There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of intrigue when it comes to the Horizon League Tournament, but you never know. That’s why they play the games and the sense of urgency coming from teams that only have one shot has created a lot of upsets in the past. That is what Wright State and Northern Kentucky will have to avoid before the likely rematch to determine the lone bid from the Horizon League.
For the second straight year, opening round games and quarterfinals are on campus. For the first time ever, the semifinals and finals will be held at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, which is actually the home floor for the IUPUI Jaguars. The tournament had been in Detroit the last four years, with the first two at Joe Louis Arena and the most recent two at Little Caesars Arena.
This is one of those conference tournaments that can go a little haywire. The #1 seed has only won twice since 2010 and it was Valparaiso both times. The #2 seed has won each of the last two years. Wright State became the first #1 seed to make the tournament final since 2015 and just the second since 2013. We’ve had a 10 and an 8 go down in the finals within the last three years.
So, even though Wright State stands well above the rest of the league, history would tell us that this is going to be far from a cakewalk.
Games will be played on March 3, March 5, March 9, and March 10 and this conference tournament does re-seed. Detroit Mercy is ineligible because of NCAA penalties.
Here are the teams, standings, seeds, and odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook for the Horizon League Tournament:
- Wright State 25-6 (15-3) -130
- Northern Kentucky 21-9 (13-5) +215
- Green Bay 16-15 (11-7) +900
- UIC 15-16 (10-8) (record vs. NKU tiebreaker) +1100
- Youngstown State 17-14 (10-8) +1500
- Oakland 13-18 (8-10) +1500
- Cleveland State 11-20 (7-11) (H2H tiebreaker) +13500
- Milwaukee 11-20 (7-11) +10000
- IUPUI 7-24 (3-15) +45000
Wright State is the #1 seed and the best team in this league. Northern Kentucky went through a lot of transition this season with the move from John Brannen to Darrin Horn, but managed to lock up the #2 seed. The #4 seed UIC ranks third in this conference according to most rankings websites and could be very dangerous against a Wright State team that gets a double bye.
With only nine teams in the field, there are double byes to the semifinals for the 1 and 2 and the #3 Green Bay doesn’t have to play in the first round. Once the tournament moves to a neutral site, it will be on IUPUI’s home floor, but the Jaguars are very unlikely to get past UIC in the first round.
Here is the schedule for the Horizon League Tournament:
Tuesday March 3
7 p.m. ET: 9 IUPUI at 4 UIC
7 p.m. ET: 8 Milwaukee at 5 Youngstown State
7 p.m. ET: 7 Cleveland State at 6 Oakland
Thursday March 5
7 p.m. ET: Lowest remaining seed at 3 Green Bay
7 p.m. ET: Second lowest remaining seed at Highest remaining seed
Monday March 9
7 p.m. ET: Lowest remaining seed vs. 1 Wright State
9:30 p.m. ET: Highest remaining seed vs. 2 Northern Kentucky
Tuesday March 10
7 p.m. ET: Championship Game
The re-seeding angle is a new wrinkle for the Horizon League Tournament. Perhaps 8 and 10 seeds getting into the finals over the last three years scared conference officials. After all, this is one of those scenarios as a one-bid league in which you really want to put your best foot forward. If we get a first-round upset, which is certainly possible, Green Bay would be the benefactor. It could also really help Wright State in the semifinals, especially if they are able to avoid a team like UIC, who rates on par with the Raiders defensively. In fact, UIC is first in adjusted defensive efficiency in conference play.
Wright State is the most balanced team in this conference, but does have something of a reliance on the 3. The Raiders are shooting over 40% from deep. That is 3% better than anybody else in the league. The Raiders didn’t really shoot it well down the stretch from deep and have an extended layoff after beating Northern Kentucky 64-62 on February 28. That being said, this team is very much a deserving favorite.
Northern Kentucky ranks first in 2P% offense and 2P% defense and played well overall, but did lose both games to Wright State and also got blown out by Green Bay and UIC at home. The Norse are a little bit of a scary proposition here. Talent-wise, they could very well be the best team in this league, but they’ve put up some real duds alongside blowout wins over the bottom feeders in this conference.
Because the tournament re-seeds, it is hard to stay away from Wright State because you don’t know who will draw the Raiders in the semifinals. If the chalk holds up, it would be UIC. If the chalk doesn’t hold up and Green Bay loses, then UIC draws Northern Kentucky and I’d look much more favorably upon their chances. Beating one of Wright State or Northern Kentucky is the goal. Having to beat both makes it trickier.
In fact, Green Bay might be the team worthy of investment here. They speed up the opposition and will be able to get a game in before playing Wright State or Northern Kentucky. Green Bay dealt Wright State and Northern Kentucky each a loss and lost twice in overtime on the road at Youngstown State and Oakland. The Phoenix are well-coached with Linc Darner, too.
Wright State won’t mind running with Green Bay and it could be to their detriment if the Phoenix outshoot them. The Phoenix succeeded in speeding up Northern Kentucky in the second meeting, though they did lose. Green Bay doesn’t play good defense, but they shoot the hell out of the ball.
Rather than look at the futures price, it would be a money line rollover with Green Bay. Sure, the Phoenix will be decent favorites at home in the quarterfinals, but a rollover against Northern Kentucky and Wright State could pay back more than the +900 price. It will be closer than some of the other money line rollovers.
Still, I think Wright State wins this conference tournament and holds up as the favorite, but potentially facing UIC and then Green Bay or Northern Kentucky is not an easy draw.
Pick: Wright State -130