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November 7, 2008 Conference Notes No Comments

Horizon League 2008-09 Preview

by Nick Dettmann

Two Horizon League teams solidified their respective coaching situations this offseason.

The first came in April when the Detroit Titans hired Ray McCallum to take over the program.

McCallum replaces Perry Watson, who retired from the post in March, but took a leave of absence in January and didn’t coach the team for the rest of the season.

During the 15 seasons which Watson led the way, Detroit was 261-198 with 10 winning seasons and a regular season league championship in 1994 and 1999, reaching the NCAA tournament in 1998 and 1999. The Titans also reached the NIT semifinals in 2001.

McCallum comes to Detroit after three seasons at Indiana, and three seasons at Oklahoma prior to his stint with the Hoosiers.

McCallum brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to Detroit, including 11 as a head coach. His head coaching stints include Ball State and Houston.

McCallum led the Cardinals to a 126-76 record during his seven seasons (1994-2000) in Muncie, Ind. He was the first coach in school history to have seven consecutive winning seasons, and led the team to the NCAA tournament in 1995 and 2000, and the NIT in 1998. While at BSU, McCallum recruited Bonzi Wells, who became the 11th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, and currently plays for the Houston Rockets. During his coaching career, McCallum has coached eight NBA players.

His .624 winning percentage was fourth-best in MAC history when he left in 2000.

At Houston, the Cougars were 44-73 in his four seasons, giving him a 170-149 career coaching record. His best season was the 2001-02 campaign where he led the Cougars to an 18-15 record, reaching the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament. He never reached the NCAAs or NIT while at Houston.

“This is a tremendous day,” McCallum said at his introductory news conference. “UDM has a great basketball tradition and I’m glad to be a part of the next chapter.”

The other coaching move made this offseason was at Wright State. In July, the Raiders gave coach Brad Brownell an extension through the 2013-14 season.

Brownell has averaged 21 victories a season in his six seasons as a Division I coach. He is 44-20 in two seasons thus far at Wright State, including 21-10 a season ago. In 2007, he led the Raiders to a 23-10 record and the school’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament after upsetting Butler in the league tournament championship game. Brownell has beaten nationally-ranked Butler three times.

In his six seasons in Division I, Brownell is 127-60.

“Brad has done an outstanding job in a short period of time,” WSU Athletic Director Bob Grant said in July. “His leadership and commitment to Wright State and our student-athletes have led to unparalleled prosperity on the court as well as in the classroom and in the community.

“His record of success ranks among the top coaches in the nation and I am certainly pleased to have him leading our program and I know our fans feel the same.”

BracketBusters galore
All 10 teams of the Horizon League will compete in this year’s ESPN BracketBuster festivities Feb. 21-22, 2009.

This year, 102 will mid-major teams will be featured with a chance to boost their NCAA tournament resumes. Of the 102 teams, 26 will be nationally televised on the ESPN networks. The matchups will be unveiled Feb. 2.

Loyola, Valparaiso, Wright State, Youngstown State, UW-Milwaukee and Illinois-Chicago will play home games, while Butler, Cleveland State, Detroit and UW-Green Bay will play on the road.

As part of the agreement, teams will play in a home-and-home series with the host team playing at the visiting team in the 2009-10 season.

This year’s field includes last year’s Elite Eight qualifier Davidson, and features 77 appearances in the NCAA tournament, including George Mason (Final Four in 2006) and six Sweet 16 teams (Butler in 2007, Southern Illinois in 2007, Bradley in 2006, Wichita State in 2006, UW-Milwaukee in 2005 and Nevada in 2004).

The Mid-American Conference and Colonial Athletic Association will be represented with 12 teams, while the Horizon League, the Ohio Valley, the Missouri Valley and the Metro Atlantic Athletic will have 10 teams.

Other conferences featured will be the America East, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Summit, West Coast and Western Athletic.

