March is upon us and with that brings the excitement and the possibilities of Cinderella teams from all over the mid-major conferences trying to establish a themselves. As the Horizon League Tournament sets to begin Tuesday, with the championship next week resulting in one team punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, here is everything you need to know about the contenders.
Regular Season Recap:
2015 Horizon League Tournament Schedule
Here is everything you need to follow along with the 2015 Horizon League Tournament
Valparaiso came out on top in one of the most competitive conferences from top to bottom in the country. The Crusaders were able to gain solo possession of the league title Friday with a road victory at Cleveland State. With the win, Valparaiso earned a double-bye in the conference tournament and the right to host the second round and semifinal games. They will remain at home if they can survive into the finals.
Green Bay finished second in the conference also earning a double-bye. Oakland (No. 3) and Cleveland State (No.4) grabbed a pass into the quarterfinals. To open the tournament's first round, Detroit will host Youngstown State and Wright State travels to UIC.
While it may seem obvious to pick the top two seeds to win the Horizon League tournament, it also makes the most sense. Valparaiso comes into this tournament having beaten every team in conference at least once this season. The Crusaders posted an undefeated record at home in the Horizon League, and have lost only once at home all season (vs. New Mexico). Led by Horizon League Coach of the Year Bryce Drew, the Crusaders are able to go eight men deep and play lock-down defense. The Green Bay Phoenix came into the season as the favorites to win the regular season title but after losing at home to Cleveland State, those chances were all but gone. Still it is hard to vote against a Green Bay team led by back-to-back conference player of the year Keifer Sykes.
I stated this earlier in the season that the Oakland Golden Grizzlies were a team to look out for this year, and they have lived up to that praise. After playing all of December on the road against top powerhouses like Michigan State, Arizona and Maryland, the Grizzlies took advantage of the tough nonconference schedule and turned it into the No. 3 seed. Just like Valparaiso, Oakland is the only other team in the conference to beat every team in the league at least once.
Player to Watch:
Everyone has already heard of Sykes and Valparaiso's Alec Peters, but the player to watch in this year's tournament has to be Oakland's Kahlil Felder. Felder is one of the most explosive guards in the country, and has the ability to score at will. The sophomore, who some think might have been snubbed on conference player of the year, averaged 17.4 points and 7.7 assists per game. These numbers land him as the leader in assists and only player to average 17 points and 7 assists per game in the country. If Oakland it to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament, look for Felder to have conference tournament MVP performance.