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Bracket Buster Preview

February 21, 2004 Columns No Comments

Previewing the Horizon Bracket Buster Games

by Nick Dettmann

With two weeks to go in the season, it is now time where teams really begin to look at building up their NCAA tournament resumes.

Eight Horizon League teams will take part in the ESPN Bracket Buster Saturday event, giving the mid-majors national exposure before the Big Dance. It also gives those teams a chance to spice up their portfolios.

Five league teams will play the home game and three others will hit the road. Overall, 46 teams from 11 different conference will take part in the second rendition of this event. 10 of the games will be featured on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Plus or ESPN Full Court.

The 10 televised games are (all times are Eastern):

College of Charleston at Western Michigan, noon, ESPN2
Louisiana-Lafayette at Rice, 1 p.m.
Manhattan at UW-Milwaukee, 2 p.m., ESPN2
East Tennessee State at Fresno State, 3 p.m.
Creighton at Kent State, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Southwest Missouri State at Miami (Ohio), 5 p.m.
Gonzaga at Tulsa, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Austin Peay at Wichita State, 7 p.m.
Toledo at Nevada, 9 p.m.
Hawaii at Southern Illinois, 11:59 p.m. (EDT), ESPN

Here is a game-by-game look at each contest featuring all the Horizon League teams:

Manhattan Jaspers (19-4, 14-1 Metro Atlantic) at
UW-Milwaukee Panthers (17-7 overall, 12-2 Horizon)
2 p.m. (EDT), ESPN2

The Jaspers come into Milwaukee for the first time since the 1970’s. They also come to Milwaukee having won 14 of their last 15 games. The only loss came at Iona on Jan. 25. In command is Bobby Gonzalez, who is in his fifth season as the head coach. He has led Manhattan to two straight post-season appearances. In 2001-’02, he led his squad to an appearance in the NIT and last season, he took his team to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. They would lose to eventual national champion Syracuse in the first round. Gonzalez is 88-50 in his five-plus years at Manhattan. Leading scorer is 6-foot-2 senior guard Luis Flores. He is the fifth leading scorer in the country at 23.6 points per game clip.

The Panthers have struggled against teams that are NCAA Tournament bound. They have lost to Southern Illinois, Wisconsin and North Carolina State. Their only NCAA tournament bound team win was at Valparaiso. UWM NEEDS this game to stay in the hunt for an at-large berth. Their loss at Youngstown State was very big. A win over Manhattan would definitely increase possibility of getting an at-large if they cannot win the league tournament. Having the game at home, where they have lost only once, Southern Illinois on Nov. 29.

Northern Iowa Panthers (13-9 overall, 8-6 Missouri Valley) at UW-Green Bay Phoenix (16-7 overall, 10-3 Horizon)
2:05 p.m. (EDT)

The Panthers are led by head coach Greg McDermott and play in the very tough Missouri Valley Conference, which features nationally ranked Southern Illinois. The conference also features, once ranked Creighton. The Panthers beat Creighton on Jan. 14, when they were undefeated and ranked 20th at that time. NIU has also defeated Big Ten foe Iowa this season. The Panthers have three players averaging 10 points per night, led by Ben Jacobson’s 13.3 points per game, ninth best in the conference. He is also the leading three-point shooter on the team. David Gruber averages 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds a game and Matt Schneiderman averages 10.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game to help round out a balanced attack.

The Phoenix are right in the middle of a heated race that could get them a bye all the way into the semifinals of the league tournament. The Phoenix recently assured themselves their first winning season in five years. Green Bay is led by the top sixth man in the league, Mike King. King is averaging a team leading 11 points per game off of the bench. Brandon Morris averages 10.7 points a night and guard Matt Rohde scores a 10.3 per night clip. Green Bay at the very least is a good contender to compete in the NIT if they win this game.

Detroit Titans (13-10 overall, 7-6 Horizon) at
Ball State Cardinals (10-12 overall, 7-7 Mid-American)
1 p.m. (EDT)

The Titans was one of three teams in last year’s ESPN Bracket Buster Saturday. They defeated UC-Santa Barbara in California. Detroit comes in on a hot streak and look to keep hold of a first round home game in the league tournament. They picked up a big non-league win over Western Michigan, who is now receiving votes in top 25 polls across the country. They also led Duke at halftime at Duke, before falling 67-56 in the season opener. The Titans are led by Jimmy Twyman as he is averaging 18 points a game in his last three outings.

As for the Cardinals, they have picked up non-conference wins against Xavier and Butler this season. They are led by head coach Tim Buckley and junior guard Dennis Trammell as he averages nearly 14 points a game. Newcomer of the Year candidate in the MAC is Peyton Stovall. He leads the team in assists and steals.

Ohio Bobcats (9-14, 6-7 Mid-American) at
Butler Bulldogs (11-12 overall, 6-7 Horizon)
2 p.m. (EDT)

The Bobcats, under the direction of Tim O’Shea, has won four of their last five games, all of them in conference play. They have had one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the conference, including a 63-60 setback against DePaul earlier this year. Leading scorer is Jaivon Harris as he is contributing at 15 points a game clip, eighth best in the conference. Harris is fourth in the contest at the free throw line at 78 percent and in three-point shooting at 42 percent. The big thorn for the Bobcats is that they are allowing more than 70 points a game.

