Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Horizon League Tournament Preview

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The Horizon League played out the way it was expected to coming into the season. UW-Milwaukee was the favorite, and won the league on the last day of the season by one game over Butler. The Panthers lost 4 of their last 7 to let the Bulldogs back in the race. Five teams finished at 8-8 in the league, tied for third.

Favorite: Wisconsin-Milwaukee is the defending champion and has played like it most of the season. Joah Tucker is one of the top players in the league, while Boo Davis is an excellent complement to him. Adrian Tigert missed the final two games of the season due to injury. When healthy, he is a load to handle down low. Chris Hill is a solid point guard. The Panthers are the highest-scoring team in the league and they like to get up and down, pressuring the ball and scoring in transition.

Contenders: Butler lost on the final day of the season, costing themselves a shot at a share of the league title. The Bulldogs have one of the best players in the conference in Brandon Polk. They also have an excellent three-guard backcourt in A.J. Graves, Bruce Horan, and Avery Sheets. All three are solid long-range shooters. Loyola (Chicago) is probably the best of the .500 teams. Blake Schlib is one of the best all-around players in the Horizon League, and is versatile at 6-7. Majak Kou and J.R Blount are solid scorers in the backcourt, while Leon Young is a decent low-post player.

Sleeper: Wright State owns wins over Butler and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but have lost four of six. However, the Raiders have one of the top all-around players in the conference in Dashaun Wood, a guard capable of carrying them for a few wins. In addition, they have a very good forward duo in Drew Burleson and Jordan Pleiman. The aforementioned three form one of the best trios in the conference.

Prediction: Even though they slumped down the stretch, Wisconsin-Milwaukee is the best team in the conference and should win the tournament. If Tigert is healthy, they have the inside-outside balance needed to win the automatic bid. Joah Tucker and Boo Davis are going to carry the Panthers to their second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. However, Butler is going to give them a run in the title game.

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