Horizon League Tournament Preview
Championship Week unofficially gets underway Tuesday with the unique Horizon League tournament and a four-pack of games that features both Milwaukee and Green Bay. The winners of the four first round games will meet in the second round and the winners there move on to the semifinals to face either Butler or Wright State. Regular season excellence is rewarded as the top two teams get two byes and the higher seeded teams get a home game for the first round.
The Panthers face Illinois-Chicago in the first round. The two teams just met in the season finale with Milwaukee winning 78-74. The Panthers also beat the Flames in their first meeting 57-52 back on December 3. The Horizon League was bunched up this year after the top three spots and a five game conference winning streak allowed the Panthers to secure the four seed and a home game for the first round. A win means the Panthers would face either Cleveland State or Loyola in Indianapolis on Friday.
Alot of eyes will be on top seed Butler when the semifinals begin on Saturday. With a 26-4 record and impressive wins over Ohio State and Siena the Bulldogs are a lock to the make the NCAA Tournament and are the only team in the league worthy of a spot in the Big Dance. Someone's bubble will burst if Butler is defeated but that likely won't happen. The Bulldogs have had few close calls in conference play and have hardly been tested since the middle of January.
A possible semifinal date between #2 Wright State and #3 Green Bay looks like the best matchup of the tournament. The two teams split during the regular season and of course would avoid playing Butler until the championship game. The Raiders won 19 games during the regular season while the Phoenix won 20 and both have the makeup of a bid thief. The Phoenix open with Youngstown State and then would face the winner of the Valparaiso-Detroit game should Green Bay win the opening game.