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Five Question Friday: Horizon League struggles, Best Picture picks, and more

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Answering your pressing questions leading into the weekend.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 19 Wright State at Cleveland State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Friday. The weekend is almost here, which means basketball, basketball and more basketball.

Let’s get in the spirit with a mini mailbag with Five Question Friday.

It’s true that the Horizon League has fallen off a touch in recent years, but that’s not necessarily its fault. Conference realignment and universities moving on to greener pastures hits all levels of college basketball, and the Horizon League isn’t the exception. Just within the last decade the league has seen Butler, Loyola Chicago, and Valparaiso all move on to new conferences, and it replaced them with Oakland, Northern Kentucky, IUPUI, and soon to be Fort Wayne.

Those three are solid, logical additions, but they aren’t dominant powers like Butler and Valparaiso were or a school in a major media market like Loyola Chicago.

This season, the Horizon League is ranked 23rd in KenPom’s conference rating. Last year it finished 18th and 24th the year before that. The high-level, simple view of things is that the good teams in the league just aren’t as good as they used to be. Here’s a snapshot of the Horizon League since 2010. Note the far right column listing the highest ranked team at the end of the season.

KenPom.com

That pretty much answers the question. The league is better when there’s a dominant team or two year in and year out. Wright State and Northern Kentucky are probably the best bets at this point to fill that void.

The fun part about the Oscars’ Best Picture nominees this year is that I’ve actually seen some of the movies, so I can have opinions like a Real Movie Knower. For the uninformed, the nominees are as follows: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and Parasite.

Of that group, I’ve seen Ford v Ferrari, Joker, Marriage Story, 1917, and roughly two hours and 45 minutes of the Irishman before falling asleep and never getting around to finishing it. I’m going to make an effort to watch Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Parasite before the Oscars as well.

1917 will be the best movie I see this year and it’s my prediction to take home Best Picture.

My girlfriend (humble brag) and I actually just saw it last weekend. We walked into the theater and realized that we had purchased IMAX tickets without realizing, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It’s one of those movies that you HAVE to see in theaters, and the IMAX experience made it that much better.

I do not pretend to be a film or movie nerd, but the attention to detail and cinematography of the movie are incredible. It’s shot as if it’s one continuous shot, which leaves nary a moment for you to actual catch your breath in the theater. It’s a two-hour, tense journey in which you feel as if you’re immersed in the environment, and every little sound matters. It’s an absolutely thrilling ride. It should be in the conversation among the best war movies ever. It’s that good.

Anyways, thanks for tuning in to Mid-Movie Madness.

The Ramblers have gotten off to a good start in Missouri Valley play by beating up on the bottom half of the league. In league play, they boast the most efficient defense and a Player of The Year candidate in Cameron Krutwig that’s become an all-around efficiency darling.

Loyola Chicago does a lot of things well that can make them a tough out in the postseason. They’re really sound defensively, pass the ball extremely well, and convert at one of the highest rates in the country inside the arc. There’s always the experience factor that has to be taken into account too. Porter Moser is a great coach, and key pieces from the Final Four team like Krutwig and Lucas Williamson know what it takes to win in single-elimination formats.

All in all, the Ramblers definitely have the makeup of a team that could win a game or two before ultimately bowing out to a better team like Northern Iowa in Arch Madness.

THE NINERS ARE BACK AND IT’S NOT THE ONES IN SAN FRANCISCO FOLKS.

Just like we all expected, the Charlotte 49ers are 4-0 in Conference USA and sit atop the standings. With a 10-5 record, Charlotte has already surpassed last year’s win total in the second year of the Ron Sanchez era and have won seven of the last eight games.

As one would expect from a Tony Bennett disciple, the 49ers are absolutely grinding teams out on the defensive end. As of Friday morning, Charlotte is ranked 68th in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom. In CUSA play, they’re stifling teams to the tune of just 0.893 points per possession, which is the best mark in the conference.

A trio of newcomers are leading the way for Sanchez in year two. Jordan Shepherd has established himself as a go-to scorer after spending two years as a role player at Oklahoma. He’s sharing the perimeter with another high-major transfer in Drew Edwards, who spent the first four years of his career coming off the bench at Providence. Both guys are averaging double-figures, but the biggest revelation for the 49ers this year has been the play of freshman point guard Jahmir Young.

Young is the team’s third scorer averaging double-figures, but he’s also Charlotte’s leading rebounder despite his 6’1” stature. He’s hitting 37 percent of his threes and is third in the conference in steals per game at 2.2. He, along with the play of sophomore guards Malik Martin and Cooper Robb, should provide some optimism for a program that is looking to get back to being a perennial NCAA Tournament contender.

No. Arguing semantics about high-major vs. mid-major vs. low-major is dumb. It’s a pointless endeavor that will never actually be resolved.

Rather than categorizing teams based on conference affiliation, it would make more sense to categorize them based on a monetary value of a team’s basketball budget as a whole. What that amount should be is a completely different discussion, but that’s a discussion for another day that would probably be just as tiresome and pointless.