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Horizon League Notebook

March 4, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Horizon League Notebook

by Nick Dettmann

March Madness has arrived and that means that the regular season has concluded. The games really count now.

The 2003-’04 season in the Horizon League had a few teams met expectations, some that did not and others that exceeded expectations.

Among those that met expectations was Illinois-Chicago (22-7 overall, 12-4 Horizon League) and UW-Milwaukee (18-9, 13-3). Picked first and third respectively in the preseason poll, those two squads finished in the top two spots.

UWM won their first regular season championship since 1941 after defeating Cleveland State 88-63 on Saturday night. The Panthers solidified themselves for the second straight season to get a bye all the way into the semifinals. Led by Dylan Page, the Panthers breezed through the first 60 percent of the league season by going 10-0. But on Feb. 5 in Chicago, the Flames gave the Panthers their first league setback and have not been the same team since.

UIC started the year off strong by going 9-2, including winning two of three games at the BCA Invitational in Cincinnati to start the year. Then, a loss to UWM in Milwaukee and to Illinois at the United Center, the Flames struggled to find their scoring touch. But once the calendar flipped to 2004, UIC got back into their groove, including getting revenge on the Panthers on Feb. 5 to win their fourth game overall and would finish the year with nine straight wins.

One of the teams that exceeded expectations was UW-Green Bay (17-10, 11-5). The Phoenix started the season with a 2-4 record, including losses at Iowa and at Wisconsin. But after their setback to the Badgers, UWGB reeled off nine straight wins, including snapping Butler’s 22-game home win streak on Dec. 22. The streak would be snapped by UWM on Jan. 17 at the Resch Center in front of 7,000-plus fans. The Phoenix would finish the season by going 6-5 and finish with a very impressive 11-3 mark on their home floor. Their winning record was their first in nearly five seasons in Titletown.

Detroit (17-10, 10-6) met expectations this season. They were predicted to finish fourth and that is where they finished. Though midway through the season that did not look like that was going to happen. But the Titans finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the league by winning all eight games in February for an eight-game overall win streak. Detroit had one of the toughest non-league schedules in the league. They started the year off at Duke, then hosted Western Michigan and Mid-Continent Conference favorite Oakland. Then, they played at Wisconsin, home against Toledo, at Bowling Green and home against Kent State.

Wright State (14-13, 10-6) was one of those teams that accomplished all three levels of expectations. They started the year the way many thought they were going to. With three true freshmen in the starting line-up, they began the Paul Biancardi era by going 3-6. Then, they exceeded expectations once January came around by winning nine out of 11 games in January and into February. Once February hit, they disappointed down the stretch by losing four out of their last six games, knocking them out of a chance to get a bye in the league tournament.

Butler (14-13, 8-8) was one team that completely fell short of expectations, especially given the fact that they had every opportunity to host the league tournament without any situational difficulties. Picked to finish second during the preseason, they started off just fine by winning their first two games and losing to Michigan in the third game of the season by one point in overtime. From there, it was all down hill. After defeating Northern Iowa on Nov. 25, the Bulldogs only won two of their the next 11 games, including an uncharacteristic five in a row. The Bulldogs snapped that streak on Jan. 15 with a 72-54 win against Loyola. From there they returned to the Butler of old by winning nine of their last 13 games, including four of them in overtime. Two of those losses came at the helm of UIC, who Butler had previously beaten 10 straight times.

Youngstown State (8-19, 4-12) became one of those teams down the stretch that nobody wanted to play. Close non-league losses at Toledo (78-74) and Pittsburgh (57-42), the Penguins evened donned a three-game win streak at the end of January. Their biggest win came on Feb. 14 when they upset league-leading and championship-seeking UWM 85-84 at the Beeghly Center. It would be their only win in the month of February. Despite losing those games, the Penguins played very hard-nosed, nitty-gritty basketball against the top teams in the league like UWGB, UIC, UWM, Wright State and Detroit. Making it difficult on them.

Loyola-Chicago (8-19, 4-12) was another team that failed to meet expectations. They were picked fifth in the preseason and the season started off hot. After losing big at DePaul, the Ramblers picked up non-league wins over UMKC and Valparaiso. However, these three games were played in a span of 22 days. Going into mid-December, everyone else in the league had already played at least two more games than Larry Farmer’s group. After a 90-83 win at Cleveland State on Jan. 5, the Ramblers had a respectable 6-5 record. But four straight games against the league’s toughest teams, UIC, UWM, Butler and Wright State, kicked off a downward spiral. The Ramblers would lose 14 of their last 16 games.

Cleveland State (4-24, 0-16) is a team that did met expectations, but at the same time, were a real disappointment. The Vikings were 4-2 to start off with those losses coming at home to North Carolina and at Penn State. But from there, the Vikings sank quicker than the Titantic by losing a league-record 22 straight games. For first-year head coach Mike Garland, everything that could gone wrong did for him. His top player was dismissed from the team, then reinstated, before the season ever started. Then, he loses his starting center, Pape Badiane, to a broken hand. Then, three players are declared academically ineligible. For most of the season, the Vikings could only dress seven players and some of those seven weren’t even 100% due to injuries.

End of the season honors

Player of the Year: Dylan Page, UW-Milwaukee

Newcomer of the Year: Ed McCants, UW-Milwaukee

Coach of the Year: Tod Kowalczyk, UW-Green Bay

First Team All-League
Dylan Page, UW-Milwaukee
Ed McCants, UW-Milwaukee
Jermaine Robinson, Cleveland State
Cedrick Banks, Illinois-Chicago
Seth Doliboa, Wright State

Second Team All-League
Vernard Hollins, Wright State
Martell Bailey, Illinois-Chicago
Paul McMillan, Loyola-Chicago
Joah Tucker, UW-Milwaukee
Elijah Warren, Detroit

All-Newcomer Team
Ed McCants, UW-Milwaukee
Joah Tucker, UW-Milwaukee
DaShaun Wood, Wright State
Alex Kock, Wright State
Brandon Morris, UW-Green Bay

All-Defensive Team
Martell Bailey, Illinois-Chicago
Armond Williams, Illinois-Chicago
James Thues, Detroit
DaShaun Wood, Wright State
Demetrius Williams, Loyola-Chicago


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