Tag Archives: Wright State Raiders

For Cleveland State, Next Year Has Arrived (But Not For Everybody)

The Cleveland State men’s basketball season, the first for head coach Dennis Felton, has finally come to its end. At this stage, most CSU fans have just resided themselves watching the future, which clearly rests on the shoulders of sophomores Kash Thomas and Evan Clayborne and freshmen Tyree Appleby and Stefan Kenic, rather than hope the present would get any better.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the off-season: The Vikings got hot at Motor City Madness. All the way to the final game.

CSU, for its part, could have just rested on the first-round win over Youngstown State, which, of course, was a grind until the very end. The long odds and shot turnaround time from the victory against the Penguins would make any Vikings fan skeptical of beating Northern Kentucky, which had bested CSU by double digits twice in the regular season, let alone get to the final game.

But yet, there the Vikings were, fighting through nail-biter after nail-biter. And for the third year in a row, the top seed at the Horizon League Tournament failed to win the whole thing. And for the second year, the No. 1 seed inexplicably lost to the winner of the 8-9 first round game.

This year’s victim was Northern Kentucky, who, aside from getting swept by Wright State, had been pretty well-set at the top of the conference standings. And as for Cleveland State, the Norse had no issues dispatching of the Vikings twice in the regular season, with both contests won by at least 15 points.

CSU dismissed those early-season setbacks and ran headlong into the defending champions with no fear. The end result was a nine-point Cleveland State win, and Appleby was the star. The All-Freshmen team selection was unconscious in the second half, finishing with a game-high 24 points and putting all conference foes on notice that he’d be a force to be reckoned with for the next three years.

The ugly defensive slugfest against Oakland that was finally settled with 32.4 second left. That’s when Appleby stared down the Horizon League’s top shot-blocking squad and dropped a baseline layup.

And when that was through, senior Kenny Carpenter, whose 14 second-half points proved to be key, locked down Kendrick Nunn, the conference player of the year, and kept his final shot from getting in the basket, leaving Cleveland State with an astounding 44-43 win.

Even though Wright State proved to be too much for the Vikings in the finals, handing CSU a 74-57 defeat en route to a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, the foundation, it appears, has been laid.

For the Cleveland State fans that took the wait-and-see approach with Felton in his inaugural campaign, the Motor City Madness run was an early payoff to their patience. And CSU, who did everything within its power to get fans to Little Caesars Arena, can now think about how to expound upon this late-season success.

There will be far greater expectations for both the on-court performance and fan enthusiasm. Even with six departing seniors, Felton will still return two full-time starters (Appleby and Kenic), one former starter turned sixth man (Thomas), Clayborne, Dontel Highsmith and Shawn Christian.

Add into the mix DePaul transfer Algevon Eichelberger, fall signees Rashad Williams and Deante “Spider” Johnson, plus Dibaji Walker, Seth Milner, Uros Plavsic and JUCO transfer Jalaam Hill, who are all expected to join CSU during the spring signing period. With the general consensus being that this is the most talented recruiting class in a long time, Felton will have to get them all adjusted to the Division I game quickly.

One sign he may get a chance to get the team on the same page quicker than, say, midway through the non-conference schedule, is the pending trip to Europe. Men’s basketball has already started the fundraising effort to get the $20,000 in funds to make that trip a reality. And with $4,635 already banked from CSU’s annual Giving Day event in February, it’s only a matter of time before the team gets the rest of the funds and can start packing their bags.

From a fan standpoint, Athletics must take a good, hard look at the effort put in during the conference tourney and parlay that into a plan to boost attendance at the Wolstein Center. The smart move would be to keep the summer social media push (which featured weekly videos and the blitz on Twitter involving the mascot, Magnus) going year-round.

The logical first stop? Spring signing day. After all, all the new recruits are on Twitter, along with Thomas, Appleby, Highsmith and Clayborne. The chatter between all of them in the off-season will be something to watch.

So, as the title implies, next year has arrived, but not for everybody. For the seniors, next year is here in the form of new adventures, both on the court and off, after graduation. For the underclassmen and recruits, next year comes in the form of getting to know each other and the prospect of making 20-loss seasons a thing of the past.

For the coaches, next year comes in the form of the spring signing period, along with taking a good, hard look at the recruiting class of 2019 and beyond. For the fans, next year comes in the form of, well, beating each other up on social media and the CSU Viking Hoops message board run by writer Tom Mieskoski.