Former Penguins coach dies
Dom Rosseelli, who accumulated more than 1,000 career victories in basketball and baseball at Youngstown State, died Oct. 7. He was 93.

He is by far the school’s winningest coach with 589 career victories on the hardwood (1940-1982). The next closest is Dan Peters (1993-99) with 78. His best season on the court was in 1963-64 when the Penguins won a school-record 24 games – a record which still stands today.

In addition to basketball, he coached baseball, and was an assistant for the football team for 21 seasons.

He began the baseball program at YSU in 1948, accumulating 489 career victories.

Horizon League, Detroit will be showcased in April
The 2009 Final Four will be held in Detroit’s Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, this spring. The Horizon League is no stranger to hosting the Final Four as it hosts the prestigious event on a regular basis in Indianapolis and the RCA Dome.

League, ESPN announce Game-of-the-Week schedule
Seven Horizon League matchups featuring all 10 men’s teams and two women’s will be shown on Fridays in January and February on ESPNU as part of 17 games involving league teams to be shown on ESPN networks this season.

“We are excited to expand our ESPN partnership with our first national basketball game-of-the-week,” said Jon LeCrone, Horizon League commissioner, in a statement. “More fans will now be able to follow our teams on a regular basis during the regular season.

“This is another important step in the growth of the League.”

The first game to be televised as part of the Friday Night Game-of-the-Week will Jan. 9 when UW-Milwaukee hosts intrastate rival UW-Green Bay.

The women’s matchup will be when Wright State plays at Butler on Feb. 6.

ESPN2 will also carry two other matchups – Butler at Illinois Chicago on Jan. 17, and a wild-card game which will be announced in early February.

Detroit will play at Purdue on Nov. 14, and it will be shown on ESPN360.com. And like in previous seasons, ESPNU will carry the Horizon League tournament semifinals and ESPN will carry the tournament championship game.

The ESPN Schedule (all times Eastern):
Friday, Nov. 14 Detroit at Purdue (9 p.m., ESPN360.com)
Thursday, Dec. 4 Butler at Cleveland State (8 p.m., ESPNU)
Saturday, Dec. 20 Valparaiso vs. North Carolina (2 p.m., ESPNU)
Tuesday, Dec. 23 Butler at Xavier (7 p.m., ESPNU)
Friday, Jan. 9 UW-Green Bay at UW-Milwaukee (9 p.m., ESPNU)
Friday, Jan. 16 Wright State at Detroit (9 p.m., ESPNU)
Saturday, Jan. 17 Butler at UIC (2 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN360.com)
Friday, Jan. 23 Cleveland State at Youngstown State (9 p.m., ESPNU)
Friday, Jan. 30 Valparaiso at Butler (7 p.m., ESPNU)
Friday, Feb. 6 Wright State at Butler (women’s) (7 p.m., ESPNU)
Friday, Feb. 13 UIC at Butler (7 p.m., ESPNU)
Friday, Feb. 27 UIC at Loyola (9 p.m., ESPNU)
Saturday, Feb. 28 Wild-card game TBD (Noon, ESPN2/ESPN360.com)
Saturday, March 7 Men’s semifinal (7 and 9 p.m., ESPNU)
Tuesday, March 10 Men’s championship (9 p.m., ESPN/ESPN360.com)
Sunday, March 15 Women’s championship (1 p.m., ESPNU)

Preseason All-League Team
Josh Mayo, Illinois-Chicago
Newcomer of the Year: Jason Bennett, Detroit

First Team
Josh Mayo, Illinois-Chicago
J’Nathan Bullock, Cleveland State
Cedric Jackson, Cleveland State
Vaughn Duggins, Wright State
Matt Howard, Butler

Honorable Mention
Mike Schachtner, UW-Green Bay
J.R. Blout, Loyola
Urule Igbavboa, Valparaiso
Todd Brown, Wright State
Scott VanderMeer, Illinois-Chicago

Predicted Order of Finish

Cleveland State Vikings (21-13, 12-6, 2nd)
Coach: Gary Waters, third season (31-34)
Projected starters
J’Nathan Bullock, senior
Cedric Jackson, senior
George Tandy, senior
Chris Moore, senior
D’Aundray Brown, sophomore
Key nonconference games
Nov. 18 at Washington
Dec. 6 at West Virginia
Dec. 15 at Syracuse
Feb. 21 at BracketBuster
Key losses: Joe Davis, Breyohn Watson.
What to expect: After being a doormat team in the league for a number of seasons, the Vikings are a power in the league, and enter this season the favorite.

