By Matthew Terry
The Horizon League.
A league that has produced many legendary teams such as the 2005 UW-Milwaukee Sweet Sixteen team and the 2010-2011 Butler national runner-up teams. However in the most recent round of conference expansion, a newly formed Big East led to perennial conference powerhouse and nationally esteemed mid-major program Butler Bulldogs leaving the Horizon League, and led to the Horizon League falling on dark times. Since Butler’s 2011 National Championship run fell just short, the Horizon League has seen zero NCAA tournament wins, and when Butler left the league a new conference top dog needed to be established.
Since Butler left the Horizon League in 2012, Valpo has all but dominated the Horizon League. They’ve won a share of the regular season title in six of the next seven years. They went to the NIT Championship and were on their way to becoming an established force in men’s basketball.
So they left too.
After the Horizon League’s most recent raid of talent from other, most well-known conferences, they needed someone new to join the ranks. Northern Kentucky entered the conference in 2015, and while they haven’t left just yet, they’re looking to make their second NCAA tournament in three years. Head coach John Brannen has led the Norse to a 23-8 overall record and a 13-5 conference record, splitting the regular season league title with Wright State. Northern Kentucky is a team to watch in this tournament mainly because of star senior forward Drew McDonald. McDonald is a 6’8 big man who’s averaging 19.3 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game and his three point shot has improved every single year at NKU to where he’s shooting 42.3% from beyond the arc this year.
However if you love three-point shooters, the player to watch in this league is Detroit’s Antoine Davis. Davis is the conference’s leading scorer with 26 points per game, mainly because he averages 21.7 field goals attempted per game, both of those numbers leading the conference at an astounding margin. Davis also is the only person in the Horizon League to have attempted 300+ three-pointers this year, and is the only one to have made 100-plus. Oh, and he’s a freshman. This kid has three more years of high-volume, low-efficiency scoring left in the Horizon League and we here at KCOU are here for it. Strictly because of Davis’s insane ability to create shot attempts out of nothing, Antonie Davis is my player to watch AND Detroit is my tournament sleeper, because even though the Titans went 8-10 in conference, all it takes is one player to get hot to go on a run, and if Davis can combine his volume shooting with anything resembling efficiency, this team could make noise.
The Horizon League tournament tips off on Mar. 5 when top-seeded Wright State hosts IUPUI and No. 4 seed Green Bay hosts UIC, both games tipping off at 8pm central. My official prediction is that Wright State defends their top seed in the Horizon League and goes on to valiantly lose in the NCAA tournament like a proud Horizon League team should.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org