For me and this column, however, there is no next year.

In January, I made the decision to stop the CSU column I have written since May 2014, starting at the now-defunct More Than a Fan: Cleveland and continuing here at Campus Pressbox in March 2016. It’s been a good run, but as they say, all good things must come to an end.

Sure, you’ll still see me break out the occasional Twitter rant, but as far as this column is concerned, that’s a wrap. There’s still plenty of news and views about Cleveland State out there, starting with Mieskoski’s Cleveland State Hoops site and including upstarts like 216 Sports and The Reserve News. You’d do well to follow all of them, as I have.

For someone who never thought he’d be writing anywhere ever again, it has been an honor and a privilege to cover my alma mater. And I thank all of you, both at Cleveland State and beyond, who made this possible. Because at the end of the day, win or lose, I will always be a fan.

An occasionally grouchy, angry fan, but a fan, nonetheless.

Email Bob at bob.mcdonald@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald

Image via CSUVikings.com

The Wild and Wacky World of Horizon League Hoops

When the Horizon League schedule began at the end of 2017, all signs pointed to essentially everything staying pretty much the same as they had last season. Oakland and Northern Kentucky would be duking it out for the top spot. Wright State would continue to lurk as a contender. And Milwaukee would expound on its surprise Motor City Madness run from last year and compete in the top half of the league.

Also, Green Bay would hover somewhere near the middle of the standings, while most of the bottom of the conference from last year, as well as new addition IUPUI, would remain looking up at the better schools.

This isn’t exactly how things have gone in the early going. In fact, it seems as if the Golden Grizzlies have switched places with one of the bottom-rung teams. And few would have guessed that team would be Youngstown State.

The Penguins, who languished throughout the entire non-conference slate without a win against a Division I school, were essentially written off before the Horizon League began play. That was probably a major oversight over everyone’s part, as YSU rattled off three straight wins to begin league play. The 3-0 start is the first time Youngstown State has ever been at that mark since joining the conference.

It’s been more than 16 years since YSU joined the Horizon League. That’s a pretty big deal.

While the Penguins have connected with some surprise punches, the Raiders were sort of the wild-card in the league mix. The goal in Year Two of the Scott Nagy Era at Wright State was to get the team closer to the top of the heap.

And so far, it looks as if the Raiders may be a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the conference, joining Youngstown State and NKU in the ranks of the undefeated among Horizon League foes.

For the Norse, the defending Motor City Madness champs, the road to stay on top has been a rather difficult one early. Northern Kentucky already had a tough go of it on the road trip to Michigan, barely squeezing by Oakland, 87-83, and winless Detroit Mercy, 56-54.

And the Grizzlies? They seem to be stuck in neutral, with only one win in the early conference going. The close loss to the Norse was sandwiched in between a surprise loss the Green Bay and the 86-81 overtime setback at the hands of Wright State.

The Wisconsin trip to Green Bay and Milwaukee does still look to be a grueling trek for any Horizon League school, but neither the Phoenix nor the Panthers are setting the world on fire. Green Bay, since besting Detroit and Oakland, have dropped three straight, including getting swept on its Ohio trip by both YSU and Cleveland State. Milwaukee, at the same time, sits at 2-2.

And finally, there’s UIC, which was favored as an early contender. A close 65-61 loss against Wright State was negated by an 86-51 drubbing by Northern Kentucky.

It’s pretty clear that through the early games, in spite of three undefeated teams at the top, no on school has truly dominated, and that could mean some wild shifts in the standings in the coming months. Given how poorly the Horizon League performed as a whole during the non-league slate, it’s likely going to be a long up-and-down slap fight leading up to Motor City Madness.

Email Bob at bob.mcdonald@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via NKUNorse.com

RIP, Wright State Swimming

Throughout the 90s and early 2000s, the Wright State swimming and diving team, on both the men’s and women’s side, was a dominant force in the Horizon League. The Raiders captured multiple championships between 1995, when the conference was then known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, and 2008.

Personally, I can vividly remember 1996 and 1997 in particular, when, as a student journalist, I saw Wright State come swooping into the Cleveland State natatorium and handily win conference crowns both years.

All that, though, has ended. In spite of a fundraising push by Raiders swimming coach Kyle Oaks and the Collegiate Swim Coaches’ Association of America to raise $85,000 to bring the team back for the 2017-18 season, Wright State announced that this would, in fact, be the men’s and women’s teams’ final year as a program.

You may think, at first glance, that this is an example of the ongoing challenge schools that rely heavily on student fees to fund athletics face. You may also think, perhaps, that WSU’s demise is a bit perplexing, given that it shells out $500,000 per year to men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy, a $275,000 jump from the salary of the previous coach, Billy Donlon.

The latter thought is one that the CSCAA has pointed out, citing that WSU athletic director Bob Grant has seen his budget grow by $1.6 million even as he has taken a swing of the ax to the swimming program.

However, those assumptions pale in comparison to the larger issue that Wright State faces financially. The move came as the university faces $10 million in budget cuts across the board this year, which means that no department, even athletics, is spared. It is reported that the move will save the university approximately $450,000 per year.

The same situation befell the University of Akron in 2015, when, among its many cuts, the baseball program shuddered. But while Akron has already announced that baseball will be returning for the 2019-2020 season, it doesn’t appear that Wright State will be looking to bring back swimming even after the budget issues are resolved.

And it also doesn’t look like there will be any intervention from the Horizon League, which is already going to spend the next year seeking to add a seventh baseball program after the departure of Valparaiso to the Missouri Valley Conference. IUPUI’s arrival to the league included the addition of its swimming teams, meaning that losing Wright State, though painful, won’t prompt the need to add another school.

This hasn’t stopped the CSCAA to make a continued effort to fight the program’s demise, citing the Herculean effort to generate the $85,000 in donations to keep the team up and running for this season. However, the group has also pointed out that any proposal to keep the program alive is a non-starter with Wright State president Cheryl Schrader, effectively ending the fight where it stands.

For those who have followed the Raiders throughout the entire span of the program’s existence, the final days of the men’s and women’s swim teams, which will happen at the Horizon League Championships at Cleveland State’s pool next February, will be met with equal parts nostalgia and sadness for what was and what will never be again.

E-mail Bob at bob.mcdonald@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via WSURaiders.com

Cleveland State Must Learn to Close to Survive in the Horizon League Tournament

In the iconic movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, snarls at salesman Shelley Levene (played in the movie by Jack Lemmon) with the famous line, “coffee’s for closers.”

This season, had Blake gotten in front of this season’s Cleveland State team, he’d probably be doing to exact same thing.

Nobody thought that the 2016-17 campaign would be anywhere near as disastrous as the 2015-16 season had been. And yet, at least on paper, here we stand. Heading into the Horizon League Tournament (aka Motor City Madness), the Vikings have only been able to muster the same amount of wins this year as they did last year.

The problem this season hasn’t been being competitive, as evidenced by the string of double-digit defeats last year. In fact, Cleveland State hung with all of its Horizon League foes, the lone exception being the 78-57 smackdown at the hands of Valparaiso.

What did become the running theme this season was the inability to cinch the close games. The Vikings were 2-8 in contests that were decided by five points or less, and that doesn’t include a 74-68 double-overtime loss to Wright State.

So instead of a finish in the middle of the conference pack (Full disclosure: I had originally expected CSU to finish fifth), Cleveland State ended up with a dismal 5-13 record in the Horizon League, which was only good enough for eighth.

Quite simply, the Vikings are better than they were; they just aren’t good enough.

The close losses have obviously taxed what’s left of the Cleveland State fan base, who showed up to home games in smaller numbers than at any point in time in the history of the Wolstein Center. And whatever student outreach had been done prior to the start of the season fell on deaf ears, as evidenced by the nearly empty student section during the home finale against Youngstown State.

And that has to weigh heavily on the mind of head coach Gary Waters, whose frustration has been more and more visible as the season drug on. Rumors of his future have been swirling around ever since the hire of new athletic director Mike Thomas.

Of course, Waters remains at the helm for now and the foreseeable future, and his focus is on how to get his squad to close out games. That’s because as improbable as it may sound, there is, indeed, a path to victory for the Vikings.

Their opening round opponent, YSU, is a team that CSU beat convincingly last Saturday, 69-55. Moreover, the top seed in the tournament is Oakland, and will be looming over the winner of the Vikings-Penguins contest.

As foreboding as the top seed would be to face, Cleveland State can take heart in the fact that it has already beaten the Golden Grizzlies ones this season and came close to pulling off another win at the Wolstein Center, if not for a missed three-pointer by Bobby Word.

