Another thrilling Horizon League season has come to a close. The regular season championship was still in question on the final day, with Oakland and Valparaiso splitting the honor.
Many great individual performances highlighted the season. But which ones were good enough to earn postseason recognition? Here’s a look at how things might shake out:
Player of the Year - Alec Peters (Valparaiso)
Peters finished second in scoring (20.9 PPG) and first in rebounding (9.9 RPG) during league play, averaging just shy of a double-double per game. He also led the league in offensive rating among players utilized in at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions according to KenPom. Valparaiso finished in a tie for first place and Peters is a major reason why. Despite missing the final two games of the season with an injury, Peters should take this award home.
Defensive Player of the Year - Tai Odiase (UIC)
Odiase has been a great shot blocker throughout his career at UIC. However, Vashil Fernandez was always just a little bit better. With Fernandez now gone, it is Odiase’s turn to take the honor of the league’s top defender. He has certainly earned the recognition, blocking better than three shots per game during conference play, and is currently fifth in the nation in that category.
Freshman of the Year - Tarkus Ferguson (UIC)
Many freshmen had solid campaigns this past season. Detroit’s Corey Allen, Oakland’s Isaiah Brock, and Northern Kentucky’s Carson Williams come to mind. However, Ferguson had possibly the most well-rounded debut season. He averaged 13 points per game during conference play to lead UIC, and led the entire conference in assists per game (5.4). Ferguson also led the conference’s freshmen in rebounding and steals.
Sixth Man of the Year - Warren Jones (Green Bay)
This is a hard one to predict. Jones sticks out for the offensive spark he provided off the bench. He only started once for the Phoenix during league play, and was only on the court for slightly more than 50 percent of his team’s minutes. Yet he still averaged 10.7 points per game. Jones also ranked second in three-point field goal percentage during the conference season, and was third in free throw percentage as well.
Coach of the Year - John Brannen (Northern Kentucky)
Arguments can be made for Matt Lottich (Valparaiso) and Greg Kampe (Oakland) since they shared the conference regular season title. But, the improvement Brannen’s Norse squad showed this year was truly impressive. In 2016, the Norse finished just 9-21 and eighth in the Horizon League. One year later, NKU has a 21-10 record and finished in a tie for third in the league.
All-League First Team:
Alec Peters - Valparaiso (F)
Jalen Hayes - Oakland (F)
Drew McDonald - Northern Kentucky (F)
Mark Alstork - Wright State (G)
Cameron Morse - Youngstown State (G)
All-League Second Team:
Jaleel Hogan - Detroit (F)
Shane Hammink - Valparaiso (G/F)
Martez Walker - Oakland (G)
Rob Edwards - Cleveland State (G)
Justin Mitchell - Wright State (G)
The all-league teams were difficult to select. Some of the players on the second team have a case to be on the first team, most notably Martez Walker. Conversely, Drew McDonald and Cameron Morse may find their way onto the second team. Morse led the conference in scoring but voters may opt for the more efficient Walker, who also played on the better team.
Other players, such as Charles Cooper and Sherron Dorsey-Walker, just missed the cut for the second team. Cooper was Green Bay’s top scorer, but despite the Phoenix’s team success, his individual statistics kept him off this list. His 14.3 points per game are good, but not enough to crack the second team. Dorsey-Walker played a pivotal role for Oakland, but may not have the individual numbers to gain votes.
Tarkus Ferguson - UIC (G)
Corey Allen - Detroit (G)
Carson Williams - Northern Kentucky (F)
Isaiah Brock - Oakland (F)
Dominique Matthews - UIC (G/F)
There shouldn’t be quite as much debate over the all-freshmen team. Ferguson, Matthews, Allen, and Williams were all key components to their respective team’s offenses in their first years. Meanwhile, Brock was a defensive force for Oakland in the post. Bryce Nze of Milwaukee had a good season as well, finishing second in field goal percentage in the league. He also ranked among the best offensive rebounders in the conference. But his per game averages may keep him off the team.