With good reason, too.

They return two of the league’s best – J’Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson. They also could potentially start four seniors with significant playing experience. There are 127 starts between them from last year’s 21-win club.

Bullock and Jackson return after leading the team in scoring in 2007-08 (Bullock at 14.8 points per game, Jackson at 13.9).

Watson and Davis were quality players last season, but the Vikings shouldn’t have much trouble filling in their vacancies. Sophomore guard Norris Cole played in all 34 games last season, and will likely see more minutes this season. And guard Eric Schiele, who had a record-setting high school career at Atwater High School in Ohio, will make an impact with a full season to work with.

Schiele played in only four games last year as a freshman, missing the first half of the season waiting to become eligible. He is a terrific 3-point shooter, and could play a big role as the Vikings’ first or second man of the bench, maybe even work his way into the starting lineup.

In high school, Schiele averaged 39.6 points per game in his senior year, shooting 40 percent from the field, 34 percent from 3-point range, and 86 percent at the free-throw line. He had four 50-point games, including a career-high 69 in December 2006.

Wright State Raiders (21-10, 12-6, 2nd)
Coach: Brad Brownell, third season (44-20, 127-60 overall)
Projected starters
Vaughn Duggins, junior
Todd Brown, junior
William Graham, senior
Cooper Land, sophomore
Ronnie Thomas, junior
Key nonconference games
Dec. 14 at Wake Forest
Dec. 20-22 San Juan Shootout, Puerto Rico
Feb. 21 BracketBuster
Key losses: Jordan Pleiman, Scottie Wilson
What to expect: The Raiders are becoming one of the elite programs in the league, winning 44 games in the past two seasons. That shouldn’t change this season with starters back, including Vaughn Duggins and Todd Brown, who are both potentially league MVP candidates.

Both were the leading scorers last season with Duggins averaging 13.8 points per game, and Brown averaging 12.7 points per game.

Another area in the Raiders’ favor is their ability to beat Butler. They’ve done so three times in the past two years.

Also, the Raiders are becoming increasingly difficult to beat at home. In the 18 seasons of the Nutter Center, the Raiders are 188-82 (.696 winning percentage).

The Raiders will need to work on experience in the early stages of the season. Jordan Pleiman and Scottie Wilson started 30 and 31 games last season, respectively, with Duggins, Brown and Graham eating up the rest of the starts. The rest of the roster has just two starts between them (John David Gardner and Gavin Horne have one each).

Illinois-Chicago Flames (18-15, 9-9, 4th)
Coach: Jimmy Collins, 12th season (194-171)
Projected starters
Josh Mayo, senior
Scott Vandermeer, senior
Spencer Stuart, junior
Jeremy Buttell, junior
Robert Kreps, sophomore
Key nonconference games
Nov. 14 at Bradley
Dec. 3 at Vanderbilt
Dec. 14 at Georgia Tech
Feb. 21 BracketBuster
Key losses: Karl White Jr., Robert Bush, Jermaine Dailey
What to expect: The Flames enter the 2008-09 season with Hoopville Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year Josh Mayo.

Mayo, a product of Merrillville (Ind.) High School, averaged a team-leading 17.1 points per game last season – second-best in the league behind Detroit’s Jon Goode’s 19.3.

Also back is ferocious shot-blocker Scott Vandermeer. The 7-foot center out of Lake Central High School in Dyer, Ind., swatted 85 shots a season ago (2.6 per game). He doubled his closest competitor in that category (Cleveland State’s George Tandy, 40 blocks, or 1.2 per game). Vandermeer also led the league last year in rebounding with 7.5 per game.