Further down the line, the Raiders nearly fell victim to the Vikings in the aforementioned double overtime game, and Northern Kentucky eked out a two-point win on CSU. Either team could be waiting for Cleveland State if it should get past Oakland.

And even Valparaiso, which bested CSU twice, has all of a sudden become more vulnerable, as Alec Peters has been declared done for the season with a stress fracture.

None of this matters, however, unless the Vikings can do what they haven’t been able to do very well all season: close.

E-mail bob at bob.mcdonald@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

The Horizon League’s Uncertain Future

The Horizon League, as a whole, had a down year. That’s a rather interesting thing to say about a conference that featured five teams that won at least 20 games. But its conference RPI ranked 20th among all leagues, marking the lowest it has been in recent memory.

Many fans within the league believe this is a direct result of the weakness at the bottom of the conference. This includes Detroit (198th in the RPI), Youngstown State (276th), Cleveland State (278th), newcomer Northern Kentucky (298th) and UIC, which finished 346th out of 351 Division I schools.

As a consequence of having the league’s entire bottom half hovering or below 200 in the RPI, Valparaiso, who lost only two games in the conference, were snubbed by the NCAA Tournament after losing in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament to eventual champ Green Bay.

Since that point, the Crusaders have made it their personal mission to take their frustrations out on their competitors in the NIT. Valpo has certainly done that, winning each of its three games by double digits en route to a trip to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

But the Crusaders’ run provides little comfort, as it is only one of three schools in the conference to find their way into the post-season. This is the lowest number of participating teams since the inception of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) and the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament (CIT). And this is now including the Vegas 16, which, in its inaugural tournament, has Oakland participating.

Even as conference teams regroup, as the Flames, Vikings and Norse appear poised to do next season, the off-season has already provided question marks as to whether or not the Horizon League as a whole will improve from its overall dismal showing.

It began when Wright State and Milwaukee, in spite of their records, decided not to pursue the post-season. It became evident why that happened in the subsequent days, with the Raiders dismissing coach Billy Donlon and the Panthers parting ways with Rob Jeter.

HoriZone Roundtable with Bob McDonald and Jimmy Lemke #13: The Mean Season

Making matters worse was what transpired after the firings. For Wright State, Donlon’s ouster, which was announced by the school days after media outlets had reported it, sparked the ire of fans and, bizarrely, prompted athletic director Bob Grant to start blocking people on Twitter. While this move remains to be rather odd, it was reported that those recruited to join the Raiders next season still plan on coming to WSU.

The same cannot said for Milwaukee, which appears to be in the midst of a full collapse as a result of Jeter’s dismissal. Leading the charge has been guard Akeem Springs, who took to Twitter not only to express his displeasure with the way the firing was handle, but also to recap the team’s meeting with athletic director Amanda Braun. Now Springs, along with Austin Arians and Jordan Johnson, who was second in the conference in assists, have been granted releases from the program.

Lost in all of this is the revolving door that has become YSU. After losing multiple players to transfer last season, the Penguins now have to contend with the loss of its All-Freshman guard Jared Andrews. A native of LaPlace, Louisiana, Andrews, who started 19 games, cited home sickness for the move.

In spite of the latest transfer, and Youngstown State’s overall underperformance since arriving in the Horizon League in 2001, head coach Jerry Slocum will likely have his option picked up to return for next season. Of course, many around the league believe that it’s YSU’s overall lack of focus on men’s basketball, rather than the coaching, which has bolsters its reputation for being the conference’s anchor.

Then there are the rumors of coaching changes around college basketball that mention Horizon League coaches. For example, among the names being thrown around for the Pittsburgh job are Valpo’s Bryce Drew, who is annually considered for such jobs, and Linc Darner, who just finished his first year at Green Bay with an NCAA tourney bid.

With so much uncertainty within the Horizon League, it makes fans wonder if the conference will be stuck in the same place as it was this season. After all, even if some of the bottom teams improve, there’s no guarantee that Milwaukee, Wright State or a school whose coach takes another job won’t fall into the bottom.

Email Bob at bob.mcdonald@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Photo: Horizon League/Flickr.

Welcome to Detroit – Previewing the Horizon League Tournament

All eyes are on the Motor City as the Horizon League comes to town for the first edition of #MotorCityMadness.

The favorites are the Valparaiso Crusaders.

