Horizon League Power Rankings, Dec. 5

Photo: Greg Lynch / Dayton Daily News

While Valparaiso and Oakland remain the pretty obvious top two in the Horizon League, there have been a lot of shakeups throughout the conference over the last couple of weeks. First-year coach Scott Nagy has Wright State playing well, although the Raiders have dropped their last two against strong competition. Meanwhile, another first-year coach, Bacari Alexander, continues to struggle at Detroit.

That and more in this week’s Horizon League Power Rankings.

1. Valparaiso

2016-2017 Record: 7-1

Previous Ranking: 1

After pivotal wins over Alabama, BYU (neutral court) and Rhode Island, Valparaiso has firm control of the No. 1 spot in the Horizon League Power Rankings. The scary thing for the rest of the league? Alec Peters is shooting only 23% from three, but his points per game have improved from 18.4 last year to 25.4 this year. How? He’s attempting and making more shots inside the arc and is top-ten in the country in free throws attempted and made. His 3-point shooting percentage will improve — we are talking about a player who has connected on 41% of his 581 career 3-point attempts.

 

2. Oakland

2016-2017 Record: 8-1

Previous Ranking: 2

Oakland has coasted through their easy non-conference schedule thus far. Their best opponent has been Nevada, which resulted in a loss. Martez Walker continues to thrive as the go-to option offensively. Stevie Clark has looked the part as a facilitator who puts his teammates in scoring positions. But Oakland won’t face other quality opponents until late December in Georgia and Michigan State. Those games will shed light on just how good Oakland really is.

 

Photo: Greg Lynch / Dayton Daily News
Photo: Greg Lynch / Dayton Daily News

3. Wright State

2016-2017 Record: 6-3

Previous Ranking: 4

Scott Nagy has implemented a four-guard lineup and given his best player, Mark Alstork, the keys to the offense despite not being a true point guard. While Alstork is producing a nice stat line (21.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.7 apg), he’s committing an alarmingly high 5.3 turnovers per game. And opponents are making 49% of their two-pointers. These are areas of much needed improvement. A positive for Wright State has been the surprising success of guards Grant Benzinger and Justin Mitchell on the boards. Benzinger averaged 1.9 rpg last year, but he’s up to 6.6 rpg currently. Mitchell has gone from being a little-used reserve to leading Wright State in rebounds with 7.2 rpg.

 

4. Green Bay

2016-2017 Record: 4-4

Previous Ranking: 3

Freshman point guard Trevor Anderson continues to impress with his play, especially his effectiveness behind the arc. He’s a prime candidate to take home the Freshman of the Year award in the Horizon League. Green Bay’s success going forward will be determined by Charles Cooper. The senior wing has struggled with his shot early on, but his key 18 points in Green Bay’s overtime victory on the road at Toledo could snap him out of his slump.

 

5. Northern Kentucky

2016-2017 Record: 5-3

Previous Ranking: 8

We had Northern Kentucky at No. 6 in preseason projections, as well as Drew McDonald being on the All-League 2nd team. The early returns have been right on par, thanks to McDonald. He’s averaging 20.5 ppg and 8.6 rpg, good for top-five in both categories in the Horizon League. McDonald showed potential as a 3-point threat last year, and he’s only expanded on that perimeter skill set this year. He has made 12-of-25 from three so far, including 10-of-16 in his last five games.

 

6. Youngstown State

2016-2017 Record: 5-4

Previous Ranking: 5

Cameron Morse has missed the last two games with a right hand injury, a tough blow for Youngstown State considering he’s a lethal scoring threat. Junior point guard Francisco Santiago has stepped up in his void, scoring 40 points and dishing out 16 assists in his last two games. Sophomore big man Devin Haygood has made considerable improvements, and Matt Donlan and Brett Frantz are excellent floor-spacers.

 

Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com
Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com

7. UIC

2016-2017 Record: 4-4

Previous Ranking: 7

Steve McClain picked up his first win outside of the UIC Pavilion with a neutral court victory over Cal Poly last week. But the Flames went on to lose at home against Eastern Illinois on Sunday. Dikembe Dixson continues to score at a high rate, but his issue of turning over the basketball (3.9 per game) persists. The freshmen trio of Godwin Boahen, Tarkus Ferguson and Marcus Ottey gives UIC the offensive firepower they lacked last season. But UIC’s effort on defense will determine just how many more games the Flames will win this year.

 

8. Milwaukee

2016-2017 Record: 3-5

Previous Ranking: 10

LaVall Jordan has his team competing and grinding out wins, Milwaukee has been a pleasant surprise. Milwaukee got a nice win over UC Irvine and nearly beat Montana on the road. Brock Stull has benefitted most with the changes to the coaching staff. He’s the leading scorer and rebounder, but he most importantly has the confidence of Jordan. Cody Wichmann continues his shooting ways from three. Bryce Nze got a double-double against Montana in only 18 minutes. He’s the X-factor for Milwaukee, if he can stay out of foul trouble.

 

9. Cleveland State

2016-2017 Record: 2-5

Previous Ranking: 6

Demonte Flannigan is finally back on the court for Cleveland State after being sorely missed. He’s the top big man on the roster. Now the Vikings need to integrate Flannigan with his talented backcourt teammates in Rob Edwards, Kasheem Thomas and Bobby Word. This team has a shot at moving up thanks to the aforementioned players. They’re better than their record indicates.

 

10. Detroit

2016-2017 Record: 1-7

Previous Ranking: 9

The struggles continue for Detroit, but you have to like the play of first-year guard Corey Allen. Nearly 11 points per game, and he’s made 16-of-34 from three in eight games. Allen should excel as a scorer for the next four years.

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