Having those two back will help the Flames stay in the league title picture, despite losing quality players in White Jr., Bush and Dailey, who combined to start in 57 games last season.

Stuart, Buttell and Kreps all played significant minutes last year and should get into the starting lineup this season. But look for freshman guard Josh Anderson to make an impact off the bench.

Quality basketball players have surrounded Anderson’s life. Anderson’s father, Nick, was an Illinois Mr. Basketball in 1986, was a two-time All-American at Illinois where he played for Collins when he was an assistant at Illinois, and was a 13-year NBA veteran where he was the first player ever taken by the Orlando Magic in 1989.

Josh Anderson was also a high school teammate of Derrick Rose, the 2008 No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls.

As for Collins, the school’s winningest coach is six victories shy of No. 200.

UW-Green Bay (15-15, 9-9, 4th)
Coach: Tod Kowalczyk, seventh season (92-88)
Projected starters
Mike Schachtner, senior
Ryan Tillema, senior
Rahmon Fletcher, sophomore
Randy Berry, junior
Terry Evans, senior
Key nonconference games
Nov. 18 at Utah
Nov. 21-23 at Glenn Wilkes Classic, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Nov. 29 UMass
Dec. 13 at Wisconsin
Feb. 21 at BracketBuster
Key losses: None
What to expect: The Phoenix could easily win 20 games this season with five players back, who made 132 starts between them last season, and three of them averaged at least 10 points per game. In addition, a fourth averaged nine points per game.

To summarize, the Phoenix have their top four scorers back this year, led by Schachtner’s 15.8 points per game, which was third-best in the league. Right behind him are Tillema (12.5), Fletcher (10.1), Evans (9.6) and Berry (7.3).

This is easily Kowalczyk’s most-loaded team during his tenure, and winning 20 games is a definite possibility with not a terribly difficult non-league schedule. But games at Utah and Wisconsin will pose challenges.

The last time the Phoenix won 20 games in a season was the 1998-99 under Mike Heideman (20), and since legendary coach Dick Bennett left following the 1994-95 season, the Phoenix have just two 20-win seasons (1995-96 and 1998-99).

During Bennett’s 10-year tenure, the Phoenix won at least 20 games five times – all in a six-year span.

Cordero Barkley and Bryquis Perine will be the Phoenix’s top two options off the bench. Barkley played in 30 games last season and has played in 92 games with UWGB. Perine played in 29 games last year.

Butler Bulldogs (30-4, 16-2, 1st)
Coach: Brad Stevens, second season (30-4)
Projected starters
Matt Howard, sophomore
Shawn Vanzant, sophomore
Zach Hahn, sophomore
Willie Veasley, junior
Avery Jukes, junior
Key nonconference games
Nov. 15 at Drake
Dec. 10 at Bradley
Dec. 13 at Ohio State
Dec. 23 at Xavier
Feb. 21 at BracketBuster
Key losses: Mike Green, A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell, Drew Streicher
What to expect: Stevens led the Bulldogs to a league-record 30 victories last season. Repeating that performance this season will be difficult.

Three of the Bulldogs’ top scorers from last year are gone (Green, Graves, Campbell). Not only that, they had experience, starting in 77 combined games last season, and comprised half of their scoring. Also gone are Julian Betko, who started in 33 of 34 games last season, and Drew Streicher, who started in all 34 games last season.

Howard is the only one back with any extensive experience, averaging 12.3 points per game last season, starting in 26 games. He will need to have a big season this year to pick up for two more sophomores potentially in the starting lineup, who played sparingly last season.

Vanzant, a sophomore, is a quality player after scoring more than 1,100 points in high school. He is the only player in Wharton High School (Tampa, Fla.) to achieve that mark. Jukes, a transfer from Alabama, will likely make a bigger impact this season after becoming eligible in the second half of the season. He’s a good swingman who can score and pull down rebounds.