Valpo is coming off a 16-2 conference season that made it only the fifth team to finish with two losses or less in the Horizon League regular season. Four of those five teams have gone on to the NCAA tournament. Unlike in the past when Valpo would have earned the right to host the tournament, this year the tournament moves to a “neutral floor” at Joe Louis Arena. Not hosting won’t hinder Valpo, they are far and away the best team in this tournament.

Valpo is anchored by junior forward Alec Peters, who averaged 17.9 points per game during the conference season along with 8.3 rebounds a game. Peters is an inside and outside threat. Standing 6’9″, he has no issues scoring inside and moving the ball in transition. That being said, he has been the most effective from behind the three-point arc, shooting 45 percent.

Peters has had help in senior point guard Keith Carter, who dished out 132 assists on the year while scoring 10.1 points per game during the conference season. No other Crusaders averaged more than ten points per game this season. Valpo is built on defense and is sixth in the nation as a team, allowing their opponents only 61 points per game. Valpo has two-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Vashil Fernandez holding down the paint. Fernandez had 94 blocks and 15 steals this season along with 139 defensive rebounds, in order to stop Valpo teams will need to get Fernandez into foul trouble.

The Contenders

The number two seed is the Oakland Golden Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies are one of the two de facto home teams in this tournament, having their campus just 30 miles up the road from Joe Louis Arena.

OU is led by Horizon League Player of the Year Kay Felder. This season, Felder has averaged 24.4 points per game and has led the nation in assists with 9.4 per contest. Felder can do it all and has been impossible for anyone to slow down all season. Felder, despite being only 5’9″, has climbed NBA draft boards and could end up foregoing his senior year for the NBA.

Oakland is not just the Kay Felder show. OU has four other players who average more than 10 points per game. One of those players in redshirt sophomore Jalen Hayes, who is an electric finisher with tons of athletic ability. He does most of his scoring inside and is capable of throwing down monstrous dunks.

The Golden Grizzlies also have Martez Walker, a redshirt sophomore who transferred in from Texas after he was released due to some off-the-court issues. Walker has done alright for himself, averaging 11 points per game and freeing up space for Felder and Hayes by forcing defenders to cover him. Walker is not a player that you can let get free outside the arc as he shoots 45 percent from downtown. Most of his three-point attempts have come when he is left open in the corner of the court, and he’s able to drift to the outside.

OU also features senior center Percy Gibson and senior guard Max Hooper, who each score more than 10 points per game. Hooper is a three-point specialist who has yet to shoot a two-point field goal all year. Beyond those five players, the only guys that get substantial time are Sherron Dorcy-Walker and Nick Daniels.  Outside of Hooper, all of the Oakland players named above are Michigan natives. Felder, SDW, Gibson and Walker all attended Pershing High School together and were on varsity at the same time. With OU having so many Detroit kids, you have to think they have a bit of home court advantage. It is also worth noting that OU is the country’s  highest scoring team with 87 points per game.

Wright State

Although Wright State finished third in the conference, it doesn’t seem like much of a contender. It’s a well-coached squad that plays good fundamental basketball and likes to slow down the tempo. Their leading scorers are Mark Alstork and JT Yoho, each with 12 points per game. Head coach Billy Donlon is hands down the best X’s and O’s coach in the Horizon, that being said his squad lacks talent.

Don’t expect much from WSU, I don’t expect them to be playing Monday night.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee might be the biggest underachiever in the Horizon League this season. The Panthers have a starting five that can go head-to-head with anyone in the country. The Panthers finished fifth in the Horizon League but they earned wins over Big Ten schools Wisconsin and Minnesota during the regular season. The Panthers are led by senior forward Matt Tiby, a Horizon League first-team selection who averaged 15.6 points and eight rebounds per game during the regular season.

The Panthers are a big team. Four of the seven rotation players for Milwaukee are 6’5″ or taller, and all of them can step out and shoot the threes. JJ Panoske, a 6’10” senior forward, shoots 41 percent from downtown and 6’5″ junior guard Cody Wichmann shoots 51 percent from three-point land. This being said, the Panthers live and die with the three-point shot. If the Panthers get hot from downtown, they could find themselves cutting down the nets in Detroit. If they make a run, watch for point guard Jordan Johnson to have a good tournament. The junior was selected to the Horizon League Second Team with 12 points and 8.2 assists per game, good for second in the country.

