Friday, March 4, 2016

Horizon League conference tournament preview

This is part 13 of a 32-part series that will take a look at every conference and conference tournament in the country.  We'll recap who's playing and what the stakes are for each team in the conference.

The standings:
Valparaiso 16-2 (26-5)
Oakland 13-5 (21-10)
Wright St 13-5 (19-12)
Green Bay 11-7 (19-12)
Milwaukee 10-8 (19-12)
Detroit 9-9 (15-14)
Youngstown St 6-12 (11-20)
Northern Kentucky 5-13 (9-20)
Cleveland St 4-14 (9-22)
Illinois-Chicago 3-15 (5-24)

Tournament format:
Ok, here's a cute one:  there are only two first round byes.  The 3-10 seeds have to play the first round.  And the second round.  That's right, two full rounds to pare down the 3-10 seeds.  Then, in the semis, the top 2 seeds come in against the remaining 2 teams.  Holy inequity batman.

Detroit is the neutral site.

The matchups:
3) Wright St vs. 10) Illinois-Chicago
6) Detroit vs. 7) Youngstown St
2) Oakland vs. 3/6/7/10
4) Green Bay vs. 9) Cleveland St
5) Milwaukee vs. 8) Northern Kentucky
1) Valparaiso vs. 4/5/8/9

The stakes:
Valpo.  Non-con SoS inside the top 50, win at Oregon St, plus IPFW, Iona, @URI, Belmont as supplements.  Swept by Wright St, lost at Ball St.  12-4 pure road record.  Which of these matter the most?

Forced to choose, the three "bad" losses, although they were at least to overall winning teams.  Scheduled up but there's a bit of fool's gold, with teams who ran up good records in lesser conferences (see:  Belmont, IPFW, Iona).  Of course, that argument works the other way, since you can call them quality wins.  And this team did split the Oregon road trip.  Right now, it might be too close to call, or at least too close to say they're definitely out.  But I think they absorbed one too many body blows.

The problem is the Horizon plummeted to 20th in the CRPI, burying Valpo's resume just by association.  A stronger Horizon would give them a chance.  Instead, what we have are several other teams above .500 but with marginal RPIs, which tells you everything about the various SoSs these teams have.  No one's within NIT at-large range.  The only consolation is Oakland, Wright St, Green Bay, and Milwaukee all seem to be postseason shoo-ins (Detroit has a dicier resume and is probably a bubble-out team just based on the number of Horizon teams ahead of them), but that's not good enough to help Valpo's cause.

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