Entering the final games of the regular season, the Horizon League Tournament bracket was still in flux.
On Friday night, Wright State held off a Northern Kentucky surge to seal the outright title, locking up the No. 1 seed in the process. The Norse finished comfortably in second and will join the Raiders in Indianapolis as both teams received double-byes to the semi-finals.
Green Bay slotted in third, which earned the Phoenix a first round bye and the chance to host their quarterfinals game against the lowest remaining seed. A tiebreaker gave UIC the four seed over Youngstown State, and Oakland will be the other team to host a first round matchup.
Note: Detroit Mercy is ineligible for the postseason due to APR penalties and will not participate.
How to Watch
First Round & Quarterfinals: Campus sites
Semifinals & Championship: Indianapolis (Indiana Farmers Coliseum)
First Round (Tuesday, March 3)
ESPN+ ($) will stream all three games.
Game 1: No. 9 IUPUI at No. 4 UIC, 8 p.m.
Game 2: No. 8 Milwaukee at No. 5 Youngstown State, 7 p.m.
Game 3: No. 7 Cleveland State at No. 6 Oakland, 7 p.m.
Quarterfinals (Thursday, March 5)
ESPN+ ($) will stream both games.
Teams are reseeded.
Game 4: No. 6 at No. 3 Green Bay, 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Game 5: No. 5 at No. 4, 7/8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Semifinals (Monday, March 9)
Teams are reseeded.
Game 6: No. 4 vs. No. 1 Wright State, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 7: No. 3 vs. No. 2 Northern Kentucky, approx. 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Championship (Tuesday, March 10)
Game 8: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
As the regular season champs, it’s obvious that Wright State should be considered the frontrunner. The Raiders have the league’s best overall record at 25-6, and posted the best efficiency margin in conference play by a wide margin.
In conference play, Wright State averaged just under 82 points per game with the most efficient offense on a per possession. A big factor to that success was the ability to knock down shots from 3-point range, which the Raiders did at a 40.3% rate. With four players that average double figures, it takes an all hands on deck approach to slowing down the Raiders offense. Couple that with a defense that was ranked second in efficiency during league play, the Raiders are the most complete team in the bracket.
Northern Kentucky could make a case as being the other favorite, but after getting swept by Wright State it’s probably appropriate to have them just a notch below. The Norse performed well in Darrin Horn’s first season, and a lot of the roster was around for the NCAA Tournament appearance last season. Northern Kentucky’s four leading scorers—Tyler Sharpe, Jalen Tate, Dantez Walton, and Trevon Faulkner—were all key cogs when the Norse won the Horizon League Tournament last season. The Norse had the lowest offensive turnover rate in conference play and had the second highest turnover rate on defense. Overall, they’re a solid defensive team from top to bottom. The major concern is if they can keep up against the league’s best teams if shots aren’t falling. In their five conference losses, the Norse hit above 20% from deep in just one game in which they went 7-26 in a loss to Detroit.
Green Bay is the other top contender, and their breakneck pace resulted in the league’s most efficient offense over the full season, according to KenPom. The Phoenix might have the league’s best guard in JayQuan McCloud, who has averaged 18 points, five rebounds and five assists per game in Horizon League play. Green Bay shoots the ball well, and their 37.2% clip from deep is the best of any team that Linc Darner has had there. They split both of their season matchups against Wright State and Northern Kentucky and put up a 6-2 mark in February to close the regular season strong. They’re the best equipped team to beat the top two seeds and be the first team to represent the league in the NCAA Tournament since Linc Darner led them to the Big Dance in his first season at Green Bay in 2016.
T-Rank’s conference tournament simulator has a pretty fair assessment of how the teams stack. Wright State is and should be considered the favorite by a fair margin, with Northern Kentucky clearly in second. Ultimately, those have been the two best teams this season and have been the class of the league for for the last four years. It’s likely that they’ll meet in the championship game for the second straight season, but this year it’ll be Wright State who has the upper hand and the best chances of cutting down the nets.