For Butler, they need this one to build up confidence going into the league tournament in two weeks. Last year’s Sweet 16 team has struggled all season, but recently has picked up the pace. They have won seven of their last 10 games, including four of five at home. Duane Lightfoot is the leading scorer at 12.2 points per game to go along with 5.4 rebounds per game. Mike Monserez averages 11.3 points per game and Bruce Horan is one of the top three-point shooters in the Horizon League.

Eastern Michigan Eagles (10-11 overall, 5-8 Mid-American) at Cleveland State Vikings (4-21 overall, 0-14 Horizon)
5:30 p.m. (EDT)

The Eagles come to Rock-and-Roll City having won four of their last six outings. The starting trio of James “Boo” Jackson, Markus Austin and John Bowler is the toughest front court in the entire MAC. Jackson averages 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. Austin averages 12.8 points per game and Bowler averages a team-high 13.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. JaQuan Hart is one of the top sixth man players in the conference as he averages 10.4 points per game. The Eagles are the top-shooting team in the MAC, but they are also one of the worst defensive units allowing their opponents to shoot 46 percent per game.

The Vikings are having one of the worst seasons in school history and close to being the worst in league history. It will be Fan Appreciation Night, Senior Night and will couple with a double-header with the Vikings women’s team, who are in third place in the Horizon League. Former Michigan State assistant, Mike Garland, leads the Vikings on the bench. CSU has fought injuries and academic troubles all season, leaving them down to seven players at one point.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (7-17 overall, 3-11 Horizon) at
Illinois State Redbirds (7-15 overall, 3-11 Missouri Valley)
5 p.m. (EDT)

The Ramblers go into Bloomington having won only one game since Jan. 5. After losing to Green Bay in overtime on Saturday, the Ramblers assured themselves a road game for the first round of the league tournament. Paul McMillan is the team leader as he has registered seven double-doubles this season. Loyola would love to use this game as a momentum builder. Two years ago, they got all the way to the league championship game as a seven seed.

As for Illinois State, they’ve had an up-and-down season, but have struggled of late. They have dropped three of their last four games. The Redbirds have had a very difficult non-conference schedule. Led by first-year head coach Porter Moser, the Redbirds scored big conference wins over Northern Iowa and Southwest Missouri State so far this season. In non-conference play, the beat Western Kentucky in overtime, nearly upset Illinois in overtime fashion and lost 89-84 to recently nationally ranked Utah State. Trey Guidry, a transfer from N.C. State, leads the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game. He is also near the top the MVC in three-point shooting at 48 percent and is a 49-of-58 (84.5 percent) from the free throw line.

UNC-Wilmington Seahawks (12-12 overall, 8-8 Colonial) at Illinois-Chicago Flames (18-7 overall, 9-4 Horizon)
4 p.m. (EDT)

The Seahawks under the direction of reigning conference coach of the year Brad Brownell. They are 8-8 since the start of 2004. Outside of a 68-50 loss at North Carolina State, the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than 10 points and have won two of their last three games. Most recently, they lost 62-61 to Delaware. Not one player on the team averages more than 10 points. They are the only team in this event that has that significance. The leading scorer is Ed Spencer at 9.5 points per game. The Seahawks are 4-8 on the road this season.

The Flames roll into Bracket Buster Saturday as the hottest team. They have won nine of their last 12 games, including knocking off first-place UW-Milwaukee on Feb. 5. They are led by five seniors, most notably Cedrick Banks and Martell Bailey. Banks was the pre-season player of the year and Bailey leads the country in total assists and is second in assists per game (8.4). Only Greg Davis of Troy State is better at 8.9 per game. This game kicks off a crucial three-game home stand for UIC. After Saturday, they will host Wright State who they are battling for the bye in the league tournament and Butler to finish the season.

Youngstown State Penguins (8-15 overall, 4-9 Horizon) at
Bowling Green State Falcons (10-13 overall, 6-7 Mid-American)3:30 p.m. (EDT)

The Penguins are still in high spirits after their upset win over UW-Milwaukee last Saturday. Doug Underwood is as hot as ever as he scored 26 points against UWM. The Penguins want to gain some momentum as they barely cling onto the hopes of getting a home game for the first round of the league tournament. Unfortunately, their road record has not been very forgiving as they are 1-10 on the road this season. Their only win away from the Beeghly Center came at Cleveland State who cannot beat anyone right now.

The Falcons have been a streaky team all season. They started off at 2-0, then dropped five in a row, then won six of eight and recently have lost five of their last seven. Among the non-conference wins was against Detroit. They have lost to Michigan and Northwestern thus far this season. Ron Lewis is the team’s leading scorer at 18.2 points per game. John Reimold (14.9) and Kevin Netter (13.0) are the other double-figure scorers for BGSU. The Falcons are nearly unbeatable at home this season. They are 8-2 with their only losses coming against Kent State and Northwestern.


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