Horizon ShootAround: The end of Butler's reign?
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
By Jeff Shelman
Special to ESPN.com
We can go inside, we can go outside, we can run and jump. We have two or three dimensions to our team.
Five Things To Watch in '08-09
By Jeff Shelman
Special to ESPN.com
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
How will Butler replace standout guard A.J. Graves and Co.?
While Cleveland State seems to be a pretty clear favorite in the Horizon League, it wouldn't be surprising to see Wright State in the mix at the end of the season. That's partly because the Raiders return three starters, including all-Horizon guard Vaughn Duggins. But much of it is because of the guy on the sidelines. When Wright State and Paul Biancardi parted ways because of his role in alleged NCAA violations when he was at Ohio State, the Raiders could have taken a step back. Instead, the school found itself with the right job at the right time and landed Brad Brownell from UNC Wilmington. In two years at Wright State, Brownell has gone 44-20 overall and 25-9 in Horizon League play. Not surprisingly, Wright State signed Brownell to a six-year contract extension over the summer, extending his contract through the 2013-14 season. • A pretty good exit strategy
Let's just say that new Detroit coach Ray McCallum is fortunate. Because if there is a person that currently represents disregard for the NCAA rulebook more than anyone else, it's former Oklahoma and Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson. Sampson, after all, got the Sooners on probation, and the Indiana case for impermissible phone calls to recruits is still pending. So what did McCallum do before landing at Detroit? He worked with Sampson at both Oklahoma and Indiana. While McCallum wasn't implicated in any of the NCAA's numerous reports regarding Sampson's behavior, too often an entire staff is painted with a broad brush. It isn't surprising that McCallum, a Midwest guy who had success at Ball State, got a job somewhere. But that he landed as a head coach instead of an assistant somewhere remains surprising. • Take two
When a program leaves one conference and moves into a league with more talent and more competition, it's never really clear what's going to happen. That was the case when Valparaiso left the Mid-Continent (now the Summit League) and moved to the Horizon before the start of last season. Because even though Valpo was the face of the Mid-Con, there was no certainty about how the Crusaders would fare against better competition. Coach Homer Drew's team struggled early in the season, losing six of seven league games at one point, but got better. The Crusaders won their last three regular-season games and then beat Wisconsin-Green Bay and Wright State in the Horizon tournament. • Making a move?
In recent years, there have been several occasions in which Wisconsin-Green Bay looked ready to become a legitimate Horizon League contender. But for one reason or another, it hasn't happened for the Phoenix. Last season, UWGB finished 15-15 and finished lower in the standings than predicted. This season, there are reasons to think that Tod Kowalczyk's team will be better. Green Bay returns its top seven scorers from a year ago, four of whom will be seniors. Forward Mike Schachtner and guard Ryan Tillema combined to average 28.3 points per game last season. There are clearly increased expectations from the school's administration. UWGB athletic director Ken Bothof told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that the Phoenix are "no longer a young team."
2008-09 Team CapsulesBy Jeff Shelman
Special to ESPN.com
One certainty for Butler this season is that Matt Howard is going to be a serious part of the Bulldogs' offense. Despite joining a team that was dominated by seniors, Howard averaged 12.3 points per game as a freshman and scored the most points ever (417 points) by a Butler freshman. Howard, who started 26 of Butler's final 27 games, also became the first freshman in school history to score 400 points and grab 175 rebounds. The other returning players for Butler averaged a combined 7.7 points per game. Cleveland State
One of the things Vikings coach Gary Waters was looking for during his team's late-summer trip to Spain was a consistent third scorer. Clearly J'Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson -- who combined to average 28.7 points per game a year ago -- aren't surprises. But after those two, no other returning player averaged more than 5 points per game. Clearly there will be coaches who will simply try to shut down Cleveland State's top two. If that happens, either center Chris Moore or guards D'Aundray Brown or Norris Cole will have to score. Detroit
New Titans coach Ray McCallum has significant work to do to rebuild a Detroit program that won only seven games and went 3-21 after Dec. 1. Second team all-Horizon guard Jon Goode (and his 19.3 ppg) is gone, but the four other Titans that averaged more than five points per game are back. Forward Chris Hayes is the team's leading returning scorer (10.6 ppg). McCallum also has a pair of junior college transfers in Xavier Keeling and Thomas Kennedy. Illinois-Chicago
Last season was supposed to be spent near the bottom of the Horizon League standings. Instead, the Flames turned out to be the conference's biggest surprise with an 18-18 overall record and 9-9 league mark. The bad news entering '08-09: Jimmy Collins' team won't sneak up on anybody. The good news: UIC has its top three scorers back from a year ago and two of the league's more interesting players. Guard Josh Mayo averaged 17.1 ppg last season and was a first-team all-Horizon selection. Also returning is 7-footer Scott VanderMeer, who made a significant step in his progress last season. VanderMeer became much more of an offensive threat (9.3 ppg) and had nine double-figure rebounding games. Loyola (Ill.)
