Butler, Wright State Basketball Teams Tasting Success in Horizon League

Chris BurtonContributor IJanuary 6, 2009

Every Horizon League team has now played at least three league games. Preseason buzz predicted Cleveland State to win the League and that Butler would be down in comparison to the previous two seasons. What has the early season taught us?

Butler, despite losing its two best players, is still the cream of the crop at 3-0. Its only loss to date was a narrow defeat at Ohio State. The Bulldogs defeated favorite Cleveland State on the road and excelled in a fairly difficult non-conference schedule.

Cleveland State (2-2) has lost twice already, vs. Butler and at Wright State last Tuesday.

Wright State (2-2) started the season 0-6, including horrible losses to Central Michigan and Sam Houston State. However, it has now won eight of its last nine and lost respectably at top-10 Wake Forest. This turnaround is without the Raiders leading scorer, Vaughn Duggins, who has been out with an injury. A trip to Butler on Thursday will be huge.

Wisconsin-Green Bay (3-1), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (5-0), Loyola (1-2), and UIC (1-2) are also viable candidates. These four have notched victories over Georgia, UMass, Bradley, Vanderbilt, and Georgia Tech. The battle of Wisconsin on Friday may be an elimination game if Butler continues its momentum.

With the non-conference games essentially over, the Horizon League is 6-14 versus BCS competition, 11-9 versus the MAC, and a surprising 5-3 against the vaunted Missouri Valley. This success has pushed the HL to 11th in conference RPI projections.

What is certain? Valparaiso, Detroit, and Youngstown State will not compete for the league crown (though Valpo is hands down better than its record).

At least five schools still have legitimate chances to win the regular season. It appears to be a banner year for the Horizon League and impressive victories, like CSU's win over Syracuse, will enhance the League's shot of landing two NCAA berths.