The Bulldogs will have six freshmen on the roster this season, and each could see significant playing time.

UW-Milwaukee Panthers (14-16, 9-9, 4th)
Coach: Rob Jeter, third season (45-47)
Projected starters
Deonte Roberts, sophomore
Ricky Franklin, junior
Avery Smith, senior
James Eayers, junior (transfer from North Dakota State College of Science)
Burleigh Porte, junior
Key nonconference games
Nov. 14-16 at World Vision Classic, Ames, Iowa
Nov. 22 at Marquette
Nov. 25 Ball State
Nov. 29 at Wisconsin
Feb. 21 BracketBuster
Key losses: Paige Paulsen, Marcus Skinner, Allan Hanson
What to expect: It was a tumultuous season for the Panthers last season. They started the year 3-7, then won nine of their next 10 games before losing seven of its final nine games of the season.

It was a troubling season off the court as well as the Panthers lost two players during the course of the season, most notably Torre Johnson who was dismissed from the team following an arrest for suspicion of battery after allegedly hitting a woman in the mouth in December. Johnson, a transfer from Oklahoma State, was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder when he was dismissed.

This year, the Panthers will have their work cut out for them after losing Paulsen, the team’s leading scorer and a Second Team All-Horizon League selection last season. He averaged 13.3 points per game.

On a good note, the Panthers return Avery Smith to the roster after sitting all of last season because he was dismissed from the team prior to the season. Smith was reinstated this offseason.

He led the Panthers in scoring in 2006-07, averaging more than 15 points per game. He was a preseason All-Horizon League honoree before being dismissed from the team.

The Panthers also return Ricky Franklin, who started in 26 of 30 games, averaging 9.8 points per game, and Deonte Roberts, who was selected to the league’s All-Newcomer Team a year ago.

There will be growing pains this season with nine of the 18 players on the roster in their first year with the program. But Eayers could make an immediate impact. He’s 6-foot-7, and scored 1,156 points in two years at the North Dakota State College of Science. Last season, he averaged 24 points per game.

Valparaiso Crusaders (22-14, 9-9, 4th)
Coach: Homer Drew, 19th season (324-254 at Valpo, 593-376 overall)
Projected starters
Urule Igbavboa, senior
Jake Diebler, senior
Brandon McPherson, senior
Howard Little, sophomore
Michael Rogers, sophomore
Key nonconference games
Nov. 21-24 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam
Dec. 20 vs. North Carolina at United Center, Chicago
Dec. 28 at Purdue
Feb. 21 BracketBuster
Key losses: Shawn Huff, Jarryd Loyd
What to expect: Coach Homer Drew enters the season with 593 career victories. Eight other current head coaches have won at least 600 games. Hoping to get him to that historic mark will be Urule Igbavboa, who returns this season as the leading scorer from last year where he averaged 11 points per game, and is a preseason Hoopville honorable mention all-league member.

The Crusaders will have a strong backcourt tandem in Jake Diebler and Brandon McPherson. Both combined to average 15 points per game last season, and have played alongside each other in the past two seasons. McPherson is a good scorer, and Diebler is a solid guard. He had a 2.71 turnover-to-assist ratio last season, second-best in the league.

This is a veteran squad which should improve on its league record from a year ago. A tough nonconference schedule, like usual, will certainly help, including a matchup against North Carolina in December.

A strong recruiting class could provide an immediate impact. One of the gems of the class is De’Andre Haskins, who attended nearby La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind. Haskins averaged 27.5 points per game as a senior, and 31 as a junior. He is quick, athletic and versatile.

