Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the start of the 2012-13 basketball season, which begins with the first games on Nov. 9, with a countdown of the nation’s top conferences. We will release one conference preview each day, counting down to the top conference. For profiles of every team in each conference, check out the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store.
The Horizon League opens the 2012-13 without its marquee program, Butler, which departed during the offseason for the Atlantic 10.
Try telling the remaining teams Butler’s absence cuts into the intrigue around the Horizon League. Butler finished last season in a three-way tie for third place at 11-7. The Bulldogs weren’t even the Horizon’s best team in Indiana. That title belonged to Vaparaiso, which won the regular season title in Bryce Drew’s first season as head coach. Drew is ready for another run at a title and perhaps Valpo’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2004.
That said, the league’s best player resides in Detroit, where Ray McCallum Jr. averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists.
ATHLON ALL-HORIZON TEAM
HORIZON FACTS AND FIGURES
G Ray McCallum, Detroit*
2011-12 regular season champion: Valparaiso
G Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State
2012 NCAA Tournament teams: Detroit#
F Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso
New coaches: None
F Kevin Van Wijk, Valparaiso
Realignment: Lost Butler to Atlantic 10
C Alec Brown, Green Bay
*preseason player of the year
#conference tournament champion
2012-13 HORIZON LEAGUE PREVIEW
1. Valparaiso (22–12, 14–4)
Valpo legend Bryce Drew was a year ahead of schedule in winning the regular-season Horizon title in his first year as coach, and he'll enter 2012-13 as the heavy favorite with five senior starters returning. First among those starters is reigning Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff, who averaged 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in his first season as the team’s primary scorer after Brandon Wood departed for Michigan State. The 6-7 forward was one of the last cuts from Australia's Olympic team. Kevin Van Wijk accompanied Broekhoff in the frontcourt and on the All-Horizon first team as Valpo’s second-leading scorer with 14.1 points per game while shooting a league-best 61.7 percent. The first man off the bench after the five returning starters should be former Indiana transfer Bobby Capobianco, a 6-9 junior who sat out last season after averaging almost nine minutes per game over two seasons with IU.
NCAA Tournament prediction: One and done
2. Detroit (22–14, 11–7)
The Titans took half a season to gel last year before rolling to a 13–3 finish that included the Horizon Tournament title and a 65–50 loss to Final Four participant Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. Ray McCallum Jr., the catalyst of last season’s team and son of coach Ray McCallum Sr., is back for a junior season that could propel him into the NBA Draft. The former McDonald’s All-American averaged 15.4 points, 4.0 assists and 1.6 steals, which were all in the top four in the league last year. Two other starters — seniors Doug Anderson (9.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Jason Calliste (10.2 ppg) — give McCallum plenty of support, and forward Nick Minnerath is back after starting the first five games and then tearing his ACL. Three junior college transfers are expected to rotate at center unless one seizes the position, and Western Michigan transfer Juwan Howard Jr. becomes eligible and is expected to be in the rotation for a team that should challenge for the league title.
3. Green Bay (15–15, 10–8)
Green Bay looks to carry forward its momentum from a strong second half of 2011-12 with four starters returning to a team that went a league-best 12–2 at home. The Phoenix boast one of the league’s top frontcourts in Alec Brown and Brennan Cougill. Brown, a 7-1 junior, averaged 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks en route to first-team All-Horizon honors, while Cougill averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds. Big things are expected from point guard Keifer Sykes, an All-Newcomer selection who averaged 13.8 points and 4.5 assists in conference games as a freshman.
4. Cleveland State (22–11, 12–6)
Cleveland State is in a bit of a rebuilding mode after an impressive two-year run that featured 49 wins and a 25-11 Horizon record. Big man Tim Kamczyc, a fifth-year senior, returns for his third season in the starting lineup, but the other four Vikings starters from last season are gone. Sophomore Anton Grady was a member of the Horizon All-Newcomer team after averaging 8.5 points and 6.4 rebounds off the bench and gives CSU a solid frontcourt to build around. In the backcourt, the Vikings had three freshmen who averaged double-digit minutes, and all three are back for 2012-13. Charles Lee is expected to take over at point, while Marlin Mason and Sebastian Douglas return as the only wings with significant experience. Incoming 6-4 freshman Junior Lomomba from Montreal is expected to be a big part of the rotation.
5. Milwaukee (20–14, 11–7)
The big story coming from Milwaukee is not necessarily on the court, but the court itself. The Panthers are moving into the renovated, on-campus 3,400-seat Klotsche Center after years of playing at the 12,700-seat U.S. Cellular Arena in downtown Milwaukee. The team received a waiver from the Horizon League to play in an arena with less than 5,000 seats, and the cramped quarters should prove difficult for visitors. Milwaukee returns three starters, including James Haarsma (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), who thrived in his first season of eligibility after transferring from Evansville. The Panthers must improve on its 61.2 percent free throw shooting, which ranked 324th in the nation.
6. Youngstown State (16–15, 10–8)
The Penguins made a nice jump last season, earning 10 Horizon League wins after winning just two the season before. Youngstown State returns three starters from a team that basically had a five-man rotation last season (the Penguins’ sixth-leading scorer averaged 2.1 ppg). Center Damian Eargle is the nation’s leading returning shot-blocker (3.7 bpg), and he averaged 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds as a junior. Leading scorer Kendrick Perry, a first-team All-Horizon selection, is also back after pumping in 16.8 points per game. Blake Allen hopes to increase his league-best 91 3-pointers in his senior season.
7. Wright State (13–19, 7–11)
Coach Billy Donlon prefers a long bench, and he will return seven of the 11 players that averaged double-digit minutes for the Raiders. Unfortunately, the team’s best player — Julius Mays — is not among them after Mays transferred to Kentucky. Still, a trio of juniors in Cole Darling, A.J. Pacher and Matt Vest, along with point guard Reggie Arceneaux, give Wright State reason to think it is a chance to exceed last season’s win total even with the loss of Mays.
8. UIC (8–22, 3–15)
Things should be better in coach Howard Moore’s third season in Chicago. Four starters are back, including emerging forward Hayden Humes (11.8 ppg in his final nine games) and ’11-12 Horizon All-Newcomer Gary Talton, a junior college transfer who averaged 11.6 points from his guard slot. Two other starting guards return — Daniel Barnes and Marc Brown — and Eastern Illinois transfer Joey Miller becomes eligible and will join the backcourt rotation for a team that must raise its 39.5 percent field goal shooting (320th in the nation) to move up in the league.
9. Loyola (7–23, 1–17)
Coach Porter Moser will try to bounce back from a disappointing debut season at Loyola, and he will lean on three returning starters and eight newcomers to do so. Ben Averkamp averaged 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a second-team All-Horizon selection and he has a shot to be a first-teamer this year if the Ramblers can improve in the win-loss department. Guard Joe Crisman (8.5 ppg) and forward Jordan Hicks (8.4 ppg) also return. Point guard Cully Payne, an Iowa transfer who sat out last year after starting five games before getting hurt as a sophomore in ’10-11 for the Hawkeyes, is expected to start.
More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store
Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
8. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
19. Notre Dame
More from the 2012-13 College Basketball Preview:
Top 10 Freshmen for 2012-13
Impact Transfers for 2012-13
Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2012-13
10 Players Returning from Injury
Gonzaga leads International Dream Team