March Madness is officially upon us as the Horizon League Championship begins on Tuesday evening with a trio of games at campus sites. I figured I'd sit down and predict my thoughts on how the tournament would play out, but first I looked back on my preseason predictions.
I nailed 80 percent of the Horizon League First Team and completely whiffed on the Second Team. I'm guessing I spelled Lavonte Dority's name wrong when I typed Keith Carter into my ballot.
I had the top three teams correct in the preseason ballot, though I did switch the order of Cleveland State and Wright State. I wanted to vote the Vikings No. 1 overall, but I flinched at the last second. I was way off on Youngstown State and Milwaukee. I had the Penguins at fourth overall and the Panthers in the basement. I was close enough on Valparaiso, Detroit and UIC.
What I learned from looking back at my preseason predictions is that I don't know any more about this league than you do. That said, follow along for my guide through the Horizon League tournament. While I'm confident in who will advance, I can't say everything that follows will actually happen.
Tuesday, Mar. 4
No. 6 Oakland 85, No. 7 Youngstown State 83
* It doesn't take long for us to get our first buzzer-beater in the tournament. Kendrick Perry hits a shot with 4.2 seconds left to give the Penguins an 83-82 lead, but Duke Mondy hits a shot to give the Grizzlies the apparent victory. The only problem is that the clock never starts and the refs are forced to go to the monitor. Kampe is livid as the refs wave off the shot and rule a do-over. Travis Bader responds by burying a 3-pointer at the buzzer while screaming "Kendrick, I am your father!"
No. 8 Detroit 67, No. 5 Milwaukee 55
* Juwan Howard Jr. is just too good for the Panthers at the Cell. Howard drops 32 points, including 14 straight in the second half while Jordan Aaron struggles in his final game, shooting just 3-of-16. Matt Tiby continues his season-long banter with the opposition by screaming "you're just a freshmen" to every player he encounters. Jimmy Lemke (@PantherU) hits send on a 2,325 word blog post the moment the game ends and every word is gold.
No. 4 Valparaiso 78, No. 9 UIC 64
* Lavonte Dority and Hayden Humes trade baskets throughout the night until Dority rolls his ankle midway through the second half. Keith Carter takes over and scores 18 points in the final 7:35 of the game and screams "We're just getting started" as he bounces off the floor. Moussa Gueye and Vashil Fernandez combine for 12 blocks.
Friday, Mar. 7
No. 3 Wright State 49, No. 6 Oakland 41
* The Raiders hound Bader from the moment the game starts, but Kampe keeps drawing up plays for his senior guard. Kahlil Felder is forced into eight turnovers by Wright State's defense and AJ Pacher provides just enough offense for the Raiders to advance. Hours after the game Kampe is seen in the stands muttering "there is still good in him, I can feel it."
No. 4 Valparaiso 68, No. 8 Detroit 65
* Alec Peters delivers a game-winning 3-pointer with just 20 seconds left in the game. The Titans have a final chance to win, but Keith Carter, playing all 40 minutes, steals an inbounds pass and hits two free throws to ice the victory.
Saturday, Mar. 8
No. 2 Cleveland State 68, No. 3 Wright State 62
* Anton Grady drops 23 points and 12 rebounds while the Vikings lead wire-to-wire over Wright State. The Raiders cut the deficit to three in the final minutes, but Charlie Lee goes 7-for-7 from the free throw line in the final 90 seconds to clinch the win.
No. 1 Green Bay 73, No. 4 Valparaiso 58
* Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes combine for 48 points and the Crusaders can never get on track in their third game in five days. Moussa Gueye alters seven shots in the game, but is credited with 0 blocks while Brown gets 11 blocks despite the Crusaders never driving toward the big man.
Tuesday, Mar. 11
No. 2 Cleveland State 76, No. 1 Green Bay 71
* Brown gets into early foul trouble and Trey Lewis hits five 3-pointers in the first half to give the Vikings a 43-28 halftime lead. Sykes puts the team on his back in the second half, but falls just short after he suffers a dislocated shoulder on an alley-oop attempt. Lee's free throws ice the game and Gary Waters dances into the night.