Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:17 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:23 pm

Tiny Dancers: Detroit

Talk about validation for Little Ray. 

Everyone questioned Ray McCallum's decision to spurn the big boys -- UCLA and Arizona included -- to play for his dad in the Horizon for Detroit. 

However, the father-son duo just got the Titans into the NCAA tournament after an upset over top-seeded Valparaiso in the hostile confines of the 5,000-seat Athletics-Recreation Center. 

The win got Detroit into the Big Dance for the first time since 1999 and also snapped a five-game losing skid against the Crusaders.

McCallum finished with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists in the semifinal win over Cleveland State and had 19 in the victory against Valpo. 

But this team has more than just Little Ray. Senior guard Chase Simon helps on the perimeter and the Titans have a couple of legitimate bigs in LaMarcus Lowe and Eli Holman, the Indiana transfer who comes off the bench. 

Ray McCallum and his father led Detroit to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999. (US Presswire)

Player to know: Ray McCallum - Little Ray opted to play for his dad despite having offers from plenty of high-major programs. The sophomore point guard had a terrific season, averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists per game this season. He's led the team in scoring, assists and steals both years in college. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 22-13 overall, 11-7 in Horizon
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 1999
  • We’re thinking: 14
  • KenPom ranking: 131
  • Sagarin ranking: 133
  • RPI: 136
  • Best wins: Cleveland State, Butler (twice)
  • Worst losses: UIC, Youngstown State
  • Notable stat:  Ray McCallum is in his third head coaching gig. He was 126-76 in seven seasons at Ball State, spent four years at Houston (44-73 mark) and is in his fourth season at Detroit. 

-- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:24 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 11:25 am

Horizon title game preview: Valpo vs. Detroit

It's been a magical ride thus far for Valparaiso's first-year head coach Bryce Drew. Drew took over for his father, Homer, after last season and the Crusaders were tabbed fifth in the Horizon preseason poll. However, led by league Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff, Valpo has a chance to earn an automatic bid Wednesday night at 9 p.m. with a win over third-seeded Detroit.

The Crusaders won the regular-season title and thus, earned the right to have the league tourney championship contest on its campus at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo got 19 points and 16 boards from Boekhoff and dominated on the glass to knock off Brad Stevens and Butler, 65-46. Detroit is the highest-scoring team in the league and is led by its star point guard Ray McCallum (aka Little Ray), who just happens to be the son of the coach.

McCallum was dominant in the semifinals -- with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists in a 63-58 win over Cleveland State. The Titans will try and snap a streak of five consecutive losses over the past two seasons to Valparaiso -- and will also try and earn their first NCAA tournament bid since 1999.

Drew, who made that magical shot as a player for the program back in 1998 to knock off Ole Miss, will try and get Valpo back dancing for the first time since 2004.

-- Jeff Goodman
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 26, 2012 9:03 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:08 pm

What-to-know conference previews: Horizon

Brad Stevens and his national darlings at Butler will need to run the table and win four consecutive games in seven days to get back to the Big Dance.

The Bulldogs have made two straight improbable appearances in the national title game, but now the odds are stacked against them as Stevens & Co., which has lost Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack over the past two years, earned the No. 5 seed in this year's league tourney.

Valparaiso and first-year head coach Bryce Drew earned the top spot by virtue of going 14-4 in league play this season. The Crusaders, led by Player of the Year candidate Ryan Broekhoff, will host the second round and semifinals on March 2-3 and would also host the championship game -- if it gets that far.

But there are several teams that could make a run at Valpo. Cleveland State was in control of the league at one point before stumbling late in the season, but Gary Waters' team still earned the double-bye. Detroit has Ray "Little Ray" McCallum and tied with a Milwaukee team that comes in on a four-game winning streak for third place.

Then you've got Butler - which doesn't have a star this year or enough offense, but you can't ever count out a Stevens-coached team. Not after what he's done the past two years. 

