Last week, we took a look at the non-conference schedules that had already been released in the Horizon League. However, four teams still have not made their full schedules public yet: Cleveland State, Green Bay, Northern Kentucky, and Valparaiso. That doesn’t mean we can’t begin to piece their schedules together from other sources and see how the non-conference season will take shape. What games do each team have to look forward to and where can they collect statement wins before heading into conference play?
Cleveland State Vikings
The Vikings have not revealed their full non-conference schedule yet. But, based on Kentucky’s schedule release, we know that Cleveland State will participate in a four team tournament being called the Bluegrass Showcase. The Vikings will take on Kentucky, but that game will likely be a loss. However, the other games in the Showcase will be crucial for the team in their attempt to rebound from a 9 win season. Most notably, a home contest against Canisius on November 15th presents an opportunity for the Vikings to defend their home court against a decent opponent early in the season.
Green Bay Phoenix
Belmont’s schedule provides a look at what could be one of Green Bay’s biggest non-conference games this year. The Phoenix will have a home contest against Belmont in mid-December that could serve as a barometer for how the Phoenix will fare in conference play. Belmont has consistently been one of the top mid-major programs, so being able to compete with the Bruins could bode well for Green Bay. If the Phoenix want to challenge for the Horizon League title and represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament again, they will need to take advantage of games such as this one against Belmont.
Northern Kentucky Norse
We are still waiting on the release of NKU’s non-conference schedule, but according to Austin Peay’s schedule, the Norse will be playing in the Redhawk Invitational, hosted by Miami (OH). Besides Austin Peay and Miami, Delaware is listed as participating as well. The Norse will get a chance to showcase their exciting newcomers in some very winnable games. Hopefully a strong non-conference showing will lead to more fan interest in a team that looks to ascend the Horizon League ranks in the years to come.
The Crusaders still have not released their non-conference schedule either. They have confirmed away games at Oregon and Kentucky which will loom large on the schedule. The Crusaders played well at Oregon a season ago and will hope to show that was not a fluke. But, the Crusaders should also have their eyes set on the Men Who Speak Up Main Event, which they have announced will be taking place in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving week.
Valparaiso will also face Alabama in the first game and will then play either BYU or Saint Louis. Neutral site victories over some bigger name programs would help out a team who narrowly missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament this past season. The Crusaders will also get an opportunity to make a statement at home against Rhode Island. Valparaiso’s non-conference schedule is shaping up to be very strong.