By Jesse Kramer
As usual, the Horizon League will have some of the nation’s top mid-majors. This year, Wright State, Green Bay, Cleveland State, and Oakland are all in the mix as possible top-25 mid-major clubs. The Horizon will most likely be a one-bid league, but all four of these teams have the potential to make noise if they make it to the NCAA tournament.
1. Wright State
Wright State thrived with its depth last season. The Raiders consistently played 10 players, and no one played more than 29.4 minutes per game. Of those 10, the top nine return for 2013-14.
All-Horizon League Second Team forward Cole Darling (pictured) is back as Wright State’s leading scorer. Darling averaged 11.3 points and also led the Raiders with 4.6 rebounds per game. The 6’8″ senior should make the all-conference first team this year.
The Raiders also return forwards Jerran Young, JT Yoho, AJ Pacher, and Tavares Sledge. Young averaged 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and a team-high 1.4 steals, while Yoho posted 6.5 points per game and drained 38 treys during his freshman season. Pacher added 5.4 points per game, and Sledge averaged 4.1 points and 4.1 rebounds.
At guard, Wright State returns Reggie Arceneaux, Kendall Griffin, Miles Dixon, and Matt Vest. Arceneaux averaged 8.9 points and a team-best 2.5 assists per game. His 29.4 minutes per game led the team. Griffin was second with 29.1 minutes per contest, and he averaged 6.3 points and two assists. Dixon posted 8.5 points per game, and Vest contributed 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.
The Raiders also add Butler transfer Chrishawn Hopkins, a 6’1″ guard, after the fall semester. Hopkins averaged 9.1 points for the Bulldogs in 2011-12.
2. Green Bay
Green Bay will not be fair behind the Raiders with four starters returning from last year’s 18-win team. The Phoenix bring back All-Horizon League First Team point guard Keifer Sykes and All-Horizon League Second Team forward Alec Brown, who will form the best inside-outside duo in the conference.
Sykes averaged 15.9 points and 4.3 assists last season while shooting 43.1% from beyond the arc. He was also an 81.5% free-throw shooter and had five games where he attempted at least 10 foul shots.
Brown averaged 14.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. The 7’1″ senior also drained 30 three-pointers.
Returning with Brown in the frontcourt are Jordan Fouse and Greg Mays. Fouse posted a balanced line last season with 6.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, two assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.6 steals per game. Mays added 6.5 points and 4.7 boards while leading the team with a 52.4% field-goal percentage.
The Phoenix will add three impact transfers in Alfonzo McKinnie, Vincent Garrett, and Lamin Fulton. At Eastern Illinois in 2011-12, McKinnie was one of the Ohio Valley’s most promising big men with 10.2 points and seven rebounds per game. He also ranked No. 2 in the conference in field-goal percentage at 56.7%.
Garrett, a Rutgers transfer, averaged 1.5 points last season, and Fulton averaged seven points and 2.1 assists at Northwest Florida State. Fulton played in the Division I ranks as a freshman and St. Peter’s, and there he averaged 8.9 points and netted 59 three-pointers.
3. Cleveland State
After limping to a 5-11 Horizon League record last season, Cleveland State will be back in the mix for the conference title in 2013-14. The Vikings lost starting forward Tim Kamczyc and reserve Junior Lomomba, but everyone else returns. They will also welcome a trio of impact transfers.
In the backcourt, the Vikings return Charlie Lee, Bryan Forbes, and Sebastian Douglas. Lee led the Horizon League in assists as a sophomore last season with 4.8 dimes per game, and he also posted 11.6 points and shot 39.9% on three-pointers. Forbes led Cleveland State with 12.7 points per game and drained 61 treys. Douglas added 6.7 points and 1.2 steals.
The Vikings also add Penn State transfer Trey Lewis at guard. Lewis started six of 20 games as a freshman at Penn State and averaged 5.6 points.
Cleveland State also returns forwards Anton Grady, Devon Long, and Marlin Mason. Grady played only six games last season due to an injury, but in those six he averaged 13.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 2.2 steals. He is one of the best all-around players in the league.
Long averaged 6.7 points on 61.5% field-goal shooting, and Mason added eight points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game.
Junior college transfer Ismaila Dauda and Miami (OH) transfer Jon Harris will add depth to the frontcourt. Dauda averaged 10 points and 10.2 rebounds at Polk State, and Harris posted 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 38.5% on three-pointers.
Freshman DeMonte Flannigan should also log some quality minutes at forward. Flannigan was a three-star recruit on Scout and Rivals, and he picked up offers from high-quality programs like DePaul, Richmond, and Akron.
