Tempo-free Horizon League

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Another week, another look at the tempo-free world of the Horizon League. Since all the games have wrapped up for the day I thought it was time to take a look at the week that was in the league. The biggest surprise, at least to me, is that Milwaukee continues to defy expectations. The Panthers lost by 17 at Valparaiso, 14 at home to Loyola, 14 at Wright State and by 23 at Cleveland State. Their wins are never blowouts, as evidenced again this afternoon with a 54-53 squeaker in 52 possessions over the Raiders, but they've somehow amassed a 7-5 record in league play.

That's pretty impressive considering that Rob Jeter's squad has the same efficiency margin in conference as Loyola, which is 4-7 on the season. Maybe Milwaukee is going to defy the numbers this season, but it's certainly something to watch as the second half of the season gets going full bore.
Here are the straight numbers - Team - Efficiency Margin - and a little more commentary is after the break.
  1. Cleveland State - +0.15
  2. Valparaiso - +0.10
  3. Butler - +0.05
  4. Wright State - +0.03
  5. Green Bay - +0.02
  6. Detroit - +0.01
  7. Milwaukee - (-0.02)
  8. Loyola - (-0.02)
  9. UIC - (-0.12)
  10. Youngstown State - (-0.18)

Hail of bullets:

  • You notice that we have a little bit of course correction down at the bottom of the standings after UIC's 83-61 obliteration of Youngstown State on Saturday. That game was enough to dramatically flip the script between those two teams.
  • I have Milwaukee projected to finish 8-10 in conference, but the Panthers are already 7-5. There's definitely more than one win in the final six games too. They play at both UIC and Youngstown State during the final month of conference play. They're going to exceed expectations. Their game against Loyola on Thursday, February 10 at the Gentile Center will probably decide by how much.
  • The two Chicago schools (UIC, Loyola) have a big weekend coming up as they head on the road to Detroit and Wright State. Both of those teams are beatable, though the Raiders have played much better at home (3-1) than on the road (4-3) in conference play. That's good for Wright State because they still have five home games and just two road games remaining in conference play. On the other hand, I think we can officially declare Detroit as reeling after Sunday's loss to Green Bay. The Titans have lost five of their last six league games with the only victory being a four-point win at Youngstown State.
  • Butler really needs to find a way to stop people from scoring. The Bulldogs have the third worst defense in the league. The offense is the third best, but there are going to be games like Saturday against Valparaiso where teams just outscore them. Brad Stevens' club might get blown out at Cleveland State on February 5 if the offense goes cold. (Not that I think that's likely.) I have the Bulldogs projected to go 11-7 right now in conference. Pomeroy has them at 12-6. That's not what was expected coming into the season.
Superlatives - in conference:
  • Best Offense: Butler - 1.12 ppp
  • Worst Offense: Youngstown State - .912 ppp
  • Best Defense: Valparaiso - .927 papp
  • Worst Defense: UIC - 1.09 papp (but Youngstown State is close)
  • Luckiest: Milwaukee - 1.63 wins ahead of pace
  • Unluckiest: UIC - 1.16 wins behind pace

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