Creighton left the Missouri Valley Conference to join the Catholic 7, Xavier and Butler to form the new Big East. To fill that void the MVC acquired Loyola (Ill.) from the Horizon League. And now the Horizon League found Loyola’s replacement in Oakland University.
“Oakland University is the perfect fit at the perfect time for the Horizon League,” Commissioner Jonathan B. LeCrone in a statement. “They bring a well-respected and growing athletics program and we are adding a university that is aspirational. We look forward to working with President Gary Russi, Athletics Director Tracy Huth and his staff on behalf of the student-athletes. This is an exciting beginning to our external growth plan.”
“Oakland University is pleased to be the newest member of the Horizon League,” added Russi. “The universities in this conference are strong academically and they value the student-athlete experience. Oakland fits well with them and we look forward to being part of their tradition of excellence.”
The move makes sense for Oakland geographically in addition to athletics.
“Moving to the Horizon allows us to associate and compete with institutions with outstanding academic profiles and values,” said Huth. “They value the experience of the student-athlete. It also gives us the opportunity to play University of Detroit Mercy on a regular basis for some spirited Metro Detroit competition.”
Oakland finished 16-17 (10-6 Summit League) this past season, ending the 2012-2013 campaign in the first round of the CBI. The Golden Grizzlies did have a key win over conference foe South Dakota State on Feb. 9.
Oakland joins the Horizon League that had three teams win 20 or more games this year with Valparaiso earning the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid.
Oakland has made tournament appearances in 2005, 2011 and 2012.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.