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Horizon Notebook

March 3, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Horizon League Notebook

by Brian Seymour

What’s the difference between Butler and Wisconsin-Milwaukee?

Apparently about zero seconds and a 3-pointer.

Butler won its third regular-season league title in four years and delighted a sellout home crowd of more than 11,000 with an Avery Sheets 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Bulldogs a 76-74 win over UWM on Saturday and likely clinching a bid into the NCAA tournament regardless of their performance in this week’s postseason tournament. But more on that later.

For now, the Bulldogs (24-4, 14-2) will celebrate their regular season title and anticipate another meeting with the Panthers (22-7, 13-3) in the Horizon tournament championship game, which would be on UWM’s home floor. With the two teams splitting their regular-season contests and an NCAA tournament bid on the line before a national television audience, that contest would be Must See TV, all apologies to NBC.

The frantic final seconds of Saturday’s game saw UWM take a 74-73 lead with 4.2 seconds remaining after two free throws by Justin Lettenberger. After a UWM timeout, Butler quickly pushed the ball up the floor and found Sheets just left of the top of key.

The rest was history, as years from now tens of thousands of Butler alums will all claim to be at one of the more exciting games ever hosted by venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse. Hinkle also hosted perhaps the most well-known high school basketball game of all-time, Milan High’s 1954 upset of Muncie Central in the Indiana state championship, the inspiration for the movie “Hoosiers”.

The exciting finale overshadowed a gutsy performance by UWM, which found the Panthers rally from a 15-point deficit in the first half and a 16-point deficit in the second half. Ronnie Jones scored 19 points for UWM and Clay Tucker added 18 points.

Darnell Archey’s 15 points led Butler, which had five players in double figures.

UWM gets two on Horizon first team

It will be scant consolation for UWM fans and players, but the Panthers received two spots on the Horizon first team all-league list, while Butler was shut out for selections.

Senior forward Clay Tucker and junior forward Dylan Page were the UWM selectees, the second straight year on the first team for Tucker.

Winning player of the year honors was Detroit senior guard Willie Green, whose last season scoring streak certainly must have impressed voters. Green ended up winning the league scoring title with 22.3 points per game ended the season with the two highest scoring games in the league.

Rounding out the first team was Wright State’s junior forward Seth Doliboa and UIC junior guard Cedrick Banks, both of whom were on the second team last season. Both were amongst the league’s highest scorers — Doliboa was second (22.2) and Banks fourth (19.7).

Butler was well represented on the second team with senior guard Brandon Miller and senior forward Joel Cornette. Also on the team were brothers David Bailey of Loyola and Martell Bailey of UIC. Junior forward Armond Williams of UIC completed the second team.

Other major awards were won by UWM’s Bruce Pearl, named Coach of the Year for the second straight season and Loyola’s Paul McMillan, who won Newcomer of the Year after scoring 14.5 points per game.

Horizon Tournament Preview

Note: First round games are played at campus sites; quarterfinal and semifinal round games will be played at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. Butler and Wisconsin-Milwaukee receive byes into the semifinal round. Illinois-Chicago receives a bye into the quarterfinal round. If Wisconsin-Milwaukee makes the final, the championship game will also be at UWM. If not, the championship will be played on the home court of the highest remaining seed. The championship game will be 7 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, March 11 on ESPN.

No. 1 seed — Butler (24-4, 14-2)
First game: Saturday vs. Loyola, Detroit, Wright State or Cleveland State, 6 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 2-1
Outlook: As it has all season, this year’s campaign for the Bulldogs so closely resembles last year’s campaign that it’s almost eerie. Having said that, Butler must be hopeful this year’s season doesn’t end as last year’s did — with a stumble in their first game of the postseason tournament. That loss last year kept Butler out of the NCAA Tournament and despite the outcry over their exclusion last year, it must loom large in the minds of the Bulldogs and their fans. A win in the semifinal should clinch their ticket into the Big Dance despite the result of the final.

Butler’s strength lies in its overall consistency and team defense. Any one of the starters can go for 20 points on a given night and all will play tough defense. As such, the Bulldogs are a tough team to defend against. Senior guard Darnell Archey made headlines earlier in the season after breaking the Division I record for most consecutive free throws made.

