I'll be clear with my biases. I'm an unabashed Valpo fan. I'll be attending all (hopefully, and knocking on wood) five games at the Athletic and Recreations Center, lovingly nicknamed the ARC. I can usually take my bias out of my previews but as I said, I'm a fanatic, so there will be some here.
First Round, March 5:
No. 9 Milwaukee at No. 4 Green Bay, 8 p.m.
January 25: Green Bay wins 74-54 at UWM
Feburary 26: Green Bay wins 78-61 at UWGB
Key match ups
Alec Brown vs. the UWM bigs
If Alec decides to actually play down low, he's taken seven 3's against UWM, he could get it done, but he seems as allergic to rebounds as he is to a sandwich. He's averaged 25.5 pts and 8 reb against UWM, so if UWM can slow him down, they may be able to pull this out.
Keifer Sykes vs. Jordan Aaron
Around the Valpo message boards Aaron has become a little bit of a joke. He shoots 37.4% from the field and 35.4% from 3 point land, and he doesn't stop shooting. They say a shooter has to keep shooting to find his touch and Aaron is still looking. In the 2 games he's averaging 17.5 points but is shooting 45.8% on 12 shots per game. Sykes is a borderline 1st team All Conference player. If Aaron can hold Sykes, again not likely, Milwaukee might be able win.
This one isn't as close as it looks. UWGB puts away their rival in the first half and then they close the door with bench guys in the second half to save energy. Milwaukee has no answer for the Brown-Fouse-Cougill combination.
Green Bay wins 75-60.
Green Bay 62, Milwaukee 46
Green Bay had no problems, Sykes and Brown scored big and predictably Aaron hilariously shot 3-11 and 0-5 from 3pt range.
No. 8 Cleveland State at No. 5 UIC, 8 p.m.
January 7: Cleveland State wins 60-50 at CSU
February 2: Cleveland State wins 77-66 at UIC
Key match ups
In the first 2 match ups the Vikings outshot UIC 46.9%-35.6%. That's really rough and when you combine it with...
CSU outboarding the Flames 65-49, you get trouble. UIC needs to shoot and rebound better, but the way the last 6 games have gone for the residents of the Pavilion, things look bad.
Neither team is coming into this game particularly hot. Both teams have lost 5 of their last 7. The winner of this game will get it's doors blown off by UWGB.
Cleveland State wins 60-55. Can you tell I'm very ambivalent about this game?
IL-Chicago 82, Cleveland St 59
The opposite of the previous 2 games? UIC shot well, Cleveland State couldn't rebound and UIC runs away with it.
No. 7 Loyola at No. 6 Youngstown State, 7:05 p.m.
January 5: Youngstown St. wins 68-66 @ LUC
Feburary 7: Youngstown St. wins 60-59 @ YSU
Key match ups
Kendrick Perry vs. Cully Payne
If Cully can hold down the All conference guard Youngstown St could be in trouble. This year Perry lit up Loyola to the tune of 18 pts, 4.5 reb, and 3.5 ast in the 2 games. If Payne can get his outside shooting open and free up lanes for Averkamp and really cause a problem for the YSU defense.
Ben Averkamp vs. Damien Eargle
Eargle took Averkamp to school in round 1. In round 2 Averkamp was injured and the LUC defense stymied the senior. Eargle brought home the defensive player of the year award (Erik Buggs and Jordan Fouse were robbed and should have been 1-2, but I digress) and is going against one of the most efficient players in the Horizon. If Averkamp is 100% this match up could be the best of all the 1st round games.
Youngstown proves to have too much fire power for Loyola. Eargle and Perry each have big games and Eargle is able to shut down Averkamp.
Youngstown State wins 70-65.
Youngstown St 62, Loyola (IL) 60
Perry didn't play (I didn't realize he was injured, oops), but Belin and Allen stepped up and Eargle had a record setting game defensively. YSU got a last second layup to make my prediction semi-right.
All first round games streamed on HorizonLeague.org
Second Round, March 8, at Valparaiso:
No. 3 Wright State vs. No. 6 Youngstown State, 6 p.m.Previous Meetings
January 23: Youngstown State 68, Wright State 61 @YSU
March 2: Wright State 72, Youngstown State 45 @WSU
Key Match Ups
Kendrick Perry vs. Injury
This is a totally different game if Perry plays. On a neutral court neither team will have the advantage they had in their previous match ups and the March 2nd game was a YSU team with nothing to play for vs. Senior Day and WSU playing for the first round bye.There's no answer for Perry on WSU's team, if he's healthy, he goes for big numbers in my book.
Reggie Arceneaux vs. DJ Cole
If Perry doesn't play it'll be up to DJ Cole to step up again. He played well last time out and will need to continue to score. He's put up 12 pts/game with Perry out. Arceneaux has too many letters that aren't pronounced in his name. Ar-son-OW, come on French names. Regardless of if Perry plays or not, Reggie will be the key defensive stopper for WSU.
I don't know if Perry is playing or not. If Perry plays YSU wins. If not WSU pulls it out. Either way I like a 7 point spread between the 2 teams.
With Perry: YSU wins 67-60
Without Perry: WSU wins 63-56
No. 4 Green Bay vs. No. 5 UIC, 8:30 p.m.Previous Meetings
January 12: Green Bay 53, IL-Chicago 47 @ UWGB
January 31: IL-Chicago 60, Green Bay 57 @ UIC
Josh Crittle vs. Alec Brown
Crittle in the 2 match ups of the bigs put up 11.5 pts and 8 reb, but he's going to have to put together a defensive performance similar to the home game where Brown was limited to 9 pts and 2 reb and only 6 shots. If they can limit Brown's looks, they should be able to win. Cleveland State had no answer for Crittle, Milwaukee had no answer for Brown, and that's why the 2 teams are here.
Gary Talton vs. Keifer Sykes
The Green Bay's all conference PG, Sykes, put up a near triple double in the win and had a huge scoring game in the loss. Talton hit just below his season averages against GB in both match ups, and he'll be key to shutting down Sykes. It's going to be a great battle.
BONUS 3RD MATCHUP: The Crowd vs. Green Bay
Green Bay is 4-8 away from home this season. The 4 wins are against the bottom 4 of the conference. UIC's campus is an hour away from Valparaiso, and Hayden Humes is a Valparaiso High School product, so expect a big UIC contingent at the Athletics and Recreations Center.Prediction
UIC is able to shut down Brown and Sykes, the 1-3-1 zone doesn't get to Talton and Humes puts on a show in front of the "home" crowd.
UIC wins 62-58.
All second round games streamed on HorizonLeague.org
Semifinals, March 9, at Valparaiso:
No. 2 Detroit vs. Wright State/Youngstown State, 6 p.m.
No. 1 Valparaiso vs. Green Bay/UIC, 8:30 p.m.
Both games on ESPNU (Detroit game tape-delayed)
Championship,March 12, at higher seed, 9 p.m.
All Times Eastern
I will update this post and give a preview to each game (and a recap of games played) after each game. Expect my second round preview on Wednesday, the Semifinals on Saturday and the Championship on Monday, March 11.