lead early and to keep it. Pick: Green Bay by 22.
Northern Kentucky (8) vs. Milwaukee (5). NKU has lost six in a row, while the Panthers have won three of four. This will be a very close game until the end thanks to the strong play of Norse seniors Jalen Billups and Tyler White. Pick: Milwaukee by 4
Illinois-Chicago (10) vs. Wright State (3). The Flames have improved the most of any team in the league this season, while the Raiders have overachieved. Somehow, Wright State inexplicably had Valpo’s number in both of their meetings. But the more athletic team will win this game. Pick: UIC by 6
Youngstown State (7) vs. Detroit Mercy (6). Both of these teams have not quite lived up to expectations this season. Losing center Bobby Hain was something the Penguins were not anticipating. They recovered well at times, and found a budding star in Cameron Morse. But even a big game from him won’t be enough to outscore the offensive-minded Titans. Pick: UDM by 9
Round 2 (Sunday)
Milwaukee (5) vs. Green Bay (4). This battle for Wisconsin essentially decides who the best team in the Badger State is. These two teams split their two games this year, which were decided by a whopping combined three points. The Panthers have lost a lot of close games this season. But they will find a way to win this one. Pick: Milwaukee by 3
Illinois-Chicago (10) vs. Detroit Mercy (6). The Titans have much more experience and depth than the Flames. The Flames will not be able to stop Titan sharp-shooters Anton Wilson and Chris Jenkins on the perimeter. Pick: Titans by 10
Milwaukee (5) vs. Valparaiso (1). Only time will tell whether the Crusaders are a team of destiny in the NCAA Tournament. For now, they will be well-rested enough to outlast the Panthers in a physical and lower-scoring game. Pick: Valpo by 11
(6) Detroit Mercy vs. Oakland (2). Joe Louis Arena will be jumping for this match-up. Oakland won both regular season meetings, but they did not dominate by any means. For a game like this with so much on the line, I have to look at intangibles. Oakland plays with an ardent personality on the court, while that type of outward passion has not been as evident from the Titans. If the Titans want to pull off the upset, they need to play with the type of passion and emotion that Ray McCallum Jr. played with when he led the team to the NCAA Tournament in 2012. Pick: Oakland by 4
Oakland (2) vs. Valparaiso (1). On the surface, it may seem that this game means more to the Golden Grizzlies because Valpo is soundly in the NCAA Tourney whether they win or lose. Regardless of the Big Dance, the honor to be called Horizon League Tournament Champion is not something to be taken lightly. Expect this to be one of the more memorable championship games in recent years. Pick: Valpo by 5