Loyola Ramblers (12-19, 6-12, 8th)
Coach: Jim Whitesell, fifth season (65-58)
Projected starters
J.R. Blount, senior
Andy Polka, junior
Ross Forman, junior
Leon Young, senior
Justin Cerasoli, senior
Key nonconference games
Nov. 17 NIT Season Tip-Off vs. Georgia, West Lafayette, Ind.
Nov. 18 NIT Season Tip-Off vs. Purdue or Eastern Michigan, West Lafayette, Ind.
Feb. 21 BracketBuster
Key loss: Tracy Robinson
What to expect: The Ramblers lost just one starter from last year (Robinson), so experience should be on the Ramblers’ side. Blount is the leading returning scorer after averaging 15 points per game as a junior. He is a Hoopville preseason all-league selection. There is solid depth after Blount, led by Polka, who averaged 8.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season, and senior Young, who averaged 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

Cerasoli should play a role this season after averaging more than nine points per game in 2007-08.

Loyola will be a team which will hover around the middle of the conference and should improve on its 8th-place finish in the league standings a year ago. Fifth-year head coach Jim Whitesell has averaged 16 victories during his tenure.

Detroit Titans (7-23, 3-15, 10th)
Coach: Ray McCallum, first season (170-149 career record)
Projected starters
Woody Payne, junior
Eulis Stephens, junior
Jason Bennett, junior
Chris Hayes, senior
Michael Harrington, senior
Key nonconference games
Nov. 14 at Purdue
Nov. 26 at DePaul
Dec. 20 at Illinois
Feb. 21 at BracketBuster
Key loss: Coach Perry Watson
What to expect: In a tough season last year, which ultimately led the retirement of coach Perry Watson, the Titans are looking to retool, and so far they appear to be headed in the right direction. But it’ll likely be the 2009-10 season where the impact will be seen by the league.

First-year head coach Ray McCallum has brought in a strong recruiting class, which will eventually put Detroit back into the league championship discussion.

Former Central Michigan and Detroit Community High School product Chase Simon, former Indiana center Eli Holman, and Tallahassee Community College transfer Jason Bennett lead the catches for McCallum.

Simon is a local product who had a stellar high school career. As a senior, he averaged more than 23 points and seven rebounds per game in leading his team to the state quarterfinals. He was selected as a first-team Class C All-State performer by the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, The Associated Press and the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.

Simon will redshirt this season, and will be eligible for the 2009-10 season in compliance with NCAA transfer rules. He played last season at Central Michigan where he played in 24 games, averaging nearly five points per game.

Holman was a recruit of McCallum’s at IU, and Holman decided to follow him to Detroit while IU goes through an overhaul.

Bennett will likely become one of the best shot blockers in league history. He will be the Titans’ tallest player in school history – 7-foot-3, 275 pounds.

Bennett, a top 50 product out of Arlington Country Day High School in Jacksonville, Fla., played one season at Kansas State before transferring to Tallahassee Community College. While at Kansas State, Bennett blocked a school-record eight shots in a game against Chicago State.

But also look for newcomers Thomas Kennedy and Xavier Keeling to make impacts as well.

Youngstown State Penguins (9-21, 5-13, 9th)
Coach: Jerry Slocum, third season (30-59, 610-384 overall)
Projected starters
Jack Liles, senior
Vytas Sulskis, sophomore
Vance Cooksey, sophomore
Mikko Niemi, senior
Dan Boulder, sophomore
Key nonconference games
Nov. 18 at Maryland
Feb. 21 BracketBuster
Key losses: Byron Davis, John Barber
What to expect: The Penguins will be young with eight first-year players. But the veterans they do have are solid, led by Jack Liles and Vytas Sulskis.

Liles and Sulskis averaged more than nine points per game last season. They will have to pick up the slack for losing Davis and Barber, who combined to average 29 points per game last season. Plus, the Penguins lost five players who played in at least 28 games last season. This season’s starting lineup could potentially have three sophomores in it.

The Penguins return just six letterwinners from last season.

A weak schedule should work in the Penguins’ favor with only the ESPN BracketBuster game and a date at Maryland posing as the only troubles.

Newcomers such as Sirlester Martin, DeAndre Mays and Tom Parks could provide solid impacts.


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