Tempo-free Horizon League: Staring down the barrel

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Well the Horizon League regular season is almost over. Teams have played between 14-16 games in conference. Of course conference leader, standings wise, Valparaiso is one of those teams that has played 14. At 11-3 their schedule breaks pretty favorably. The only difficult game remaining is at Milwaukee on Wednesday. Win that and the Crusaders are probably a lock for the #1 seed in the Horizon League tournament.

But that game against Milwaukee is going to be a fascinating one. All of a sudden the Panthers are playing much better basketball. While a full-season look at their statistics suggests that Rob Jeter's squad has a record two games better than their actual performance, lately that hasn't been the case. In four of Milwaukee's last five games they've held their opponent under a point per possession on defense. KenPom currently gives the Crusaders a 53% chance of victory at U.S. Cellular Arena. It should be a great game.
Another game on Wednesday that could have a big impact on tournament seeding? Cleveland State at Wright State. The Vikings are still the highest rated team in the league according to efficiency margins, but they would almost certainly drop to the #3 seed and miss out on the double bye if they lost to the Raiders. Butler is charging hard, and with three winnable games remaining the Bulldogs are a serious threat. Cleveland State has a 56% chance of going on the road and getting that much needed win.

Team - Efficiency Margin in Conference:

  1. Cleveland State: +0.12
  2. Valparaiso: +0.08
  3. Butler: +0.08
  4. Wright State: +0.04
  5. Milwaukee: +0.02
  6. Detroit: +0.01
  7. Green Bay: -0.01
  8. Loyola: -0.02
  9. UIC: -0.11
  10. Youngstown State: -0.15
Superlatives in Conference:
Best Offense: Butler
Worst Offense: Youngstown State
Best Defense: Valparaiso
Worst Defense: Youngstown State
Luckiest: Milwaukee is 1.7 wins ahead of pace, Valparaiso is 1 win ahead of pace
Unluckiest: UIC is 1.3 wins behind pace, Loyola is 1.2 wins behind pace
Bullet Notes:
  • The numbers look really bad for Youngstown State, but I still think the Penguins are dangerous. Look for them to maybe squeak out a win on Thursday, February 24 against Green Bay.
  • Butler's top ranked offense is dependent on its ability to hit shots. A cold shooting night sometime is going to hurt the Bulldogs. Their fifth ranked defense is mostly based on grabbing lots of defensive rebounds. Butler ranks 9th in the conference in eFG% allowed and in opponent TO%.
  • Loyola holds the dubious distinction of being the worst shooting team and allowing opponents to shoot the best during conference play. That's the Ramblers' problem in a nutshell. They have held opponents to the lowest free throw rate during conference play.
  • UIC ranks last in turnovers and turnovers forced. The Flames rank first in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage.
How did I figure those all out? The absolutely awesome new "Conference Only" checkbox on the team pages on Ken Pomeroy's site. I highly recommend you check it out.

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