Ray McCallum, J.J. Moore, James Robinson

Horizon League Conference Tournament Preview

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The Horizon League will take on a bit of a different look this season, as Butler left the conference for the Atlantic 10 this past summer. The top two seeds — Valparaiso and Detroit, in this case — will still have a double-bye into the semifinals, but now, since there are only nine teams in the league, the three-seed Wright State will have a first-round bye, taking on the winner of the 6-7 game.

Valpo and Detroit are the leagues two best teams, and I don’t think many would complain about a rematch between those two in the final. The split this season, with the road team winning both games after wild, second half comebacks. Wright State was picked to finish last in the preseason, but the Raiders ended up finishing tied third in the Horizon League standings, which earned head coach Billy Donlon Coach of the Year honors. Green Bay, the four-seed, tied with WSU for third, but they may end up being the more dangerous team in the tournament thanks to a pair of all-league players in sophomore Keifer Sykes and junior seven-footer Alec Brown.

One other team to keep an eye on is Youngstown State. They finished 7-9 in league play, but they won at Georgia and at George Washington in November. But their star Kendrick Perry is battling a knee injury he suffered in practice Feb. 20th. He’s doubtful for their first round game.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: First round hosted at the higher seed, the quarters and semis hosted by the No. 1 seed, and the final to be played at the highest remaining seed.

When: March 5, 8-9, 12

Final: March 12, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Favorite: Valparaiso

The Crusaders were the best team in the Horizon League this season, winning 14 of their last 16 regular season games — including a 22 point pounding of Eastern Kentucky in BracketBusters — after a loss to Loyola (IL) in their conference opener. Valpo is led by a pair of forwards in Ryan Broekhoff (15.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), the 2012 Horizon League Player of the Year, and Kevin Van Wjik (12.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Valpo has been the most efficient and best shooting team in the conference during league play, which should continue as they play every game on their home floor.

And if they lose?: Detroit is the most talented team in the conference, but also the most enigmatic. Ray McCallum (19.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 5.2 rpg) was the league’s Player of the Year and is the kind of dynamic, athletic point guard that doesn’t often end up in the Horizon League. Throw in Doug Anderson’s acrobatics and the now-healthy Nick Minnerath (15.1 ppg), and the Titans have plenty of weapons offensively that thrive in their uptempo style. But will they defend well enough in March? Detroit was 177th nationally in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom.

Sleepers: Wright State surprised the league this season by playing the best defense in the conference and controlling the pace of the game. Given the history of the head coaches at Wright State, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Green Bay has some talent on the roster, but they got worked by Valpo twice, who they are scheduled to meet in the semis should they get that far.


Doug Anderson, Detroit: Ray McCallum is the star, the coach’s son and the former top 75 recruit, but Anderson is the Horizon’s must-see TV. This is why.

Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State: He’s the conference’s second-leading scorer (16.9 ppg), leader in steals (2.0 spg), an the biggest reason why the Penguins can make a run.

Kiefer Sykes, Green Bay: Alec Brown gets the attention because he’s 7-foot-0, but the 5-foot-11 sophomore point guard (15.4 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.2 rpg) is the best player for the Pheonix.

CBT Prediction: Detroit upsets Valpo in a thrilling title game.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
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Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.