Tag:Horizon League
Posted on: December 27, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:35 pm

Conference Reset

As well roll into January that can only mean one thing -- we're about to launch full swing into conference play.

For some teams, non-conference play was a wake-up call. Teams that many thought would easily stroll into the NCAA tournament come March will now have to pick up the pace in league play.

Through Jan. 5, the CBSSports.com college basketball crew will be putting the spotlight on every major league, letting you know what you may have missed and what do you need to watch out for going forward.

  • ACC
    The ACC is going to be great soon with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. But is it great right now? Not really. North Carolina remains a national title contender, Duke is Duke (despite Wednesday's loss at Temple) and Virginia is a surprise. But the league's other nine teams are either unproven or proven to be average or bad, and that's not a good look for a conference that prides itself on playing a high level of basketball. Read More >>
  • Atlantic 10
    For a while, it appeared the Atlantic 10 might finish without a conference champ. Xavier got off to a sizzling start with nine straight victories. Then came The Brawl -- followed by the Fall. Xavier suspended Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells after the fight with cross-town rival Cincinnati -- and it all fell apart. Chris Mack's team lost three of its next four, including setbacks to Oral Roberts and Hawaii, which gave hope to everyone else in the league. Now Rick Majerus' Saint Louis team, which has only one loss thus far, may have a shot. Temple has struggled at times, but the Owls could challenge. And Saint Joseph's finally appears back in contention after two brutal campaigns. Read More >>
  • Big 12
    The Big 12 title is up for grabs. Kansas has been king of the league for most of the past decade, but this season the Jayhawks look vulnerable. No one can match the talent and length of Scott Drew's Baylor squad, but the Bears haven't been the most impressive team in the conference thus far -- that honor belongs to Missouri and new coach Frank Haith. But don't count out Kansas State as long as Frank Martin has this group of somewhat anonymous Wildcats buying into his brand of basketball -- which means playing hard. Read More >>
  • Big East
    When compared to last season, the Big East might look down this year. It's not going to be in the mix for 10 or 11 NCAA tournament bids, and the bottom of the league is not very strong. With that said, don't underestimate the conference too much; it has at least three legitimate top 10 teams and six teams who should receive top-four seeds in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Big Ten
    How many teams can enter league play these days and legitimately say they have eight teams in the equation for an NCAA tournament bid? Probably just one, and that's the Big Ten. After Ohio State, there's plenty of depth in this conference, which has established itself as the premiere league in the country this season. Read More >>
  • Conference USA
    Though Memphis is a disappointment, it's still the best team in Conference USA by a wide margin. But don't take my word for it. Take Ken Pomeroy's. His invaluable site (KenPom.com) still has Memphis ranked 31st and projected to be favored in every game it plays the rest of the way. So that 8-5 record is likely to turn into something like 26-8 on Selection Sunday (barring serious injuries or notable suspensions, the latter of which is always a possibility at Memphis). So Memphis will win C-USA. The real question is whether C-USA can put two teams in the NCAA tournament. Read More >>
  • Horizon League
    It doesn't seem likely that the Horizon will produce a national finalist for the third year in a row, but that doesn't mean the conference has taken a huge fall. Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee have played well during non-conference play, and the league has had a few marquee clips against BCS-league teams. And what about Butler, the aforementioned two-time national finalist? The Bulldogs are turning things around as we enter conference play. But the rest of the league won't let Brad Stevens' troops waltz to a yet another Horizon title. Read More >>
  • Missouri Valley
    It's been a few years since the Valley was this good, even though the bottom part of this one (like most leagues) has a few bad teams. The race to win the league should be among four teams. For whatever reason, MVC clubs capture the hope of many in the tournament. Creighton, Northern Iowa, Bradley, Southern Illinois are all schools that have had big March moments. Two of the aforementioned can and should get into the Big Dance this year. Read More >>
  • Mountain West
    It's better than the Pac-12, and the case could be made it's the fourth-best collection of teams in college hoops. There isn't one group that's even flirting with .500. For a non-BCS conference, that's pretty unexpected and really good. And its success so far goes much deeper than Vegas' defeat of UNC back in November and Steve Fisher's insistence on looking like he teaches grad-level lit classes. Read More >>
  • Pac-12
    The Pac-12 has become the rebellious teenager that gets in its own way and is hurtling toward a life with no future. Here we are again having the same discussion we’ve been having the past few years. Nothing seems to be changing. This league is putrid yet again, and where’s the hope? Not an overstatement: Three Pac-12 teams making the NCAA tournament will be a genuine achievement. Read More >>
  • SEC
    Some fans take joy in the fact that John Calipari has never won a national title. If you're one of those, you might be in trouble. Kentucky really might do it this year. The Wildcats are big and strong and long and talented. They have shooters. They have shot-blockers. They've got everything you need to win a national championship, and they are, right now, the favorites out in Las Vegas. Read More >>
  • West Coast
    Outside of the six BCS-affiliated conferences, the No. 7 spot in league rankings is up for grabs. Why not the West Coast Conference? With three legitimate threats to win a game in the NCAA tournament, the WCC has as good of an argument as anyone. Moreover, with some of the non-conference wins the bottom half of the league picked up in November, the quality victories are there as well. Read More >>

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Posted on: May 17, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: May 17, 2011 10:47 am

Bryce Drew keeps family tradition alive at Valpo

Posted by Eric Angevine

It's not easy following a legend. Homer Drew is a legend. Starting in 1988, Drew spent his entire DI coaching career at Valparaiso University, taking the Crusaders to the NCAA tournament seven times in 22 seasons. In 1998, the team went to the Sweet 16. Things have been a little more difficult for Drew and his program in the new millennium, as the Butler Bulldogs have become an elite team since the formation of the Horizon League, but the Crusaders won 23 games in Homer's last season, and are a good bet to stay in the league's upper echelon in upcoming seasons.

