By the numbers: Is Oakland perfect for the Horizon League?

Starting in 2013-2014 Butler is gone, off to the A-10. But long before the Bulldogs were expected to leave the league, Oakland had already been on the radar for many Horizon League watchers, especially as the Golden Grizzlies basketball team quickly grew from Division II power to budding D-I mid-major performer in the Summit League (starting in 1997) to a perennial Summit power that has won the league’s regular season title two of the last three years.

Now, Oakland’s Athletics Director, Tracy Huth, has made it clear that the school is “certainly interested in going to the Horizon League.”

The Horizon League needs to add another team to round its membership at an even 10, so is this a match made in mid-major heaven? Here are some numbers.

2 – The 10th best power forward in the state of Michigan’s high school class of 2012, Lloyd Neely, chose Oakland over two Horizon League schools, Cleveland State and Detroit.

6 – Years the Horizon League spent as a 9-team league between 2001, when Youngstown State left what is now known as the Summit League behind for the HL, and 2007, when Valparaiso also left the Summit for the Horizon. There’s a trend here. In fact, seven Horizon League (or Midwestern Collegiate League) members were at some point members of the Summit League (or Mid-Continent Conference), so Oakland is in good company.

This is also important in illustrating the fact that the league shows a clear priority with taking its time in adding new member schools despite the scheduling difficulties of a 9-team conference.

7 – The number of times Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone used the word “values” in a conference call with media May 2 when discussing the Horizon League’s plans for replacing Butler. Clearly they mean to take their time with this. Oakland is a public school, but so are a lot of the other schools in the league, so I’m not sure really where to read into that, if anything at all.

11 – The Golden Grizzlies are 7-4 against Horizon League teams (counting only Valpo games from 2007 onwards) since 2003, in 11 meetings. They’ve also now beaten Tennessee in back-to-back seasons, and nearly upset then-No. 7 Michigan State, when the Grizzlies lost, 77-76, in December 2011.

26.5 road miles separate Oakland University and current Horizon member Detroit University to the South. The league’s bylaws state that any member institution can block a new school’s entrance into the league if the new member falls within a 25 mile radius of the member, but it’s unclear whether that radius is by car or as the crow flies, a fuzzy detail that will have to be hammered out. Regardless, such a veto can be overridden by a majority vote of the rest of the member institutions. Jesuit alliances aside (Detroit and Loyola are both Jesuit schools) I couldn’t see why the rest of the schools in the League wouldn’t want Oakland.

Also, since the league depends on “swings” in its scheduling where teams travel in pairs, Oakland and Detroit would make perfect travel partners a la UIC and Loyola in Chicago. Under such a plan Valparaiso and Wright State would also become travel partners with Butler gone.

151 – Oakland’s Pomeroy ranking at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Cleveland State (83), Butler (110), Detroit (120), Valparaiso (147) and Milwaukee (150) were higher, but not by much. This after the Grizzlies lost three starters at the end of the previous season in which they were ranked 66th by Pomeroy.

4,005 – The number of seats in Oakland’s Athletics Center O’Rena. That would make it the smallest in the Horizon League, and dips below the league bylaw requiring 5,000+ seat arenas. But in the conference call May 2, commissioner LeCrone seemed unconcerned with the requirement.

“We’ve had a 5,000 seat arena rule … we’ve also waived it.” LeCrone said. “We don’t want to get too defined to seats, because there’s more to it. It’s space … It’s more of a feel of what’s an appropriate facility for a Division I program. So we look more at that than at the seating capacity.”

$1,555,472 – Oakland spent that much on their basketball program in 2010, according to the most recent numbers available over at BBState, which marks them as solidly mid-major. That number would rank them eighth in the Horizon League, ahead of Green Bay ($1,409,931) and Youngstown State ($1,022,407).

Oakland is the clear D-I frontrunner for the Horizon League vacancy, but if the league decides that the Golden Grizzlies don’t live up to its apparent high “values-based” standards, there are a swarm of D-II programs that have been mentioned. Northern Kentucky, Wayne State, and sure, Indianapolis University lead that list.