2019-20 Horizon League men's basketball preview

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In light of the recent preseason poll for Horizon League men’s basketball, Campus Citizen columnist Caleb Lynn takes an in-depth look at each team in the conference, including the new-look Jaguars.


IUPUI Jaguars--- Projection: 9th place

The IUPUI Jaguars will look a whole lot different this upcoming season. They now have an interim head coach in Byron Rimm II after the firing of Jason Gardner and they also lost a 20 points per game scorer in Camron Justice. However, there are still some solid players from last year’s squad, such as guards Jaylen Minnett and Grant Weatherford, both of whom have the opportunity to fill Justice’s role on a team that looks to have a balanced attack. 

Under the radar player: How about Elyjah Goss? Goss is a 6-7 Forward who could be a factor down low for IUPUI this season. The frontcourt also had a shakeup as D.J. McCall and Evan Hall both graduated, so someone has to step up.I believe Goss has the ability to be that player. 

Final Thought: I like IUPUI as an interesting team that’ll be competitive throughout the Horizon League this season. The conference will be competitive and the loss of Justice is going to show. But this team has a chip on their shoulder and I would not be surprised to see them outperform their projections. 


Wright State--- Projection: 1st place

Wright State looks to be a force in the Horizon League, particularly down low on the block. They have a combination of center Loudon Love (15.0 pts and 8 rebounds), and forward Bill Wampler (15.0 pts and 3 rebounds) can top any frontcourt in the league. The leader is the fourth-year head coach Scott Nagy, who guided the Raiders to the NCAA Tournament in 2018--they’re looking to get back to the big dance this coming season.

Under the radar player:  Jaylon Hall is a 6-5 guard and could potentially contribute in a big way for a Wright State team that loves the paint. That could mean that Hall has a chance to be super effective offensively and give this team a reliable playmaker. 

Final Thought: Wright State is going to want to get back to the NCAA Tournament--that’s just a fact. They are favored to be the top team in the conference and, to me, that says everything as the frontcourt of Love and Wampler will be too much for the conference to handle. Look for the Raiders to reclaim their spot in the tourney. 


Northern Kentucky--- Projection: 2nd place

The Northern Kentucky Norse look to make back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament after losing coach John Brannen to Cincinnati. Not to mention that they also won’t have Drew McDonald, who averaged 19 points and five rebounds a game last season. However, they do have their dynamic duo at the guard positions with senior Tyler Sharpe (14.0 ppg) and redshirt junior Jalen Tate (14.0 ppg).

Under the radar player: Dantez Walton has a massive opportunity in front of him with Drew McDonald gone--if he can control the Norse paint presence, then watch out. Walton, with the dynamic guard duo intact, will have space to work down low, which could be crucial for how they get them going. 

Final Thought: NKU is a very good team despite their losses. First-year coach Darrin Horn has a squad that will be ready to compete at the top of the league this season, which could definitely lead to a similar situation they were in last year where they got hot at the right time. 


UIC---Projection: 3rd place

Former IU assistant coach Steve McClain has been with UIC for four years and he is slowly but surely starting to build his program. One crucial piece for UIC and their rebuild is Tarkus Ferguson, who averaged 15 points and five assists last season for the Flames and gives them a steady presence. But let’s not forget about his partner Marcus Ottey--the senior from Canada averaged 14 a game and also delivers a punch that’s tough for any Horizon League team to handle. Don’t sleep on the Flames at all this season. 

Under the radar: Jordan Blount, the senior forward from Ireland, has a chance to be a much- needed presence on the block. He had over 29 starts last season to go with 48 offensive rebounds last season, making for one active big man on the glass, something that’s always crucial for any team. 

Final thought: I am a fan of any team with an elite backcourt, and this UIC team certainly has that. Under McClain, this team will be heading in the right direction and will have their impact felt throughout the league. 


