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Horizon League Power Rankings: Conference Play Week 2

Green Bay climbs after two road wins to open conference play while a massive game looms between Valpo and Oakland this week.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Green Bay vs Texas A&M
It was a big week for Charles Cooper and the Green Bay Phoenix.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Horizon League play began over the holiday weekend without many surprises. While there were some wild finishes, particularly on opening night, the end results were fairly predictable.

Here’s how the league stands entering its second week:

Power Rankings

1. Valparaiso Crusaders (11-3, 1-0; Previous: 1)

Last Week: Win vs. Chicago State, Win @ UIC

This Week: 1/6 vs. Oakland, 1/8 vs. Detroit

Valparaiso remains in the number one spot after a 2-0 week. The Crusaders defense stepped up to hold their two opponents to 61 and 59 points, respectively. They also received big minutes from redshirt freshman Derrik Smits, who made the first two starts of his career. Smits was forced into action with Jubril Adekoya still sidelined indefinitely and Jaume Sorolla away from the team in his native Spain against Chicago State. He tallied personal bests in both points (11) and rebounds (6) against UIC. Valpo faces a massive test this Friday against Oakland.

2. Oakland Golden Grizzlies (12-3, 2-0; Previous: 2)

Last Week: Win vs. Wright State, Win vs. Northern Kentucky

This Week: 1/6 @ Valparaiso, 1/8 @ UIC

Oakland built off of the momentum from itsbig win over Georgia with a pair of double-digit victories. The Golden Grizzlies got a 25-point performance from Sherron Dorsey-Walker in their conference opening win over Wright State. They then followed that with another solid win against Northern Kentucky. Momentum is building at the right time for Oakland, as it faces the biggest game of the early Horizon League season at Valpo on Friday. The Golden Grizzlies have been making it hard to keep them out of the number one spot in these rankings, and have been trading places with Valpo as the conference’s top ranked KenPom team throughout the week. A win at Valparaiso will leave no doubt about who’s number one in the conference, but the Crusaders are still “the team to beat” for the time being.

3. Green Bay Phoenix (8-6, 2-0; Previous: 5)

Last Week: Win @ Cleveland State, Win @ Youngstown State

This Week: 1/6 vs. Milwaukee

Green Bay vaults into the third position on the strength of two road wins. Despite coming against teams in the bottom half of the conference, road wins in league play are vital. After falling behind early, Green Bay clawed back to beat Cleveland State in overtime and followed that up with a double digit win in Youngstown. Charles Cooper averaged 20.5 points in the wins and was named Horizon League Player of the Week. The Phoenix will look to improve to 3-0 and keep pace with the top of the conference at home against rival Milwaukee on Friday night.

4. Wright State Raiders (10-5, 1-1; Previous: 3)

Last Week: Loss @ Oakland, Win @ Detroit

This Week: 1/5 vs. Cleveland State, 1/7 vs. Youngstown State

Wright State suffered a tough loss to open their conference season at Oakland, but rebounded for a win on Saturday against Detroit. A big run from Oakland to close the first half and a large disparity in free throws (Oakland attempted 27 to Wright State’s 16) sunk the Raiders. The Raiders salvaged the weekend behind 22 points from Steven Davis at Detroit and a 57% three point shooting effort as a group. Wright State slips in the power rankings as a result of the loss, but many teams will probably end up losing on the road to Oakland as the year continues. The Raiders return home with a good chance to pick up two wins this weekend.

5. Northern Kentucky Norse (10-5, 1-1; Previous: 4)

Last Week: Win @ Detroit, Loss @ Oakland

This Week: 1/5 vs. Youngstown State, 1/7 vs. Cleveland State

Northern Kentucky had the same weekend as Wright State, just in reverse. The Norse handled Detroit to open the weekend but were handed a loss at Oakland on Saturday. Despite keeping things closer against Oakland than Wright State did, the Norse don’t have the quality non-con wins that Wright State does. The top performance of the weekend for the Norse came from Cole Murray, who knocked in seven threes against Detroit. Northern Kentucky will need to defend its home court this weekend to stay a contender.

6. Illinois Chicago Flames (7-7, 0-1; Previous: 6)

Last Week: Loss vs. Valparaiso

This Week: 1/6 vs. Detroit, 1/8 vs. Oakland

UIC took a double digit loss at home to Valparaiso, but remained competitive for most of the game. The Flames were out-rebounded and surrendered 15 offensive boards to the Crusaders. They will need to do a better job on the glass this weekend as they host Detroit and Oakland. Despite the setback against Valpo, the Flames still look like a team that could cause trouble for the upper half of the conference.

7. Cleveland State Vikings (5-9, 1-1; Previous: 8)

Last Week: Loss vs. Green Bay, Win vs. Milwaukee

This Week: 1/5 @ Wright State, 1/7 @ Northern Kentucky

The Vikings opened up conference play by taking Green Bay to overtime in a loss, and then beating Milwaukee. Cleveland State has to feel that it missed a big opportunity in the loss to Green Bay, but it proves that the Vikings can be a threat to anyone traveling to Cleveland. The close loss is also enough to bump the Vikings up a spot in the power rankings. They face a tough weekend on the road, where they remain winless, against Wright State and Northern Kentucky.

8. Youngstown State Penguins (7-8, 1-1; Previous: 7)

Last Week: Win vs. Milwaukee, Loss vs. Green Bay

This Week: 1/5 @ Northern Kentucky, 1/7 @ Wright State

The Penguins ended the weekend with the same result as Cleveland State, but they struggled to get there. Youngstown State needed two overtimes to beat Milwaukee before a lopsided loss to Green Bay. Cameron Morse remains the bright spot for the Penguins, scoring 33 points against Milwaukee and 24 points against Green Bay to lead all scorers in both contests. Despite struggling, Youngstown State is still 1-1; just like the two teams they face this week, Northern Kentucky and Wright State.

9. Milwaukee Panthers (4-11, 0-2; Previous: 9)

Last Week: Loss @ Youngstown State, Loss @ Cleveland State

This Week: 1/6 @ Green Bay

Milwaukee suffered two losses on the road to open up its conference season. Brock Stull was a bright spot in a double overtime loss to Youngstown State, finishing with 26 points and 10 rebounds. But, the Panthers came up empty and then fell to Cleveland State to close the weekend. They face a tough road test at Green Bay this week, but anything can happen in a rivalry game.

10. Detroit Titans (2-12, 0-2; Previous: 10)

Last Week: Loss vs. Northern Kentucky, Loss vs. Wright State

This Week: 1/6 @ UIC, 1/8 @ Valparaiso

Detroit was handed two double digit losses at home to open conference play. The nightmare of a season continues for the Titans and doesn’t get any better as they travel to UIC and Valpo this week. Detroit does get the benefit of travelling with Oakland, so they could catch an opponent or two overlooking them during conference play.