INDIANAPOLIS -- It took until the final game of the regular season for the second straight year, but the field is now set for the 2012 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship, with Valparaiso collecting its first regular season conference championship since joining the League.
Valparaiso (21-10, 14-4 Horizon) will host the second round and semifinals on March 2-3, and will host the League championship on March 6, should the Crusaders win their semifinal.
Cleveland State (22-9, 12-6 Horizon) rebounded from a late five-game losing streak to win its last two games and grab the double bye as the No. 2 seed. The Vikings last earned the double bye in 2008, reaching the conference championship game.
Detroit (18-13, 11-7 Horizon), Milwaukee (19-12, 11-7 Horizon) and Butler (18-13, 11-7 Horizon) all tied for third, with the Titans emerging on top of the heap courtesy of a 3-1 record against the Panthers and Bulldogs this season. Splitting both series, Milwaukee is the No. 4 seed, while the Bulldogs will be the No. 5 seed, their lowest since the 2005 League Tournament.
Both Youngstown State (15-14, 10-8 Horizon) and Green Bay (15-14, 10-8 Horizon) landed on 10 League wins, giving the conference seven teams with at least 10 League victories for the first time in the conference’s 33-year history. Despite winning its last four League games to get into the tie, Green Bay will be the No. 7 seed, as the Penguins took the tie-breaker based on their 1-1 record against Detroit.
The duo will meet in the first round of the League Championship on Tuesday, Feb. 28, having split the teams’ meetings in the regular season. Youngstown State won at the Beeghly Center on Jan. 22, 77-47, before Green Bay gained a measure of revenge on the Penguins at home, 71-65.
The No. 8 seed, Wright State (13-18, 7-11 Horizon) will head west on I-70 for a meeting with Butler on Tuesday. The Bulldogs swept the Raiders in the regular season, taking a 63-62 win in the closing seconds to start 2012 before racing out to a double-digit lead and maintaining it throughout to claim a 64-53 victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Milwaukee will welcome No. 9 seed UIC (8-21, 3-15 Horizon) to the Klotsche Center, in a rematch from one of the year’s most entertaining conference games. On Dec. 3, UIC missed chances to win at the end of regulation and overtime, falling 73-71 to the Panthers. Milwaukee knocked down 14 three-pointers in the rematch en route to a 72-61 victory on Feb. 23.
In a battle of Jesuit institutions, Detroit (18-13, 11-7 Horizon) will host Loyola (7-22, 1-17 Horizon) in the 3-10 game on Tuesday. Loyola was able to dictate tempo in both games agains the Titans this year, but Detroit was able to emerge with double-digit wins in both instances, 65-54 and 67-52.
The winners of the 3/10 and 6/7 game will meet in a second round game on March 2, ahead of the game featuring the victors in the 4/9 and 5/8 contest. Both will be played at the Athletics-Recreation Center on the Valparaiso campus. The Horizon League Network will have live coverage, also on ESPN3, with the games tipping at 6 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. ET.
The second round winners will play in the following day’s semifinal, with Cleveland State playing in the 6 p.m. ET game and Valparaiso featured in the 8:30 p.m. ET game. Both will be carried on ESPNU.
The Horizon League Championship will be played on Tuesday, March 6, at 9 p.m. ET pm ESPN, in the venue of the highest remaining seed. In each of the last seven years, the winner of that game has gone on to win at least one NCAA Tournament game, including Butler’s runs to the national championship in each of the last two years.
2012 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship:
First Round - Tuesday, Feb. 28 (campus sites)
Game 1: (10) Loyola at (3) Detroit, 7 p.m. ET
Game 2: (7) Green Bay at (6) Youngstown State, 7:05 p.m. ET
Game 3: (9) UIC at (4) Milwaukee, 8 p.m. ET
Game 4: (8) Wright State at (5) Butler, 7 p.m. ET
Second Round - Friday, March 2 (Valparaiso)
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m. ET (Horizon League Network | ESPN3)
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m. ET (Horizon League Network | ESPN3)
Semifinals - Saturday, March 3 (Valparaiso)
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. (2) Cleveland State, 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU - tape delayed at 10:30 p.m. ET; live on ESPN3)
Game 8: Game 6 winner at (1) Valparaiso, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Championship - Tuesday, March 6 (highest remaining seed)
Game 9: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner