Conference Tip-Off Primer: Horizon League

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Horizon League is one of the country's most hotly contended conferences thus far with a six teams over .500 heading into conference play. Who will rise to the top and what are the key things to watch as conference play tips off Thursday?

Six of the nine teams in the Horizon League have a winning record going into conference play. Will the Green Bay Phoenix, who just cracked our Mid-Major Madness Power 15, cruise to a conference title or will Youngstown State, Milwaukee, and others make it a tough ride to the NCAA Tournament?

Conference Standings:

Rank School Record
1 Green Bay Phoenix 9-3
2 Milwaukee Panthers 10-4
3 Youngstown State Penguins 9-6
4 Cleveland State Vikings 8-6
t-5 Valparaiso Crusaders 8-7
t-5 Wright State Raiders 8-7
7 Detroit Titans 7-8
8 Illinois-Chicago Flames 5-9
9 Oakland Golden Grizzlies 5-10

Top Scorers:

Rank Player PPG
1 Travis Bader (Oakland) 22.1
2 Kendrick Perry (Youngstown St) 20.8
3 Keifer Sykes (Green Bay) 19.5
4 Bryn Forbes (Cleveland St) 17.6
5 Juwan Howard Jr. (Detroit) 17.3

Top Rebounder:

Rank Player RPG
1 Jordan Fouse (Green Bay) 8.6
t-2
Corey Petros (Oakland)
Evan Bruinsma (Detroit
8.3
4 Bobby Hain (Youngstown St) 7.0
5 Matt Tiby (Milwaukee) 6.8

Assists Leader:

Rank Player APG
1 Duke Mondy (Oakland) 5.2
2 Kahlil Felder (Oakland) 5.1
3 Keifer Sykes (Green Bay) 4.8
4 Kelsey Barlow (UIC) 4.6
5 Kendirck Perry (Youngstown St) 4.5

Biggest Surprise:

For the most part, this conference is shaking out the way man thought. Wright State hasn't lived up to some expectations, but my biggest disappointment in Oakland. Sure the Grizzlies have played the nation's fifth toughest schedule, but their performance on and off the court has been worrisome. Greg Kampe's squad has shown flashes of brilliance in wins over Ohio and Illinois State, but can this team full of individual stars come together for conference play?

Player of the Year:

Youngstown State's Kendrick Perry continues to prove he's one of the nation's top point guards and the Horizon League's top player. He's averaging 20.8 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.9 steals, which is all good enough for a top five ranking in the conference. He's also shooting a very productive 51.5 percent from the field this year.

Biggest Storyline:

The general storyline for conference play has to be the top five or six teams in the conference, all of which have what it takes to win the league and go to the NCAA Tournament. Green Bay is looking for their first trip to the "Big Dance" since 1996 and no one else at the top, besides Valparaiso, has gone this decade mainly due to Butler's dominance before departing. This may be one of the most even conferences in the country and it's all going to come down to the conference tournament.

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