Title game: Tuesday, March 6 on ESPN (9 p.m. ET)



  1. Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso
  2. Ray McCallum, Detroit
  3. Alec Brown, Green Bay
  4. Kendrick Perry, Youngstown
  5. Trevor Harmon, Cleveland State

Conference RPI: 14

KenPom.com rating: 15

Sagarin rating: 12

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances: 

  • Butler Bulldogs: 2011, 8 seed, lost to UConn 53-41 in the national championship game
  • Cleveland State Vikings: 2009, No. 13 seed, an 84-69 win over Wake Forest in the first round followed by an 71-57 loss to Arizona in the second round
  • Detroit Titans: 1999, No. 12 seed, an 56-53 win over UCLA in the first round followed by an 75-44 loss to Ohio State in the second round
  • Illinois-Chicago Flames: 2004, No. 13 seed, an 78-53 loss to Kansas in the first round
  • Loyola-Chicago Rambers: 1985, No. 4 seed, an 59-58 win over Iona in the first round, followed by an 70-57 win over SMU in the second round, followed by a 65-53 loss to Georgetown
  • Valparaiso Crusaders: 2004, 15 seed, an 76-49 loss to Gonzaga in the first round (as a member of the Mid-Continent Conference) 
  • Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix: 1996, No. 8 seed, an 61-48 loss to Virginia Tech in the first round
  • Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers: 2006, No. 11 seed, an 82-74 win over Oklahoma in the first round followed by an 82-60 loss to Florida in the second round
  • Wright State Raiders: 2007, No. 14 seed, an 79-58 loss to Pittsburgh in the first round
  • Youngstown State Penguins: N/A

- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2011 11:25 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 11:32 pm

Welcome BACK to the Dance, Butler Bulldogs

Matt Howard was not fazed by Milwaukee's fansYep, Butler's back. Like you thought they wouldn't be after Gonzaga won the WCC. It's just that kind of season. Tonight's 59-44 win at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, following a big win over Cleveland State, means the Bulldogs came through the league's leaders to prove they belonged once again. 

Player to know: Matt Howard. His line of 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block was impressive enough, but the most dangerous number the senior put up tonight was 3. Just three personal fouls for the big fella, who has always been his own worst enemy in that respect. Shelvin Mack threw in 14 points on 5-10 shooting from the floor as well.

The Vitals:

Record: 23-9, 13-5 Horizon

Team colors: Blue and white

We’re thinking: 12-seed

KenPom ranking: 60

RPI: 37

Best win: Florida State (21-9)

Worst loss: Youngstown State (9-21)

Notable stat: Butler is one of the nation's best defensive rebounding clubs, ranked 14th in the nation by kenpom.com.

Most recent tournament history: In case you were under a rock, Butler came within a fraction of an inch of beating Duke for the national championship. Do you get gas heat or electric under that stone? Is there enough parking?

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:09 pm

Butler vs Milwaukee: A Horizon final preview

The Horizon League final tips off on Tuesday night between two extremely talented teams who shared the conference regular season championship. Milwaukee and Butler tied in the regular season, but thanks to a tiebreaker, the game will be held on Milwaukee’s home court, providing a tremendous advantage for the Panthers. After defeating the Bulldogs twice already this season, Milwaukee seeks the season sweep and a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five seasons. 

Milwaukee (19-12, 13-5) comes into the game as the host and the winner of both regular season battles. Still yet, they are also seen as the underdog in most people’s minds. The Panthers finished the season strong, winners of 9 of their final 10 games and finishing with a flourish that took the team from an overall losing record into a tie for the conference championship. The Panthers are led by Anthony Hill, a senior forward who took advantage of increased playing time in his final season to lead the team to its strong finish. Hill is averaging 15.6 points and 7 rebounds a game and has found particular success against Butler. In both games versus the Bulldogs this season, Hill has dominated the interior, averaging 20 points and propelling his team to victory. However because of Butler's recent NCAA tournament success and Milwaukee's struggles early in the season, most consider the Bulldogs to be the favorite, even on the Panthers' home court.

Butler came into the season with the highest of expectations. After its Cinderella run to the national championship game last season, the Bulldogs were expected by many to be one of the dominant powers in the country and stay in the Top 25 all season. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Butler was never able to take advantage of its difficult early non-conference schedule and at no point has looked like the team that dazzled the nation last season. However the Bulldogs are playing their best basketball of the season when it matters most. They have won 8 straight and are getting consistent performances from their two stars, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. Now it comes time to get over the hump and beat a Milwaukee team that exploited Butler's defensive woes in their two earlier meetings. The loss at home in Hinkle Fieldhouse to the Panthers means that this game will be played in Milwaukee. Even if Butler loses, it could potentially sneak into the NCAA field, probably as one of the last four in the play-in games in Dayton. But a victory makes the NCAA berth automatic and gives the Bulldogs a chance to get a seed that can create some more March magic.

