Well, so much for the so-called “experts”.
The first Horizon League contests created a lot of question marks for so early in the season. Not only did 19th-ranked (though not for long) Butler get upended – at home, no less – by Wright State, but Detroit Mercy lost its first two games to Illinois Chicago and Loyola Chicago. Wright State then promptly went and lost its next game to conference newcomer Youngstown State.
Meanwhile Loyola leads the league with a 2-0 mark. Apparently, it’s time to forget everything you thought you knew about this conference.
Now, an already huge game between Butler and Detroit on January 10th is even bigger, since two or three league losses this early in the season may be too many.
Of course, no one expected Butler to go undefeated, but their 90-87 double-overtime loss to Wright State is particularly vexing since the Bulldogs had proved themselves worthy of their national ranking time and time again.
The most recent triumph was the championship of the Hoosier Classic on December 29th, where Butler handed host Indiana its first-ever defeat and broke a 39-game tournament winning streak for the Hoosiers.
Typically, the Raiders weren’t impressed or intimidated. Wright State raced to a 36-27 halftime lead and withstood several Butler challenges throughout a back-and-forth second half and two overtimes that saw several lead changes.
As big a win as it was for Wright State, it hasn’t been that long since the Raiders knocked off a Top 20 team. You might remember in 1999, a win over eventual national champion Michigan State.
Butler will look to bounce back on January 7th in what should be another tough game on the road against Cleveland State before the battle against Detroit.
Speaking of the Titans
The injury bug hit Detroit hard in its conference opening 62-61 loss to Illinois Chicago.
Willie Green, a leading scorer for the Titans, left the game with 12 minutes left after suffering a hip pointer. Darius Belin played only 25 minutes and is suffering with an ankle injury and may miss some time in the games ahead.
The extent of Green’s injury is not yet known, but he would have to be considered doubtful for the January 10th game against Butler, during which Detroit’s 35-game home winning streak will be in danger.
The loss to Loyola gave the slumping Titans five straight losses, including RPI damaging losses to Maryland-Baltimore County and Santa Barbara.
Meanwhile, the Flames have earned their stripes as a legitimate contender for the league crown. They’ve been impressive in some big wins, but the schedule isn’t breaking in their favor, as they hit the road for four straight contests before returning home on Jan. 21 against Cleveland State.
Indiana head coach Mike Davis was fined $10,000 for remarking about the officiating in the Hoosier Classic Championship against Butler.
I honestly didn’t see the game, but given past experience with mid-major teams playing on major schools’ home floors, if the Bulldogs did have a few calls go their way, just call it karmic justice.
For the record, Davis said, “The bottom line is this – If you can watch every one of my games and you watch how we get hosed down everywhere we go in clutch situations, you’ll see. Coaches stay up watching film every single night, and then you’ve got guys working games who never watch films and are never held accountable for their mistakes. If I say something about it, I get fined.”
Sounds like someone is having trouble with the heat in the kitchen that is post-Bobby Knight Indiana basketball.
Long Time Coming
Butler’s appearance in the Top 25 poll two weeks ago marked the Bulldogs’ first appearance in a major national poll since the January 20th, 1949 poll, the first time the Associated Press had a poll. Look for them to fall out of the rankings after the loss to Wright State.
Give Wisconsin-Milwaukee (7-7 overall, 2-0 Horizon) credit for playing a pretty tough non-conference schedule, which should help the Panthers in league play.
The Panthers lost games against Wisconsin, Iowa State, Louisville and Colorado, but did beat Virginia Tech of the Big East.
UWM opened the league schedule with an easy wins over newcomer Youngstown State and rival Wisconsin-Green Bay.