Big Thursday night in the Horizon League

There are four Horizon League games tonight with only Cleveland State and Youngstown State off. (They'll play against each other on Saturday.) The other four games though are all critical to how the league standings will shake out for the conference tournament which is only a few weeks away.

The most critical game is probably Wright State at Butler. The Raiders don't have much of a chance according to Accuscore (16.8%) or Ken Pomeroy (17%), but neither of those predictions include the fact that likely Horizon League Player of the Year Matt Howard will miss the game following the bloody incident against UIC. That could have a big impact on the game. Also note that the game tonight has an early start, 6 p.m. CT, because it is on ESPNU.

Another important game is the pairing of Valparaiso and Detroit. The game is at Valpo and the Crusaders are also the heavy favorites. Still, Detroit has been coming on as of late. The Titans have won their last three games, including an 81-78 victory over Cleveland State their last time out. Ray McCallum's club is one of the most talented in the Horizon League. Now they're at 8-6 in conference, but a tough remaining schedule awaits including three road games and only one at home - and that's against Youngstown State. For Valparaiso this game is huge because Cleveland State's loss to the Titans on Monday means that Crusaders control their own destiny at the top of the standings. But with six league games remaining, tied with Green Bay for the most, obviously there is still a lot of work to do.

Then there are the two Chicago games. Milwaukee, Loyola, Green Bay and UIC currently find themselves fighting, along with Youngstown State, at the bottom of the Horizon League standings. The Panthers are 8-5, but just cracked even on the season in conference efficiency margin after beating the Phoenix 88-75 last week. This team is the most confusing one in the league, with good wins over Butler and Detroit, but also a home loss to the Ramblers. How Anthony Hill, Tone Boyle, Kaylon Williams and the rest of the team respond tonight at the Gentile Center will help determine if they're a contender or a pretender for the rest of the season. On the other side, Loyola is looking for some momentum after a lost weekend. A three-game winning streak has quickly morphed into a three-game losing streak. This weekend is the final set of conference home games for the Ramblers too, though one of the roadies is at the Pavilion. So it's important that they secure the sweep.
Finally, Green Bay and UIC play tonight in what is assuredly going to be an excellent game. Vegas has the Flames as a two-point underdog, but they're playing at home and should have the momentum on their side. Of course the first time these two teams met didn't go so well for the Flames, who lost 74-50 in Green Bay. This is their chance to rebound.
It should be a great night! 
P.S. If you haven't seen this by Dave Woods of the Indianapolis Star about what Butler needs to do to draw the #2 seed, check it out.

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