Whoosh! Net News

News, notes and observations from around the Horizon League


The UIC Flames wrapped up a successful 21-9 season with an appearance in the NIT last month, but there’s a lot of excitement in the months to come with the national signing period approaching.

UIC ended the season with an RPI of 80—third-best in the Horizon, behind Butler, which was 29th, and Wisconsin-Milwuakee, which was 49th. Butler and UWM represented the league in the NCAA tournament.

Other Horizon teams of note, included Detroit at No. 118 and Loyola at No. 161. The numbers are from the Collegiate Basketball News Company, based in Carmel, Ind.

DAWGS IN FINAL TOP 25: It took a trip into the NCAA’s Sweet 16, but Butler finally earned respect from the nation’s college basketball coaches by earning a spot in the final ESPN/USA Today Top 25. The Bulldogs (27-6) were No. 21, getting 133 points.

Butler was one spot behind Stanford and one ahead of Missouri. Ironically enough, Louisville, which finished 25-7 and lost to Butler in the second round of the NCAA tournament, was 19th.

GREEN HONORED: Detroit guard Willie Green was named as Honorable Mention All-American. Green was also the Horizon League Player of the Year and led the league in scoring.

Like his former teammate, Jermaine Jackson, Green has a legitimate shot at making an NBA roster, because of his size and scoring ability.

THREE TO SHOW OFF: UWM’s Clay Tucker, Butler’s Joel Cornette and Detroit’s Green will play in the Portsmouth Invitational, one of the premier NBA pre-draft events. Tucker and Cornette will play together on the Norfolk Sports Club.

Former UIC star Sherell Ford was the MVP at a similar camp (in Arizona) in 1995, which inspired Seattle to select him in the first round of that year’s NBA Draft.

NEW WRIGHT STATE COACH: The Raiders named Paul Biancardi as their new head coach last week. Biancardi served 13 years as an assistant under Jim O’Brien at Boston College and Ohio State, including the last six with the Buckeyes.

Biancardi replaces Ed Schilling, who was dismissed after six years at Wright State. Biancardi does have a least one key returning starter in First-Team All-Horizon forward Seth Doliboa.

CLEVELAND STATE STILL LOOKING: IUPUI coach Ron Hunter, who had been considered a top candidate to replace Rollie Massimino at Cleveland State, decided to stay with the Jaguars after taking them to the NCAA tournament for the first time. IUPUI defeated Valparaiso in the Mid-Continent Conference title game before losing to Kentucky in the “Big Dance.”

FORMER UWGB COACHES: Former Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Mike Heideman rejoined Dick Bennett at Washington State. Heideman, a former MCC Coach of the Year with the Phoenix, was an assistant under Scott Drew at Valparaiso last season.

SIGHT SEEN: Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone was seen sitting on press row behind the IUPUI bench in its NCAA tournament game with Kentucky in Nashville, Tenn. on Friday, March 21.

His appearance raises a couple of questions: Is he interested in having IUPUI join the Horizon League, or was it just a coincidence? Also, since LeCrone is starting a term on the NCAA tournament selection committee next year, was he there just scouting and mingling with NCAA brass?

FINALLY: During my experience of covering the Horizon League tournament last month in Milwaukee, the league’s director of basketball operations and associate commissioner Bob Lovell tried to sell me on the idea of the current tournament format.

Admittedly, I was a little cool to the idea, because I liked to see all of the teams come together for a traditional tournament. I liked the fact that you might see a grand upset like Wisconsin-Green Bay knocking off Butler last year or Wright State slaying Xavier in 1995. I also liked seeing the fans of each team come in with their fight song and various cheers. It was like a convention, so to speak.

After some thought, the new format isn’t all that bad. The top two teams get the byes to the semifinals, so it rewards regular season success. It also avoids having those top two teams from playing a “weaker” team in an early round, so their RPI won’t get dragged down and they have better chance for an at-large bid if they lose in the semifinals or championship.

In addition, the championship game looked great on television with 10,000 fans in attendance. And the conference loves multiple NCAA tournament bids, so in this format, multiple bids are more likely.

Basically, I’m warming up to the new format, but still long for a tournament that has every team at the same site.

In other recent news:
ALUMNI UPDATE: Ford and Miller find success overseas (4/03/03)
Butler does Horizon League proud (plus recruiting update) (3/28/03)
Flames' recruiting update (3/26/03)
FORMER FLAME UPDATE: Hallberg, Brown, Solverson (3/21/03)
Comeback effort falls short, season over for UIC (3/19/03)
Off to Kalamazoo: Flames brace for Western Michigan (3/18/03)
Flames invited to "Little Dance" for first time (3/17/03)
UWM whips Butler, gains automatic NCAA bid; Flames await call from NIT (3/11/03)
Flames fizzle down the stretch, repeat NCAA bid likely squashed (3/09/03)
Flames slaughter Penguins, UWM up next (3/07/03)
YSU-UIC set to clash in Horizon tourney (3/06/03)
Youngstown State snaps road streak, UIC up next (3/04/03)
Trio of Flames honored by Horizon League (3/03/03)
Flames get 20th victory (3/02/03)
Carr drives stake through Loyola's heart (2/28/03)
Here we go again: Brother vs. Brother, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2/26/03)
ALUMNI UPDATE: Notree a CBA star (2/24/03)