By The Numbers

A look at the history of the Horizon League Tournament’s #3 seeds

The #3 seed has not fared well ever since the Horizon League changed its conference tournament format from the #1 seed hosting to a neutral site venue four years ago.

Of course the same can be said for the #1 seed which has not won the tournament since 2015 – the final year of the top seed hosting – when Valparaiso knocked off Green Bay in the title game at the ARC.

Two #4 seeds and two #2 seeds have won the tournament in the four years since, knocking off a #3 seed, a #10 seed, a #8 seed, and a #1 seed in the championship game with #3 seeds going 4-4 over that span.

In fact, #3 seeds have been upset in their first tournament game in 2 of the past 3 seasons with the Phoenix falling to #6 seed UIC in 2017 and #6 Milwaukee returning the favor and upsetting #3 UIC in the Flames first tournament game in 2018. Last season, #3 Oakland won its first tournament game at home against Youngstown State before losing to Northern Kentucky in the semifinals at Little Caesers Arena in Detroit.

Obviously it is hard to get an apples to apples comparison since the Horizon League has changed up its tournament format so many times in the past few seasons, but the #3 seed’s recent struggles haven’t always been the case.

After Green Bay joined the conference for the 1994/1995 season the #3 seed won 3 of the first 4 tournaments and made 5 of the first 6 championship games. For eight years (1995-2002), tournament games were played at a predetermined conference venue creating somewhat of a neutral site for all but one team.  Over that span the #3 seed went 15-5 in the tournament and only suffered one upset – an opening round loss by Milwaukee during the 2002 tournament.

That tournament in 2002 would be the catalyst for the conference to change up its format after #8 Green Bay upset #1 Butler on a neutral floor at Cleveland State in the quarterfinals. Combine Milwaukee’s quarterfinal loss as the #3 seed with the #2 seed losing in the semifinals and the conference had #5 seed Loyola facing #6 seed UIC in front of a sparse crowd in Cleveland to determine its league champion.

So to protect its top teams the conference decided that the #1 and #2 seeds would receive a bye all the way to the tournament semifinals with the top seed hosting the tournament starting with the 2003 season. The format worked with the #1 seed reaching the championship game in 12 of the 13 seasons the format was used.

The #3 seed also somewhat benefited from that format by getting a bye to the second round and then potentially getting to play the semifinal game on a neutral floor against the #2 seed to earn the right to play against the #1 seed on their home floor.

During that 13 year span the #3 seed went 21-11, winning two titles and finishing runner up three times while only suffering two one-and-done upset exists.

It remains to be seen what kind of advantage having the 3 seed this season will bring. Green Bay will have the benefit of a little bit of rest thanks to gaining a first round bye due to Detroit Mercy’s postseason ban.

Should the Phoenix win on Thursday and advance to Monday night’s semifinals against Northern Kentucky on a neutral floor in Indianapolis, they will look to become the first #3 seed to win the Horizon League Tournament since Detroit Mercy won it at Valparaiso in 2012.

 

Horizon League Tournament #3 seed through the years:

 

1995 (at Wright State):

(3) Green Bay 54, (6) La Salle 46

(3) Green Bay 68, (7) Northern Illinois 55 (Semifinals)

(3) Green Bay 73, (8) Wright State 59 (Championship)

 

1996 (at Wright State):

(3) Northern Illinois 80, (6) Milwaukee 60

(3) Northern Illinois 95, (7) UIC 60 (Semifinals)

(3) Northern Illinois 84, (5) Detroit 63 (Championship)

 

1997 (at Wright State):

(3) UIC 76, (6) Northern Illinois 65;

(3) UIC 76, (7) Cleveland State 42 (Semifinals)

(1) Butler 69, (3) UIC 68 (Championship)

 

1998 (at Green Bay):

(3) Butler 62, (6) Loyola 53

(3) Butler 67, (7) Wright State 48 (Semifinals)

(3) Butler 70, (4) Green Bay 51 (Championship)

 

1999 (at UIC):

(3) Green Bay 72, (6) Milwaukee 66;

(2) Butler 68, (3) Green Bay 65 (3OT) (Semifinals)

 

2000 (at UIC):