Green Bay

The Phoenix, like WSU, finished high in the standings but don’t have a great shot to win in Detroit. Green Bay scores a lot, in fact, they are fourth in the country in scoring with 85 points per game. The flaw with Green Bay is defense. They don’t play it. The goal for green pay is to push the tempo and hope to outscore the opposition. Green Bay has two key players from the back-to-back NIT runs left on the roster. Senior Jordan Fouse was selected to the Horizon League Second Team and the All-Defensive Team. This season, Fouse has 12 points per game to go along with 44 blocks and 69 steals.

If Green Bay makes a run, Fouse needs to do more on the offensive side of the ball. The second piece remaining from the back-to-back NIT teams for Green Bay is Carrington Love. Love spent the last few years as the backup to star Kiefer Sykes. Love has proved thus far that he is just as talented. Love averaged 18 points per game and was named to the Horizon League First Team and the All-Defensive Team, haveing 78 steals and nine blocks on the year.

The Sleeper: Detroit

The home team located just nine miles from Joe Louis Arena might have the most talent of any team in the Horizon League. The Titans score a lot, 83.8 points per game, good for 8th in the nation. What they don’t do is play any defense. Detroit ranks 339th in the country in scoring defense. Down the stretch, Detroit has improved slightly on the defensive side of the ball. If they want to make a run they need to put together four straight strong defensive games in a row.

Detroit’s star player is Paris Bass. Bass, a 6’8″ forward with NBA aspirations, has 18.7 points per game to go with 7.7 rebounds. Bass is an adamant scorer that can slash his way to the rim or step outside and shoot the three. Bass, however, has the tendency to play one-on-five with the opposing team. When Bass gets this selfish streak, the Titans tend to lose.

The Titans also have 6’7″  forward Chris Jenkins, who like Bass can slash inside and shoot the three well. Jenkins had 12.6 points per game during the regular season including a big game vs. Oakland last Friday where he put up 12 points in under four minutes. In between Bass and Jenkins is 6’6″ forward Jaleel Hogan. The sophmore is stronger than an ox and has a big body that allows him to push anyone around in the paint. Look for Hogan, who had 10 points per game during the regular season, to score over players much bigger than him.

At shooting guard, Detroit will start 6’6″ senior Anton Wilson, who is currently averaging 14.3 points per game and is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. If Anton can score one three-pointer in the tournament he will become the third best three-point shooter in Detroit Titan history. Wilson is deadly from the corners and the bend in the arc. If he is left open and can get going he can fill up a stat sheet. The Titans will most likely start senior point guard Carlton Brundage. Brundage, a former national top 100 recruit, has gotten hot as of late. He has been a spark plug and a rebounding machine for the Titans in the second half of the season.

Outside of the starting five, Detroit will use a short bench consisting of Josh McFolly, a freshman point guard, who was selected to the All-Freshman Team. McFolly is undersized but can shoot long threes and score inside. McFolly will be brought into games to try and speed up the tempo. Detroit will also sub in 6’7 “redshirt freshman forward Aaron Foster-Smith, who can step outside and shoot the three but is prone to bad fouls. The final sub is 6’8” forward Gerald Blackshear, a strong rebounder who is young and still developing but has shown he can rebound and defend in the paint. Detroit may also use junior guard Jarod Williams, but as of late, he has not been a major factor.

Others to Watch

Rob Edwards, freshman, Cleveland State

Edwards, a Detroit native who played his high school basketball at Cass Tech, had 12 points a game during the regular season. Edwards is back home, look for him to go out fighting.

Cameron Morse, sophomore, Youngstown State

Morse, a sophomore from Flint, Michigan, put together a great season. Morse averaged 20 points per game and shot 41 percent from three-point range. Morse, who was selected to the Horizon League Second Team, will face off with high school teammate Anton Willson Saturday.

Dikembe Dixson, freshman, UIC

Dixson, the Horizon League Freshman of the Year, is his team’s only hope of upsetting WSU. Dixion currently averages 19.9 points per game and 7 rebounds per game.

My Picks

Round 1

Green Bay over CSU

MKE over NKU

UIC over WSU

DET over YSU

Round 2

MKE over GB

DET over UIC

Semis

OU over DET

Valpo over MKE

Final

OU over Valpo

Email Karic at karic.jones@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @Karic_Jones

Images courtesy of DetroitTitans.com

Close Your Eyes, Cleveland State Fans. It Will All Be Over Soon.