The Ramblers will test the theory that in conferences outside of the top handful, experience is sometimes the difference between winning and losing. If that's truly the case, then Loyola has a good chance to improve on its 12-19 record and eighth-place finish in the Horizon. The Ramblers return six of their top seven scorers -- and four starters. Led by senior guard J.R. Blount (15.1 ppg), Loyola has four seniors. Valparaiso
In Urule Igbavboa, Brandon McPherson and Jake Diebler, Valparaiso coach Homer Drew has a good group to build around. Igbavboa (11.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) was second in the Horizon League in rebounding and fourth in field-goal percentage. McPherson and Diebler have started together in the Valpo backcourt for two full seasons. Last season, Valparaiso appeared in the postseason for the first time since 2004 when it played in the College Basketball Invitational. That said, the Crusaders have to replace their two leading scorers in Shawn Huff and Jarryd Loyd, who combined to score 24.6 ppg. Wisconsin-Green Bay
While the Phoenix return the bulk of their scoring, junior college transfer Chop Tang has a chance to contribute. Tang, a native of the Sudan who attended high school in Minnesota, is extremely strong and very athletic. The 6-6, 220-pound Tang could be a difficult player for other Horizon League teams to defend because of that athletic ability. In addition to leading scorers Mike Schachtner and Ryan Tillema, Green Bay also brings back Horizon Defensive Player of the Year Terry Evans and Rahmon Fletcher, a member of the conference's all-newcomer team. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
After a season filled with injuries, Wisconsin-Milwaukee will have a different look this season. Second-leading scorer Paige Paulson (13.3 ppg) is gone, and so is Marcus Skinner (7.5 ppg). Exactly how the Panthers will look remains up in the air. While Ricky Franklin and Deion James need to be more productive as seniors, coach Rob Jeter also recruited three junior college players. When a coach goes for that many juco players as Jeter did in Anthony Boyle, Burleigh Porte and James Eayrs, he usually expects an immediate impact. Wright State
Cleveland State is attracting much of the preseason attention, but Wright State is certainly a legitimate Horizon League contender. That's because the Raiders still have the vast majority of a team that won 21 games last season. Guard Vaughn Duggins was a first team all-Horizon selection while averaging 13.8 points per game. Guard Todd Brown (12.7 ppg) also returns. In addition, Scott Grote is eligible after transferring from Duquesne. Grote averaged 9.9 points per game as a freshman for the Dukes. Youngstown State
Penguins coach Jerry Slocum has a difficult task in front of him as he enters his fourth season at Youngstown State. Not only do the Penguins have to recover from a season in which they went 9-21 overall and 5-13 in Horizon League play; they also have to find replacements for leading scorers Byron Davis and John Barber (who averaged a combined 29.1 ppg). Winning at Youngstown State hasn't been easy since moving from the Mid-Continent (Summit League) to the Horizon. In seven seasons, the Penguins are 28-86 in league play. In hopes of changing that, Slocum brought in eight new players. Sophomore guard Vytas Sulskis was on the Horizon's All-Newcomer team.
If I were the Horizon commish
By Andy Katz
2007-08 Horizon Standings
|Overall record||Horizon record|
#CBI berth For all the Horizon news and notes, check out the league page.
Top Returning Scorers
|Josh Mayo, Illinois-Chicago, Sr.||17.1|
|Mike Schachtner, UW-Green Bay, Sr.||15.8|
|J.R. Blount, Loyola-Illinois, Sr.||15.1|
|J'Nathan Bullock, Cleveland State, Sr.||14.8|
|Cedric Jackson, Cleveland State, Sr.||13.9|
Top Returning Rebounders
|Scott VanderMeer, Illinois-Chicago, Sr.||7.5|
|Urule Igbavboa, Valparaiso, Sr.||7.3|
|Terry Evans, UW-Green Bay, Sr.||6.7|
|Andy Polka, Loyola-Chicago, Jr.||6.3|
|J'Nathan Bullock, Cleveland State, Sr.||6.6|