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NCAA College Basketball 2014-2015 Early Predictions: Horizon League

The Horizon League will once again bounce around like a bunch of ping-pong balls and where they will land is anyone's guess. We take a shot at predicting the future and who will be the big winner next season.

Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven't seen the movie Big, the main character, Josh Baskin, ends up being transformed into an adult version of himself (played by Tom Hanks) by a fortune telling machine called Zoltar. And all he wanted to was to be tall enough to go on a ride at the carnival. Talk about not getting what you paid for. We don't accept quarters here, but we will look into the hazy future and hope to predict what will be coming in the 2014-15 season for our leagues. Sorry, no refunds.

The Horizon League did not end up like we all expected at the beginning of the season. If you had to pick any team to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament, you wouldn't have been selecting Milwaukee.

After all, they finished dead last in the preseason poll, and had to beat the two teams that were separated by a single vote at the top of the poll in order to get to the Dance.

But that is life in the Horizon League. There is always something that happens to make things go sideways.

We already have the start of that for next season too, with the Panthers being banned already from defending their conference crown thanks to APR violations that occurred prior to most of the team being on the roster. This was a team with a young core that could have improved on its 7-9 record given the roster changes for next season. Now the best they can hope for is to be the regular season champs, and nothing more.

As with what seems like every season in the Horizon, the majority of the best players from this year will be gone in the coming season. Sixty percent of the all-conference teams from this season have moved on, including super 3-point shooter Travis Bader, all-around contributor Kendrick Perry and the feared man in the middle for Green Bay, Alec Brown.

But the cupboards aren't bare and we should see another close race in the Horizon next season, but with a very different set of teams.

Very Early All-Conference Team:

Keifer Sykes, Sr., G, Green Bay
Bryn Forbes, Jr., G, Cleveland State
Juwan Howard Jr., Sr., F, Detroit
Jordan Fouse, Jr., F, Green Bay
Anton Grady, Jr., C, Cleveland State

POY: Keifer Sykes, Grene Bay
DPOY: Jordan Fouse, Green Bay
COY: Gary Waters, Cleveland State

This was an easier list to generate than you would expect. Three of these players had all-conference honors this season and the Fouse was an all-defensive player, whose contributions to the Phoenix should only increase with the departure of Alec Brown in the middle.

The hardest pick was who to select as the center with Brown gone. I went with Grady who was headed for this to be an annual selection for him during his freshman year until his legs let him down. This is obviously contingent on him staying healthy otherwise, I am leaning toward Matt Tiby building on the great postseason he had for Milwaukee.

Impact Transfers:

  • Andre Yates, PG, Jr., Cleveland State (from Creighton) - Adds some much needed depth in the backcourt for the Vikings.
  • Chris Jenkins, SF, So., Detroit (from Colorado) - Behind Juwan Howard, but a great grab of a former finalist for Michigan Mr. Basketball.
  • Patrick Ackerman, C, Jr., Detroit (from Penn State) - Arrives at the right time to fill holes created by graduation.
  • Akeem Springs, SG, So., Milwaukee (from Northern Illinois) - Scorer who struggled with consistency in his single season with Northern Illinois. Won't be outside threat.
  • Max Hooper, SF, Jr., Oakland (from St. John's) - Immediately becomes the scoring threat left open by Travis Bader's departure. All-Name team, all the time.
  • E. Victor Nickerson, SF, Jr., Valparaiso (from Charlotte) - Big question is how he recovers from surgery on his lower half. Should be ready by August. If healthy, a big lift at small forward (or tall guard), to go along with Alec Peters.

Early Standings Prediction:

1. Cleveland State - Returns almost everyone from this season, and was really finding their stride in the latter half of the year. Surprising losses in Horizon League Tournament and CIT, but should be ready for a big year.

2. Green Bay - Loss of Brown leaves a big hole in the middle, but team got taste of working without him this season. Still a lot of talent all around to compete next season.

3. Detroit - Two impact transfers plus Juwan Howard Jr. will make Detroit a force in the league again. Jarod Williams with a year under his belt will make point more stable.

4. Milwaukee - Getting through to the NCAA Tournament proved that this team could compete. Young core should be boosted by Springs, but regular season title might be tough. Potential spoiler.

5. Oakland - Losses of Bader and Mondy could be tough to overcome. Max Hooper becomes wildcard. Could have this team in the top three if everything falls right.

6. Valparaiso - Team ends up younger still after this season, with Lavonte Dority and Bobby Capobianco gone. Could surprise, but this looks like a rebuilding year.

7. Wright State - Everyone graduates, but the Raiders always find a way to do more with less. Ceiling is probably fifth.

8. Youngstown State - No more Kendrick Perry, or Kamren Belin means defense actually gets worse. Until that side of the ball is solved, top half is going to be a dream.

9. UIC - Lose a lot of starting minutes off team that was struggling for an identity last year. They will continue looking in 2014-15.