Oakland is taking a step up from the Summit League to the Horizon League, but the Golden Grizzlies have the pieces to compete in year one.
The Golden Grizzlies return a conference player of the year candidate in shooting guard Travis Bader. Bader scorched the Summit League for 22.1 points and 4.2 three-pointers per game last season. He scored in double digits all but once and had a 47-point game against IUPUI.
Also returning in the backcourt are Duke Mondy and Ryan Bass. Mondy, a former Providence transfer, averaged 12 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and three steals last season. He ranked No. 50 in assist rate and No. 3 in steal percentage. Bass added 9.3 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, and he also made 30 three-pointers.
At forward, the Golden Grizzlies return Corey Petros and Dante Williams. Petros was one of the Summit League’s most effective big men last season, averaging 12.5 points on 56.5% shooting and 8.2 rebounds per game. The 6’10” posted seven double-doubles and got to the foul line 193 times.
Dayton transfer Ralph Hill, a 6’6″ forward, will be a key addition. As a sophomore at Dayton, he averaged 1.4 points and 1.9 rebounds.
Detroit lost its top four players from last season, but with the returns of Juwan Howard Jr. and Evan Bruinsma and the additions of transfers Carlton Brundidge and Patrick Onwenu, the Titans should remain very competitive in 2013-14.
Howard, a former Western Michigan transfer, averaged 7.6 points and is Detroit’s top returning scorer. The 6’6″ wing also averaged 3.2 rebounds and shot a team-high 36.6% from beyond the arc.
Bruinsma returns in the frontcourt after averaging 5.6 points on 52% shooting and 4.3 rebounds.
Brundidge, a Michigan transfer, should start in Detroit’s backcourt. Brundidge did not play much during his one season with the Wolverines, but he was a top-100 recruit out of high school.
Onwenu could join Bruinsma in the starting lineup. The 6’8″ forward averaged 17.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and four blocks at Highland Community College last season.
6. Youngstown State
With all-league guard Kendrick Perry leading the way, Youngstown State could make some noise in the Horizon League this season. Perry, a 6-foot point guard, averaged 17.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.9 steals last season, and he also made 50 three-pointers. The senior guard will be joined by DJ Cole, whose breakout sophomore season produced 6.9 points and 3.4 assists per game. This duo could cause lots of trouble for teams in this league.
At forward, the Penguins return Kamren Belin and Bobby Hain. Belin averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and shot 57-of-140 from beyond thea arc (40.7%). Hain contributed 6.2 points per game on 52.5% field-goal shooting and 3.4 rebounds.
Valparaiso returns only four players from last year’s NCAA tournament, but they are a veteran group with three seniors and a junior. The Crusaders will add two more veterans in Alabama transfer Moussa Gueye and Rice transfer David Chadwick.
Seniors LaVonte Dority (8.6 ppg) and Jordan Coleman (4.4 ppg) will take care of business in the backcourt while Gueye (1.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg) and Bobby Capobianco (5.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg) start at forward. Still, the Crusaders will have to rely on freshmen Alec Peters and Jubril Adekoya to help out in the frontcourt.
Illinois-Chicago returns only one starter from last year’s team that finished 15-16 but started 10-3 in its first 13 games. That returner is forward Hayden Humes, a potential all-league player. Humes averaged 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds last season while making 40% of his three-pointers.
The Flames will add a pair of impactful transfers to the roster in Kelsey Barlow and Jordan Harks. Barlow, a Purdue transfer, averaged 8.3 points and 1.2 steals for the Boilermakers while Jordan Harks posted 7.9 points per game on 58.6% shooting and 4.2 rebounds for Central Arkansas.
Milwaukee will remain at the depths of the Horizon League following a 3-13 year in 2012-13. The Panthers return point guard Jordan Aaron (14.4 ppg, 4.0 apg) and promising big man J.J. Panoske (5.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.4 bpg), but they will also rely on a handful of transfers to be successful.
Indiana State transfer Steve McWhorter (4.0 ppg, 1.6 apg) and UTEP transfer Malcolm Moore (4.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg) could both start for Milwaukee. Junior college transfer Matt Tiby, who averaged 11.3 points and 6.2 rebounds at Kirkwood Community College, could also crack the starting five.
Horizon League Player of the Year
Travis Bader, Oakland
Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year
Jordan Fouse, Green Bay
Horizon League Freshman of the Year
DeMonte Flannigan, Cleveland State
Horizon League All-Conference Team
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay
Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State
Travis Bader, Oakland
Anton Grady, Cleveland State
Alec Brown, Green Bay
*All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.