(3) Detroit 64, (6) Wright State 59

(3) Detroit 80, (7) UIC 72 (Semifinals)

(1) Butler 62, (3) Detroit 43 (Championship)

 

2001 (at Wright State):

(3) Cleveland State 62, (6) UIC 61

(2) Detroit 91, (3) Cleveland State 81 (Semifinals)

 

2002 (at Cleveland):

(6) UIC 75, (3) Milwaukee 68

 

———Tournament moves to top seed hosting —————-

 

2003 (at Milwaukee):

(3) UIC 79, (7) Youngstown State 59;

(2) Milwaukee 75, (3) UIC 73 (Semifinals)

 

2004 (at Butler / second round and semifinals only, championship at Milwaukee):

(6) Butler 72, (3) Green Bay 50

 

2005 (at Milwaukee):

(3) Detroit 61, (6) Wright State 48;

(3) Detroit 61, (2) Green Bay 55 (Semifinals)

(1) Milwaukee 59,(3) Detroit 58 (Championship)

 

2006 (at Milwaukee):

(3) Green Bay 76, (6) UIC 66;

(2) Butler 73, (3) Green Bay 51 (Semifinals)

 

2007 (at Wright State):

(3) Loyola 66, (6) UIC 62

(2) Butler 67, (3) Loyola 66 (OT) (Semifinals)

 

—– Valparaiso joins, the 3 seed no longer receives a first round bye and instead hosts the #10 seed  —-

 

2008 (at Butler):

(3) Wright State 60, (10) Detroit 37;

(6) Valparaiso 72, (3) Wright State 67

 

2009 (at Butler):

(3) Cleveland State 56, (10) Detroit 43

(3) Cleveland State 67, (7) UIC 64

(3) Cleveland State 73, (2) Green Bay 67 (Semifinals)

(3) Cleveland State 57, (1) Butler 54 (Championship)

 

2010 (at Butler):

(3) Green Bay 81, (10) Youngstown State 67

(7) Detroit 62, (3) Green Bay 53

 

2011 (at Milwaukee):

(3) Cleveland State 73, (10) UIC 61

(3) Cleveland State 73, (6) Wright State 59

(2) Butler 76, (3) Cleveland State 68 (Semifinals)

 

2012 (at Valparaiso):

(3) Detroit 80, (10) Loyola 71

(3) Detroit 93, (6) Youngstown State 76

(3) Detroit 63, (2) Cleveland State 58 (Semifinals)

(3) Detroit 70, (1) Valparaiso 50 (Championship)

 

————Butler leaves conference, #3 seed receives first round bye —————-

 

2013 (at Valparaiso):

(3) Wright State 66, (6) Youngstown State 59

(3) Wright State 56, (2) Detroit 54 (Semifinals)

(1) Valparaiso 62, (3) Wright State 54 (Championship)

 

2014 (at Green Bay / second round & semifinals only, championship at Wright State):

(3) Wright State 73, (6) Oakland 57

(3) Wright State 68, (2) Cleveland State 63 (Semifinals)

(5) Milwaukee 69, (3) Wright State 63 (Championship)

 

2015 (at Valparaiso):

(6) UIC 72, (3) Oakland 69

 

————Tournament moves to neutral site location in Detroit——————

 

2016 (at Joe Louis Arena / no first round bye):

(3) Wright State 74, (10) UIC 43

(3) Wright State 82, (6) Detroit 72

(3) Wright State 59, (2) Oakland 55 (Semifinals)

(4) Green Bay 78, (3) Wright State 69 (Championship)

 

2017 (at Joe Louis Arena):

(6) UIC 79, (3) Green Bay 70

 

2018 (at Little Caesars Arena):

(6) Milwaukee 80, (3) UIC 75

 

2019 (at Little Caesars Arena):

(3) Oakland 88, (6) Youngstown State 84

(2) Northern Kentucky 64, (3) Oakland 63 (Semifinals)

 

 

3 seed by the numbers Since Green Bay joined in 1995:

  • 40-20 (.667)
  • 5 titles
  • 6 runner ups
  • 7 semifinal losses
  • 5 one-and-dones

 

 

 

 

 

 

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