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Horizon League men’s basketball season preview: Northern Kentucky eyes continued dominance

The reigning champs are the preseason favorites and have won 4 titles in 8 years in the league

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Birmingham Practice
Northern Kentucky has won at least 20 games in six of the last seven seasons. The one exception was the shortened 2021 season.
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Horizon League has belonged to Northern Kentucky since the Norse joined the league less than a decade ago. NKU claimed its fourth title in eight seasons by claiming the crown last March. It was tabbed as the preseason favorites once again.

The League will have a different headliner as Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis is out of eligibility. The guard wrapped up his career as the NCAA’s second all-time leading scorer after notching 28.3 points a night last season.

Wright State boasts the Preseason Player of the Year in Trey Calvin. He posted 20.3 points per game last year.

2023-24 Under Armour #HLMBB Preseason Poll

  1. Northern Kentucky (18) – 435
  2. Milwaukee (10) – 397
  3. Wright State (12) – 392
  4. Cleveland State (1) – 362
  5. Youngstown State (3) – 342
  6. Oakland – 280
  7. Robert Morris – 186
  8. Purdue Fort Wayne – 166
  9. Detroit Mercy – 132
  10. IUPUI – 116
  11. Green Bay – 96

The Favorite

Northern Kentucky

The Norse won the conference tournament title last season after tying for second with a 14-6 mark. It was was one game back of first-place Youngstown State and was the four seed in the tourney. NKU knocked off Oakland, YSU and Cleveland State.

NKU returns its top two scorers from a season ago. Marques Warrick averaged 18.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds. He has amassed nearly 1,600 career points over his three seasons and ranks ninth in school history. He enters his senior season just 477 away from the program’s all-time mark. The guard was named to the league’s preseason first team.

Sam Vinson was selected for the preseason second team. He notched 11.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals per last season and received All-Defensive Team honors.

The Contenders


After a resurgent 2023 season, the Panthers are aiming to build in the second year of Bart Lundy’s regime. The program won its first postseason game in 17 years with a win in the CBI last season. Milwaukee won 20 games for the first time since 2016.

BJ Freeman was named to the Preseason First Team after posting a team-highs in scoring (18.2 points per game) and rebounding (5.1) last season.

They were active in the transfer portal with the additions of Erik Pratt from Texas A&M, Langston Wilson from Washington and Faizon Field from Old Dominion.

Wright State

The Raiders, who were picked third in the preseason poll, may have the best trio of players in the whole league. Preseason Player of the Year Trey Calvin is coming off a 2023 campaign where he posted 20.3 points per game, which ranked 19th in the nation.

Brandon Noel was named the league’s Freshman of the Year last season. He was second on the team with 13.0 points per game. His 8.7 rebounds a contest were third most in the league. He connected on a Horizon-League best 60.9% of his field goal attempts.

Tanner Holden returns to the Raiders after suiting up for Ohio State last season. The two-time Horizon League First Team selection averaged 16.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals over three seasons with WSU.

The Raiders return their top four scorers from last season in Calvin, Noel, AJ Braun and Alex Huibregtse.

Cleveland State

The Vikings finished tied for second last season with a 14-6 record. They played their way to the conference title game, where they fell to Northern Kentucky by two points. CSU reached the postseason for a third straight season with a trip to the CBI.

Cleveland State returns 62% of its scoring, led by Preseason First Team selection Tristan Enaruna. He posted 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in 2023. He is one of three starters who returns along with Tae Williams (11 ppg) and Drew Lowder (9.8 ppg).

Youngstown State

The Penguins won the regular season title last season by a game with a 15-5 record but return just three players from that squad. That trio scored just 23% of the league’s most potent offense of 81.9 points per game.

Brandon Rush is the leading scorer of those returns and was named to the Preseason Second Team. He poured in 13.9 points a night last season.

YSU made moved in the transfer portal by bringing in Ziggy Reis from Merrimack, DJ Burns from Murray State, Jaylen Bates from Florida A&M, EJ Farmer from Toledo and a pair of players from Northern Kentucky.

The Rest


With Greg Kampe entering his 40th season, he is the longest-tenured men’s basketball coach in the country. The Golden Grizzlies finished fifth last year with an 11-9 record in league play.

Oakland returns five of its top seven scorers. Trey Townsend was named to the Preseason First Team. He notched 16.5 points per game last season.

Robert Morris

The Colonials were 10-10 in the Horizon League in 2023 and finished sixth. They said goodbye to three of their top four scorers. The one returner there is Josh Corbin, who notched 10.5 points per game.

Purdue Fort Wayne

The Mastodons lost all five starters from last year’s team that finished in the middle of the pack at 9-11. The top returning scorer is Anthony Roberts, who averaged 7.3 points in 17.1 minutes per game.

Detroit Mercy

The Titans will begin life without Antoine Davis, who graduated as the NCAA second all-time leading scorer. The guard poured in 28.2 points a game in 2023 as he wrapped up his career with 3,664 points (just three behind Pete Maravich).

Jayden Stone is the top returning scorer with 13.9 points per contest.


The Jaguars won just two conference games last season and failed to win any games on the road. They return three of their top four scorers.

Green Bay

The Phoenix also tallied just two Horizon League wins last season. Clarence Cummings III is the top returning scorer with 10.5 points.