No. 2 seed — Wisconsin-Milwaukee (22-7, 13-3)
First game: Saturday vs. UIC, UWGB or Youngstown State, 8:30 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 2-1
Outlook: UWM has some distinct advantages over Butler heading into the tournament despite its last-second loss on Saturday to the Bulldogs. Most important is the home-court advantage the Panthers will have should they win their semifinal contest. Having to win the conference tournament to make the NCAA Tournament, as opposed to Butler’s likely at-large bid, will also add fuel to the fire. Finally, losing that final game the way they did after appearing to having it in hand, will provide even more motivation should the two teams meet up again for a rubber match in the championship game.

The Panthers are led by the all-conference combination of Dylan Page and Clay Tucker, both of whom average 18 points a game.

No. 3 seed — Illinois-Chicago (20-7, 12-4)
First game: Friday vs. Wisconsin-Green Bay-Youngstown State winner, 6 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 10-1
Outlook: Don’t underestimate the advantage of getting a bye into the quarterfinals. UIC will also have the easiest quarterfinal matchup, as neither Youngstown State or Wisconsin-Green Bay is likely to pose much of a threat to the Flames. Another intangible advantage is going into the tournament as the defending champion. All of the attention this season has been focused on UWM and Butler and the Flames will likely be heading into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder. UIC is also the hottest team in the conference right now and getting an extra game under its belt before taking on UWM could be a plus.

No. 4 seed — Loyola Chicago (16-11, 9-7)
First game: Tuesday vs. Cleveland State, 8 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 30-1
Outlook: Making the tournament final as a No. 6 seed last year surprised a lot of people (myself included). If the Ramblers were to repeat that feat this year, it would be much less of a shock. Loyola had a five-game winning streak at one point earlier in the season and is capable of beating any team in the league on any given night, but the challenge of winning four games in seven nights to win the tournament will probably be too much. Loyola’s unquestioned floor leader is senior guard Martell Bailey (whose brother David is a standout for UIC), the nation’s leader in assists with 8.4 per game.

No. 5 seed — Detroit (14-15, 9-7)
First game: Tuesday vs. Wright State, 7:05 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 50-1
Outlook: The one big advantage Detroit has is the Willie Green factor. The Horizon’s newly minted Player of the Year is more capable than any other player in the conference of taking his team on his back — a pair of 40-plus point performances this season is proof of that. The history of postseason conference tournaments are filled with examples of one outstanding player willing his team to a championship despite all odds to the contrary and that could motivation Perry Watson uses on his Titans. Another advantage is Watson himself, a master motivator and experienced in one-and-done tournaments.

No. 6 seed — Wisconsin-Green Bay (10-17, 4-12)
First game: Tuesday vs. Youngstown State, 8 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 200-1
Outlook: The Phoenix provided the shock of the tournament last year, knocking out Butler in the first round and likely scuttling their NCAA Tournament hopes. This year’s UWGB squad made some good strides in the rebuilding process under a first-year coach, but making the semifinals again this year will probably be too much to ask for. Winning its first-round game (which will be in Green Bay) isn’t though.

No. 7 seed — Youngstown State (10-19, 4-12)
First game: Tuesday at Wisconsin-Green Bay, 8 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 250-1
Outlook: The Penguins are another team which made strides, despite their poor conference record. Defeating UWGB and making it to the quarterfinals in Milwaukee would be a big step in the development of this young team. Sophomore sensation Doug Underwood will be a candidate for the preseason all-conference teams next season after leading the Penguins in scoring with 14.4 points per game.

No. 8 seed — Wright State (8-19, 4-12)
First game: Tuesday at Detroit, 7:05 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 175-1
Outlook: The Raiders are a bit of enigma and more talented than their record would suggest. They have one of the most talented players in the league in Seth Doliboa, a first team all-league selection with 22.2 points per game. Doliboa hasn’t been able to do it by himself this season though. The Raiders are more than capable of hanging with anyone in the conference, but haven’t been able to put it together yet this season.

No. 9 seed — Cleveland State (8-21, 3-13)
First game: Tuesday at Loyola, 8 p.m. (EST)
Odds of winning tournament: 200-1
Outlook: It’s looking like the highlight of the Vikings’ season might be taking conference champ Butler into double overtime a couple of weeks ago before losing. Winning that game could have made a tough season a bit more palatable. As it is, it’ll probably take more than even a first-round win to salvage CSU’s season.


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