INDIANAPOLIS – Butler University tallied all 48 first-place votes and was tabbed the unanimous favorite to win the 2010-11 Horizon League men’s basketball championship as selected by the annual preseason poll of the league’s media, coaches and sports information directors. The Bulldogs placed two players on the Preseason Horizon League First Team, led by Player of the Year selection Shelvin Mack.
Detroit edged Cleveland State by five points for second in the poll, while Valparaiso took fourth. Milwaukee, Wright State and Green Bay were separated by 17 points in finishing fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Loyola, UIC and Youngstown State rounded out the poll.
Mack, who spent part of the summer playing for the 2010 USA Basketball Select squad which competed against the 2010 USA Men’s World Championship Team, was joined on the first team by teammate Matt Howard, the 2009 Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year. The first team was guard-heavy, as Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, Brandon Wood of Valparaiso and Green Bay’s Rahmon Fletcher comprised the remainder of the team.
Named to the second team were Wright State guard Vaughn Duggins, Detroit forward Eli Holman, Valpo forward Cory Johnson, Detroit guard Chase Simon and UIC guard Robo Kreps.
Butler, who went undefeated in Horizon League play before finishing two points shy of the national title a year ago, returns three starters - Mack, Howard and guard Ronald Nored - to the squad that finished the 2009-10 season with a No. 2 national ranking. Head Coach Brad Stevens welcomes back 11 letterwinners from last year’s team.
Mack was the second-leading scorer on Butler last year, averaging 14.1 points per game, complimenting his scoring with 3.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Howard controlled the post for the Bulldogs, finishing with 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 2009-10.
Detroit is led by the inside-outside combination of Holman and Simon. Holman tied for the conference lead with 8.9 rebounds per game a year ago while averaging 11.8 points. Simon led the Titans in scoring, posting 14.0 points while handing out 2.5 assists per contest. Freshman Ray McCallum joins his father’s squad after earning McDonald’s and Parade All-American honors while in high school.
Cleveland State brings back all five starters from last year’s 16-17 (10-8 Horizon League) squad. Cole leads the Vikings, having finished second in the Horizon League in scoring with 16.3 points per game in his junior year. The Vikings boast three double-digit scorers among their returners - Cole, junior Jeremy Montgomery and junior Trevon Harmon.
Valparaiso returns the league-leader in scoring in Wood, who put up 17.7 points per game in 2009-10; Johnson was fourth in the conference in scoring, averaging 15.6 points for the Crusaders. Head Coach Homer Drew welcomes four returning starters from last year’s 15-17 (10-8 Horizon) team.
Milwaukee brings back Tone Boyle, who missed the 2009-10 season with an injury, giving the Panthers four returning starters entering the season. Boyle led the Panthers in scoring two years ago, while 2009-10 Horizon League Freshman of the Year Ja’Rob McCallum will be counted upon as well.
Wright State will be led by new bench boss Billy Donlon, who will count on Duggins to reprise his role from last year, when he led the Raiders with 14.2 points per game.
Green Bay, a second-round CBI participant in 2009-10, is also breaking in a new head coach, as Brian Wardle takes over the Phoenix. Wardle will rely on the backcourt of Fletcher (15.8 ppg) and senior Bryquis Perine (13.4 ppg) who combined to average nearly 30 points per game last year.
Loyola returns all five starters from a year ago, including the league’s leading rebounder in Andy Polka, who tied with Holman, grabbing 8.9 caroms per contest.
Led by new head coach Howard Moore, UIC will look to integrate seven newcomers among their nine returning lettermen. Among UIC’s returners, Kreps is the Flames’ leader in points (15.2 ppg) and assists (2.1 apg).
Youngstown State will break in 12 newcomers on coach Jerry Slocum’s squad. Vytas Sulskis, who averaged 11.3 points per game a year ago, is one of three returning letterwinners for the Penguins.
The regular season will begin Nov. 10 when UIC travels to the University of Pittsburgh in the 2k Sports Classic benefitting Coaches versus Cancer for a 7 p.m. ET tip on ESPN3.com. The League schedule will tip off with Butler at Loyola on Wed., Dec. 1, with three more league contests to follow on Dec. 2.
The 2011 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship is slated for March 1, 4-5, 8. The regular-season champion will host the second round and semifinals, with the higher remaining seed hosting the championship game live on ESPN as part of “Championship Week.”
2010-11 HORIZON LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL
Rank School (1st) Points
1. Butler (48) 480
2. Detroit 381
3. Cleveland State 376
4. Valparaiso 312
5. Milwaukee 259
6. Wright State 256
7. Green Bay 242
8. Loyola 146
9. UIC 121
10. Youngstown State 67
Player of the Year
Shelvin Mack, Butler
Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
Norris Cole, G, Cleveland State
Matt Howard, F, Butler
Rahmon Fletcher, G, Green Bay
Brandon Wood, G, Valparaiso
Vaughn Duggins, G, Wright State
Eli Holman, F, Detroit
Cory Johnson, F, Valparaiso
Chase Simon, G, Detroit
Robo Kreps, G, UIC
Men's Basketball Preseason Poll Release (.pdf)