That's because Valparaiso was able to replace Homer the legend with another legend, his son Bryce Drew. Reports out of Indianapolis say that Bryce will succeed his father as Valpo's head coach, with an announcement coming today. Bryce may not have the coaching resume his father compiled, but he has major cachet nonetheless. As a Valpo player, Bryce hit one of the most famous game-winning shots in the history of college hoops. He did it against Ole Miss in 1998; the amazing Sweet 16 season.

1998 might be ancient history to today's recruits, but that video speaks for itself. There's little doubt that an Indiana kid will know the name Bryce Drew, and that name recognition could go a long ways toward keeping Valpo from sliding much - if at all - during this historic passing of the torch. Bryce also has someone he might occasionally turn to for advice, if Dad is busy fishing or something. His older brother Scott Drew coached Valpo for one season in 2002-03 before taking over at Baylor. Apparently the year off did Homer Drew some good, as he came back the following year and kept the Drew lineage intact long enough for Bryce to gain the necessary experience to succeed him.

Keeping the Drew family line going at Valpo is good for the school, and good for the Horizon League. While Butler is clearly the league strongman, the overall profile of the conference is bouyed by a tradition of tough opponents at Cleveland State and Valparaiso. Milwaukee has been an off-and-on powerhouse as well, and won the regular-season title in 2011. Wright State is often a contender, and Detroit is playing a very quick game of catch-up with coach Ray McCallum bringing in his extremely talented son, Ray, Jr. and adding 6-foot-6 Baylor transfer Nolan Dennis (per my soon-to-be colleague Jeff Goodman).

The Horizon League has an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the WCC, where Gonzaga's success helped bring St. Mary's into the national spotlight, and made a move to the league attractive for BYU as well. Not bad for a league very few fans east of the Rocky Mountains had heard of ten years ago. Keeping Valpo strong keeps the Horizon League strong, and hiring Bryce Drew was a great way to keep positive momentum rolling at one school, and therefore in the entire conference.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 3:33 pm

Butler may not make it back to the Big Dance

Posted by Eric Angevine

I differ (respectfully) with some other college hoops pundits. I don't think a team ceases to be a mid-major once it wins a few games in the NCAA tournament. Very few teams -- Gonzaga and Memphis leap to mind -- gain enough of a foothold on the national consciousness to keep casual fans interested year in and year out, and few can marshal the talent and money required to repeat their success. Read any national stories about George Mason recently? How about Davidson? Once national darlings, those programs have entered the province of long-term memory, while short-term memory holds on to the Big Six conferences as usual.

So, where does that leave Butler (9-4)? Butler has been a consistent winner over the past decade , making the NCAA tournament field seven times out of the Horizon League. In '03, '07 and '09, the Bulldogs failed to win the conference tournament but joined the field as At Large contenders, aided by RPI numbers of 76, 27 and 24, respectively.

Last night's 24-point loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee leaves a great deal of doubt about Butler's ability to win the Horizon this year. The RPI is still top-notch, sitting at 18 right now, and nobody would ding the Bulldogs for losing to Duke on a "neutral" court or at Louisville, but the home loss to Evansville is looking more like a canary in a coal mine every day. Just last week, Butler looked great in beating Florida State and Washington State to win the Diamond Head Classic. Then the Seminoles dropped a stinker at Auburn and the Cougars lost their first two Pac-10 contests. Those good wins are losing value by the day, and the bad losses hang around.

Make no mistake, Milwaukee (8-7) has been a decent program, but the Panthers are hardly the toughest opponent Butler will face in the Horizon this season. Real danger lurks in the form of Cleveland State , a team that handled Milwaukee 82-59 on the way to a 4-0 record in the conference. Gary Parrish is right, the Vikes aren't poll-worthy just yet , but they have the most reliable defense in the Horizon, having held every opponent but West Virginia and Wisconsin-Green Bay below 70 this season. The Vikings won the auto-bid in 2009 and famously upset Wake Forest to move on to the second round. They'll get a shot at the national runners-up on Friday in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Wright State, Valparaiso and Detroit are all 2-1 in the league right now, and must feel emboldened by the inconsistency of the conference bully. Most intriguing of those three may be Detroit , which is thriving under the auspices of the Ray McCallum father/son picnic. McCallum, Sr. has coached the Titans since 2008, and had a nice 20-win season in Butler's shadow last year. This season, however, his son, Ray, Jr. has joined the team as a freshman point guard. The kid is considered to be a future NBA player, and he has a decent supporting cast, so those meetings should be circled on Horizon-watchers' calendars as well.

Winning the regular season is a big deal in the Horizon, which awards a league tournament double-bye and home court advantage in the quarters and semifinals to the top two finishers from league play. The final game of the conference tourney is held on the home court of the top remaining seed. If Butler can't make it into that top two, they will have very little shot at winning the auto-bid. The team's performances in the non-conference season won't serve to bail them out this time.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com