Conference tournament time has arrived for the schools in the Horizon League. This year is the start of a five-year journey to Detroit, where teams will spend Saturday through Tuesday duking it out for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. All eyes are pointing to top-seeded Valparaiso to win it all, though second seed Oakland and third seed Wright State may have something to say about it.

For Cleveland State, however, no such hope is really expected. In fact, as the ninth seed, the Vikings will take on Green Bay, who swept them in the regular season. The last matchup at the Resch Center was particularly excruciating, blowing a halftime lead and, as CSU has for most of the season, losing by double digits.

With everything that has gone on in this disaster of a year for the Vikings, you couldn’t blame any of them for phoning in this first round game on Saturday and calling it a season.

That’s not really a good idea either, given the mood head coach Gary Waters has been in for the duration of the Horizon League schedule. Waters also hasn’t been shy about his desire to beef up his roster with, well, basically everything. So if you’re a CSU player that isn’t producing, do you really want to get on his bad side?

What is clear, though, is that freshman Rob Edwards isn’t going anywhere. He was named to the conference’s All-Freshman team earlier in the week. Also, like several of his teammates from the Detroit area, he’s likely looking at the conference tournament as a homecoming of sorts.

Regardless of how Cleveland State performs against the Phoenix and beyond, should they pull an upset, it would appear that most fans (and media, for that matter) have already packed it in and called it a year.

It’s impressive, really, that in a town that will complain about virtually anything sports-related, the downward spiral of the Vikings this season has barely registered at all. In fact, apathy is so high that cleveland.com, ever mindful of its click rates, can barely justify posting wire reports on Cleveland State games, let alone send a live person.

So, when you see a story like the one Branson Wright wrote about Bryn Forbes, the Michigan State superstar who transferred out of CSU in 2014, you can’t really be all that surprised.

Even Waters hasn’t been all that excited about how things have gone, calling the games at Quicken Loans Arena little more than glorified road games. On his radio show Monday, he and host Al Pawlowski lamented about the sad state of Joe Louis Arena, where the Horizon League Tournament will take place for the first two years before moving into the as-yet-named new facility.

Apathy, like enthusiasm, is infectious and Cleveland State has always been highly susceptible to this since its inception. But this seems like a new low, which, given the roller coaster history of the men’s basketball program, is a sight to behold.

Women’s Basketball Gets a (Baby) Bump

The CSU women’s basketball team has been struggling to build any kind of momentum during first part of the Horizon League schedule. Even when it comes through with an overtime win, like it did against Oakland, an equally frustrating overtime loss to Milwaukee was around the corner. In spite of the outstanding play of Ashanti Abshaw, Khalya Livingston and Olivia Voskuhl, it hasn’t translated into wins for the Vikings.

Then head coach Kate Peterson Abiad brought her second daughter, Remi Hope, into the world on February 18th. That seems to have provided some sort of spark for Cleveland State.

With associate head coach Beth Couture taking the reins at Youngstown State, the Vikings completed the season sweep of their cross-state rivals in a 53-43 win. Voskuhl led all scorers with 16 points, junior Brooke Smith added 14 and Abshaw, though limited to seven points, pulled down a game-high 14 boards.

The season took an even stranger turn when Mother Nature intervened, as a winter storm forced the re-scheduling of both the UIC and Valparaiso games. In the re-slated match against the Flames, though, Cleveland State prevailed, 72-69, paced by Abshaw’s 26 points and 10 rebounds.

On Sunday, the Vikings marked the first time they have won three straight games this season, besting the Crusaders, 72-65. Abshaw again led the way with another double-double, finishing with 26 points and 13 boards.

“We are thrilled to have another win at the end of the season, and to put together a three-game win streak like this is a big thing for us,” Peterson Abiad said after the game. “It’s a confidence builder and it’s helping us to believe in the process. For a while it didn’t seem like we were getting anywhere, but now it looks like it has made a difference. I am excited to see how they are growing, and with two games left in the regular season we want to finish strong and feel good about where we are heading into the tournament.”

Cleveland State tried extending the baby mojo for a fourth game, but ran headlong into Wright State, one of the best teams in the conference. An 81-64 loss was the end result, with the Raiders holding Abshaw to 11 points.

The Vikings have one game left in the regular season at Northern Kentucky before heading to Green Bay for the Horizon League Tournament.

Email Bob at bob.mcdonald@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter at @bobmcdonald.

Image courtesy of csuvikings.com.