The Horizon League, though led largely by Valparaiso, Oakland and Wright State since Butler was in the league (and often contenders back then), has given us some good battles. Just when it looked like Valpo had things locked up, Oakland reminded us that they can’t be counted out.
Greg Kampe’s teams always seem to find a way to have a chance, at the very least. Friday night’s 82-71 win over Valparaiso gave the Golden Grizzlies a season sweep of the Crusaders and keeps them in the mix for the regular season title.
Early in the second half, Oakland broke a 34-34 tie with a 21-6 run. Valpo could only get as close as 60-52 before Oakland put it away behind Martez Walker, the latest hidden gem to come through the program.
Valparaiso is now 11-3 in the league, while Oakland is 10-4. Three teams are tied behind them at 9-5 with four to play, and it’s favorable for Oakland at first glance as they have two each at home and on the road, while Valpo has three of their final four on the road.
Oakland doesn’t control their own destiny; they need help if they are to come out on top. But perhaps as important is where these teams are trending. Oakland has now won five straight, while Valpo has lost two of four after winning eight in a row. And if they manage to come out with the league’s automatic bid, they will be as tough an out as Valpo would be.
It means the Horizon League Tournament will once again be one to watch. If someone other than Valparaiso or Oakland comes away with the title, we’ll know it was well-earned.
The most notable results in other action last night were Stanford knocking off Cal 73-68, Kent State snapping Akron’s 30-game home winning streak with a 70-67 win, and VCU going across town and beating Richmond 84-73.
Friday night was also a good one to be a road team for the second straight week, as road teams won nine of the 14 Division I games that were on tap Friday night. Harvard was the only Ivy League team to win at home (78-72 over Columbia) and road teams swept the MAAC slate.
- In ACC play, Clemson heads to Miami really needing a good win (noon), while Wake Forest heads to Duke and Virginia Tech goes to Louisville in games where the road team could use a win to boost their NCAA Tournament credentials (1 p.m.), while the best game of the day is North Carolina hosting Virginia at 8:15 p.m.
- The American Athletic Conference has an underrated matchup with SMU visiting Houston (6 p.m.)
- Atlantic 10 play is highlighted by St. Bonaventure at Dayton (2 p.m.)
- The highlight of the Big 12 slate is the showdown in Waco between Kansas and Baylor (1 p.m.), with Texas Tech at West Virginia (2 p.m.) being another good one to watch.
- The Big East begins with Villanova at Seton Hall (12:30 p.m.)
- In the Big Ten, Purdue hosts Michigan State (4 p.m.)
- A very good early matchup in the Missouri Valley is Northern Iowa at Wichita State (noon)
- Pac-12 play features a rivalry game as USC heads to UCLA (10 p.m.)
- In SEC play, Georgia hosts Kentucky (6 p.m.)
- The most notable West Coast Conference game is BYU hosting Saint Mary’s (10 p.m.)
- There are also important games in the Big South (Liberty at Winthrop, 2 p.m.), Sun Belt (UT Arlington at Georgia State, 2:15 p.m.) and Southern (UNC Greensboro at Furman, 4 p.m., and East Tennessee State at Chattanooga, 5 p.m.)