Pre-Season

Where will Green Bay finish in top heavy Horizon League?

darner - uwgb athletics

Photo via Green Bay Phoenix Athletics

On paper, it is pretty clear who the top three teams in the Horizon League will be this season.

Oakland returns almost everyone of significance and adds Illinois transfer Kendrick Nunn to an already talent roster. Northern Kentucky won the conference tournament after an impressive third place regular season finish last season and returns basically all of their key players.  And UIC brings back virtually their entire roster from last season and adds in a first team all-Horizon player in Dikembe Dixson after he missed most of last season with a knee injury.

So it’s no surprise that the consensus preseason rankings go 1) Oakland, 2) Northern Kentucky, and 3) UIC. Those three teams appear to be on a different level than the rest of the league as the non-conference season gets underway this weekend.

Green Bay head coach Linc Darner said he would not be surprised if all three teams are in the top 25 poll conversation throughout the year.  Oakland received votes in both the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll.

“I think this year [the conference is] going to be really good” Darner said in a recent appearance on the Bill Michaels Show. “I said it last year after my press conference when we got beat that our league probably has three teams that could, at one time or another, have a chance to be in my opinion a top 25 team.”

But after the top three, the league appears to be wide open. Preseason magazine and online publications have slotted Green Bay to finish anywhere from 4th to 10th in the ten team Horizon League.

“Those are probably the three top teams in our league and I think they can all pull some upsets here in the preseason,” Darner said. “I think everybody else is going to be fighting behind them to see where you place. I think it’s going to be a very competitive league and it has been most years.”

The consensus rankings, complied by a Detroit Mercy fan who goes by the name of “Commissioner” have Green Bay slotted to finish 7th based on all of the available media outlet predictions.

 

Horizon League consensus prediction:

  1. Oakland
  2. Northern Kentucky
  3. UIC
  4. Detroit Mercy
  5. Wright State
  6. Youngstown State
  7. Green Bay
  8. Milwaukee
  9. Cleveland State
  10. IUPUI

 

To be fair, there are plenty of question marks about this year’s Phoenix.  Only three players return from last year’s squad after the loss of six seniors and two players to transfer.

But with a solid (on paper) recruiting class plus the addition of Marquette transfer Sandy Cohen on December 21st, this Green Bay team will likely surprise a few people.

Here’s how I see the final Horizon League regular season standings:

  1. Oakland
  2. Northern Kentucky
  3. UIC
  4. Green Bay
  5. Wright State
  6. Detroit Mercy
  7. Youngstown State
  8. Milwaukee
  9. Cleveland State
  10. IUPUI

 

For me, spots 4 through 6 are basically a toss-up. Wright State has a solid coach in Scott Nagy and a good team, but they are still a major unknown in year 2 of the Nagy era. Detroit Mercy is expected to be much improved from last season but last week lost at home to a Division II team in an exhibition game.

Youngstown State and Milwaukee, in my opinion, will battle it out for the 7th and 8th spot. There is finally some life being breathed into the basketball program in Youngstown and they should be competitive since they have one of the league’s best players in Cameron Morse.  Milwaukee is on their third coach in as many years but they have some talented players.  They will be better than their last place finish last season.

Cleveland State is in the midst of a much needed rebuild after Gary Waters retired at the end of last season.  IUPUI will likely struggle in its first season in the conference.

As for Green Bay, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this team finds a way to win 20 games this season.  Here are my game by game predictions:

  • NOV 14 (TUE) @ Northern Illinois – W
  • NOV 17 (FRI) VS LAKELAND – W
  • NOV 20 (MON) @ Mississippi State – L
  • NOV 24 (FRI) VS FLORIDA A&M – W
  • NOV 27 (MON) VS STETSON – W
  • DEC 2 (SAT) @ Belmont – L
  • DEC 6 (WED) VS EASTERN ILLINOIS – W
  • DEC 9 (SAT) @ Missouri – L
  • DEC 12 (TUE) @ Indiana State – L
  • DEC 16 (SAT) VS UW-PARKSIDE – W
  • DEC 18 (MON) VS ROCKFORD – W
  • DEC 21 (THU) VS BOWLING GREEN – W
  • DEC 23 (SAT) @ Wisconsin – L
  • DEC 28 (THU) VS DETROIT MERCY* – W
  • DEC 30 (SAT) VS OAKLAND* – L
  • JAN 2 (TUE) VS IUPUI* – W
  • JAN 4 (THU) @ Cleveland State* – W
  • JAN 6 (SAT) @ Youngstown State* – L
  • JAN 10 (WED) @ UIC* – L
  • JAN 12 (FRI) @ IUPUI* – W
  • JAN 15 (MON) VS MILWAUKEE* – W
  • JAN 18 (THU) VS WRIGHT STATE* – W
  • JAN 20 (SAT) VS NORTHERN KENTUCKY* – L
  • JAN 25 (THU) VS CLEVELAND STATE* – W
  • JAN 27 (SAT) VS YOUNGSTOWN STATE* – W
  • FEB 2 (FRI) @ Milwaukee* – W
  • FEB 8 (THU) @ Wright State* – L
  • FEB 10 (SAT) @ Northern Kentucky* – L
  • FEB 16 (FRI) VS UIC* (Kress Center) – W
  • FEB 22 (THU) @ Oakland* – L
  • FEB 24 (SAT) @ Detroit Mercy* – W

 

If you’re counting at home, that’s a 19-12 overall record, 11-7 in the Horizon League, which is almost identical to their final 18-14 overall, 12-6 conference record last season that resulted in a tie for third place.

“We’ve got a great group of guys that are working hard, the biggest thing is we have a lot of guys that haven’t played any college basketball before,” Darner said. “I think sometimes as coaches we have to take a step back and maybe slow down our teaching and what we want to do and not try to throw too much at them.”

Green Bay’s non-conference slate leaves much to be desired but it will provide opportunities for a young team full of newcomers to become more comfortable playing with each other and settling into their roles.

The season tips off Tuesday night on the road in a winnable game at Northern Illinois.

“We’re trying different things and probably the first two months of the season, until we get into conference play, it might be things that we just have to try in a game and work on and see how it goes to see what this group of guys can and can’t do.”

 

Links to various media outlets and their Horizon League predictions (Green Bay prediction is in parentheses):

Athlon Magazine (6)

Lindy’s Magazine (6)

Street and Smith Magazine (8)

Horizon League poll (6)

Three Man Weave (7)

College Baseketball Central (8)

Sports Action (7)

Blue Ribbon Magazine (5)

Mid-Major Madness (7)

NBC Sports (7)

HoopsHD (10)

CBS Sports (7)

USA Today (6)

ESPN (8)

Sports Illustrated (10)

 

 

 

 

 

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