There will probably be no more competitive game in Championship Week between two talented teams with more at stake than Butler and Milwaukee. Both are capable of beating any team in America on a given night, but neither is certain to make the NCAA Tournament with a loss. Butler will have to do something it has rarely had to attempt in the past few years, win a conference tournament championship away from home. Milwaukee will seek to make history with a team that looked unsalvageable just a little more than a month ago. It should be quite a memorable battle.

HORIZON tournament bracket

Posted by MATT JONES

Posted on: February 28, 2011 6:17 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 4:57 pm

Horizon League Tournament Preview

Nowhere in the country is the margin between good fortune and bad luck thinner than in the Horizon League. The first conference tournament in America to kick off also gives us one of the more unique scenarios in Championship Week. Three teams have stood out above the pack all season in conference play, Milwaukee, Butler and Cleveland State. All three finished with a 13-5 conference record and thus each took a share of the conference title. However due to the tiebreaking process and the vagaries of the Horizon Tournament seeding, Milwaukee and Butler will get a two-round bye into the tournament’s semifinals.

The decision to switch to the new format of seeding, in which the best teams are given a better chance of actually representing the conference in the NCAA Tournament is part of a trend we are seeing all around the smaller tournaments in college basketball. And normally it makes sense, as the best teams usually have a distinct advantage over their opponents. But this year, when all three of the top teams finished the regular season tied, it seems downright cruel.

The No. 1 seed in the tournament is Milwaukee and it will have home court advantage throughout the proceedings. The Panthers came into conference play reeling at 5-7, after taking a number of embarrassing losses. But after losing on the road to Valparaiso, Milwaukee reeled off 9 wins in its last 10 games, finding a rhythm based upon the balanced scoring of its entire team. The Panthers are led by Anthony Hill and Tone Boyle, but in each game a different player has stepped up to help steal big victories, such as on the road against Butler and Cleveland State. The most important thing Milwaukee did the entire season was win the tiebreaker at the end, ensuring that a win in the semifinals will keep the Panthers from having to travel to Indianapolis for a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Even thought it is the No. 2 seed overall, some experts are still predicting that Butler could sneak into the NCAA Tournament field as an at-large (I disagree). The Bulldogs have been largely disappointing, but have two of the three best players in the conference in Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. Butler has risen from the ashes with seven straight wins to play its way into a number of mock brackets. Because of the bye it receives, it will likely face a semifinal game against Cleveland State that could determine its NCAA fate.

Cleveland State is the unlucky team without the bye, but it does have the advantage of potentially being the best overall team with the best overall player in the conference. Norris Cole is a dynamic scorer, averaging 21.6 points a game and he finished the season on a flurry. He scored 27 points or more in 4 of the last 6 games and has become unguardable by his Horizon League opponents. If the Vikings are to win the tournament, they will likely need to beat both Butler and Milwaukee on the road, after two games against lesser opponents at home. It will be a tall order.

Both Valparaiso and Detroit could play the role of spoiler and each has victories over the top three in the conference. Neither can win the overall title, but both could beat Milwaukee in the semifinals.

PREDICTION:  The winner of Butler-Cleveland State will have to overcome the Horizon tiebreaker and win on the road in Milwaukee. Because both teams are better than the Panthers, whichever one makes the final, makes the NCAA Tournament. 


  1. Norris Cole:  Cleveland State
  2. Shelvin Mack: Butler
  3. Matt Howard: Butler

Conference RPI:  11

Kenpom.com Conference Rating:  11

Sagarin Conference Ranking: 10


NCAA Tournament Locks:  None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams:  Butler 

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

Milwaukee: 2006 (lost to Florida in 2nd Round)

Butler:  2010 (lost in National Championship to Duke)

Cleveland State: 2009 (lost to Arizona in 2nd Round)

Valparaiso: 2004 (lost in first round to Gonzaga)

Detroit: 1999 (lost in 2nd round to Ohio State)

Wright State: 2007 (lost in first round to Pittsburgh)

Green Bay: 1996 (lost in first round to Virginia Tech)

Loyola: 1985 (lost in Sweet 16 to Georgetown)

Youngstown State: Never been to NCAA Tournament

Illinois-Chicago: 2004 (lost in first round to Kansas)

Posted by MATT JONES

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Category: NCAAB
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