It is that time of year again folks! March is officially upon us, and if you are a true college hoops fan, then this should be your favorite month of the year. Not only do we have the NCAA Tournament coming up within a few weeks, but also we are getting into the heart of conference tournament season! Friday will see four more tourneys tip-off for their first set of games, one of which will be the Horizon League.
Valparaiso was in the driver’s seat for most of the season in the Horizon, but when the season came to an end, it was Oakland that ended up on top thanks to a tiebreaker. Both clubs finished with the exact same record, both in conference play and overall as well. So this one should be shaping up to be one of the more competitive conference tournaments in 2017.
Things will be tipping off on Friday, March 3rd. We will get two games to start things off before getting to the quarterfinals on March 4th and 5th. There will be no rest for the weary either, as this tournament will continue play on consecutive days. The semifinals will be held on the 6th, followed by the title game on Tuesday, March 7th at 7:00 pm EST on ESPN. You can check out the seedings and bracket below (bracket on left is men’s, right is women’s).[Kenny]
(3) Green Bay
(4) Northern Kentucky
(5) Wright State
(7) Detroit Mercy
(8) Cleveland State
(9) Youngstown State
— Wright State News (@WrightStateNews) February 28, 2017
Let the fun begin with a game between Cleveland State and Youngstown State. The winner gets the prize of facing Oakland. Both of these teams are pretty awful, to be honest with you. Youngstown State has an edge slightly in several shooting categories and do not commit as many fouls. So I will take Youngstown in this one, 73-71. But the fun will come to a screeching halt. Oakland should have zero issues in this one, as I see them taking this one 83-71.
Next up we have two teams that are not as well known within the conference. That would be the four and five seeds, which is Northern Kentucky and Wright State. This should still be a rather entertaining game. These two clubs are fairly evenly matched, with each one having a few advantages. But when you put it all together, I give the slight edge to Northern Kentucky, who I have winning 75-73.
Next up we have Green Bay going against UIC. Green Bay has had its share of time atop of this conference, but that is not the case this season. This is simply not the same Green Bay team we have seen in the tournament several years back. That will be evident when they fall to the University of Illinois-Chicago in this one, 81-80.
Next up we have Detroit-Mercy going against Milwaukee, with the winner advancing to take on Valpo in the quarterfinals. Detroit-Mercy may be one of the worst statistical clubs in the world of college hoops. They are absolutely terrible on defense and they foul left and right. Milwaukee is not great, but they come out on top here 73-72. Valpo will end their dreams pretty quickly though, topping them 77-67 to advance.
Our first semifinal game will have Oakland taking on Northern Kentucky. And this is not going to be a walk in the park for the one seed. Northern Kentucky is certainly a sleeper team in this tournament, as they have some legit talent. The stats are fairly even across the board, and I am giving the slight edge to Northern Kentucky. I am calling for the upset, 74-73.
So who will get to take them on in the title game? Will it be Illinois-Chicago or Valpo? Unlike the Oakland game, I am not seeing much potential for the upset here. Valpo is just too good, while UIC is simply ok. UIC’s inability to play defense will catch up to them here, as they will fall 80-74.
So now we have our final. Northern Kentucky vs Valpo with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. Talk about a virtually even matchup in terms of stats. Across the board these teams are very similar in multiple metrics. But there is one very important difference. Northern Kentucky shoots 67.1 from the free throw line, while Valpo knocks down 78.1. That will be the difference maker. Give me Valpo 71-70.
So what do you think? Who will come out on top in the Horizon? Will Oakland be able to run the table? Or maybe Valpo? Or could it be a surprise team like N Kentucky? Tell us what you think in the comments!