Last Year: Third-seeded Detroit, which fell to Valparaiso twice during the regular season, upset the top-seeded Crusaders in their own Athletics-Recreation Center, 70-50. The McCallums were pleased.
This Year: History could very well repeat itself as Valparaiso and Detroit return as the top seeds and clear favorites. Last year's No. 2 seed, Cleveland State is clinging to life thanks to a swath of mid-season injuries, but Wright State and Green Bay present threats.
Since log5 works better than seeding for predicting who will advance, I'll turn to that here. For those that don't know, log5 merely takes a what-are-the-chances approach. By that I mean No. 4 Green Bay should get past No. 9 Milwaukee for a spot in the quarterfinals 90.2 percent of the time according to the log5 chart below. Even that leaves some room for Milwaukee to make things interesting.
|Chance of reaching:||Quarters||Semis||Finals||Champs||1 in …|
So this chart shows each teams' chances of making it to the quarterfinal round, the semifinal round, the final round, and the chances it will win the Horizon League Championship. Clearly, the teams with double-byes (Valparaiso and Detroit) have a major advantage, and the Crusaders have an additional home-court advantage that is accounted for here. I calculated these figures using Ken Pomeroy's pythagorean winning percentage.
The Favorite: No. 1 Valparaiso (24-7 overall, 13-3 Horizon League) returns stronger than before. Everybody but sophomore guard Jay Harris is back (and plenty of solid transfers have joined them) to make another go at Bryce Drew's first NCAA Tournament bid as a head coach in just his second year.
The Crusaders are anchored by a veteran Australian/Dutch frontcourt combo in Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk. The former boasts an offensive rating among the top 50 in the nation for players getting between 20 and 25 percent of their team's possessions to go with a Horizon-best 23.5 percent defensive rebounding rate and 43.4 percent three-point percentage. Van Wijk just broke the Horizon League record for field goal percentage in conference play.
Valpo features the Horizon League's second most efficient offense (1.12 ppp) and fourth most efficient defense (0.98 ppp) overall, BUT the Crusaders scored 1.22 points per possession over their last four games of the regular season.
The Contender: Unlike last season, No. 2 Detroit (20-11, 12-4) split with Valpo during the regular season, but thrashed the Crusaders, 84-74, at the ARC on Feb. 16.
Junior Ray McCallum Jr. with his high-possession rate, respectable 24.8 percent assist rate at point guard and 120.7 offensive rating, has a lot of offensive weaponry at his fingertips. Seniors Jason Calliste, Nick Minnerath and Doug Anderson all boast offensive ratings north of 110 and possession rates north of 20 percent.
The Titans run one of the most uptempo games in the country (they rank 15th at an average of 70.9 possessions per game), but their pace doesn't guarantee wins. Valpo matched them in a 73-possession race for a win on Jan. 17 in their own gym. Detroit lays claim to the most efficient offense in the conference (1.13 ppp) and a vastly improved defense that has allowed 0.96 ppp overall.
The Dark Horse: You have to love No. 3 Wright State (19-11, 10-6). After being picked dead last in the preseason media rankings, the tenacious Raiders have thrived under head coach Billy Donlon even though there isn't a single senior on the roster (Julius Mays would have filled that role). They earned a first-round bye.
WSU went 1-3 against Detroit and Valparaiso during the season with a win at Detroit, but has been successful because their defense ranks as the league's most efficient at 0.91 points allowed per possession. Pomeroy lists it as the 45th most efficient defense in the country.