UIC and Loyola-Chicago find themselves at the bottom of the Horizon League preseason poll that was released on Tuesday. The Flames were picked 9th by the coaches, sports information directors and media following the conference. The Ramblers were picked 10th.
Voting was conducted on a 10-to-1 scale with 10 points being awarded to the top team on each person's ballot and 1 being awarded to the 10th team. Butler finished first with 455 points, including 43 first place votes. (How the Bulldogs weren't a unanimous choice is beyond my understanding.)
Loyola received the fewest numbers of votes of any team in the conference by a fair margin. With J.R. Blount, Justin Cerasoli and Darrin Williams all gone from a team that finished 6-12 in conference last season, the skepticism is well founded. The Ramblers are counting on the healthy return of forward Andy Polka and the development of a young roster that includes nine players in their first or second season.
UIC received 126 points, just behind Valparaiso, which finished with 137. The Flames lost a number of players from the team that finished a disappointing 8-11 in conference last season. UIC also has a very young team that will be led by guard Robo Kreps. (Preseason profile coming tomorrow.) The predicted 9th place finish is very interesting because the poll is the first one about the Horizon League in which voters had knowledge of the departures of Rob Eppinger and Tori Boyd along with the indefinite suspension of Spencer Stewart.
While I didn't participate in the preseason poll, I did make my own predictions about the conference for Rush the Court. A look at how they compare to the preseason poll is after the jump.
Official Horizon League Preseason Poll:
- Butler (43) 455
- Wright State (1) 398
- Cleveland State (2) 324
- Milwaukee 314
- Green Bay 273
- Detroit 209
- Youngstown State 197
- Valparaiso 137
- UIC 126
- Loyola 97
Chicago College Basketball's Horizon League Prediction:
- Wright State
- Cleveland State
- Green Bay
- Youngstown State
Comparing the two Top 10's it seems like there's a pretty strong consensus about which teams are going to be at the head of the class in the Horizon League during the 2009-10 season. Butler, Wright State, Milwaukee and Cleveland State are all dangerous teams that have the potential to make noise in the NCAA Tournament if a few breaks go their way. Green Bay is also very dangerous lurking at the fifth position.
What's really interesting is the bottom half of the league. How those teams are ranked comes down to your opinion about how the young talent on each of the teams is going to develop this season. I may have put too much faith in the return of Polka stabilizing the Ramblers' lineup, but I certainly don't think Loyola will finish last in the league. Also, Detroit is one of the most fascinating teams in the country, let alone the Horizon League. HLN's Adam Coppinger called the Titans "the second most talented team in the league" during Tuesday's Two Sense announcing the preseason poll. Whether all that talent translates into something better than last year's 2-16 record in conference remains to be seen.
The polls are certainly an excellent starting point, but it's the games that'll provide the truly interesting moments in the Horizon League this season.