Oakland---Projection: 4th place

The Oakland Golden Grizzlies have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2011. However, the next star is Xavier Hill-Mais and coach Greg Kampe has been there for 36 seasons. I believe that Hill-Mais is a talented forward who provides a physicality that many don’t grow up with. He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds last season and he looks to get the Golden Grizzlies back into the fold this season. 

Under the radar: Tray Maddox Jr. has an opportunity to dominate opposing guards with his athleticism this season. He averaged 6.7 points last season but he dropped 21 points in a game against IUPUI on January 24. I look for him to build on that as this season approaches.

Final thought: Oakland will be a team that can sneak up on the Horizon League. When you have a coach as experienced as Kampe and a player as talented as Hill-Mais, then you will be in every game. I’d expect them to be in the middle of the pack in the conference when it is all said and done. 


Green Bay-- Projection: 5th place

Green Bay will be an experienced squad as five seniors will lead the squad. Head coach Linc Darner is seeing lots of continuity with this squad as over 75 percent of their scoring came back from last season. The scoring output is led by senior JayQuan McCloud, who was second on the team last season with 14 points a game. 

Under the radar: Shaquan Hemphill is a forward who has been super reliable for Green Bay. The product from Gary did not miss a single game last season and is the only player who started every game. He is a player that can be a focal point option offensively alongside McCloud. 

Final thought: This is a middle of the pack team that has lots of experience. I am very interested in how this team ends up, but it needs McCloud to become a First Team player. 


Youngstown State--Projection: 6th place

The Penguins are led by Darius Quisenberry (14 points a game) and finished with a six-game winning streak last season. They are looking to build off of that streak this coming season, and who knows, maybe it could possibly be Youngstown State’s first NCAA Tournament selection.

Under the radar: Can I go with a coach? Head coach Jerrod Calhoun led his team to a four-win improvement from his first season at the helm. He is slowly trying to make this program respectable in the Horizon League and his efforts should be more appreciated. 

Final thought: This season will be difficult for the Penguins and they will most likely need to keep building this program to get it into a position where they can be at the top of the Horizon League. 


Milwaukee- Projection: 7th place

Milwaukee has a chance to be quite interesting heading into this season. They have added Illinois transfer Te’Jon Lucas and USC transfer  Harrison Henderson. Not to mention that they have Darius Roy and DeAndre Abram, who are seniors that want to end their college career the right way. 

Under the radar: I mentioned him earlier, but I think Te’Jon Lucas is a legitimate player for the Horizon League. Granted, he only averaged five points and three assists last year, but he still can be a contributor for Milwaukee and could lead them to improvement. 

Final thought: Milwaukee is definitely a team that is trying to compete in a league that is deeper than most years in the past. I feel like they will provide a veteran edge to their squad and will absolutely be a pesky opponent. 


Detroit Mercy---Projection: 8th place

Detroit Mercy is led by Coach Mike Davis and Antoine Davis who together make a tough duo. Antoine Davis is the favorite for player of the year in the conference and rightly so. Everything Detroit Mercy does runs through him. And I mean everything. 

Under the radar: Willy Isani has terrific outside shooting range but needs to be given an opportunity. He went 6-13 from 3-point range against IUPUI last season. I believe  everyone needs shooting and he absolutely has potential. 

Final thought: Detroit Mercy is all about Antoine Davis, and unless he scores lik 60 points every game, it will be rough for the Titans this season. 


Cleveland State---Projection: 10th place

The Vikings are projected to finish at the bottom of the conference and it will be hard for them to get things going for first-year head coach Dennis Gates. However, they do have some experience in senior Kasheem Thomas and junior Algveon Eichelberger. 

Under the radar: Kasheem Thomas is a senior from Quebec and has an opportunity to be a leader for a team that needs some with a first-year coach.  

Final thought: Cleveland State needs to take a step in the right direction. This is a year where they’ll get adjusted to the new systems that Dennis Gates will put in, and I believe that means they will have a tough time in this conference.

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