The Horizon League today announced the results of its preseason polls at the league's men's basketball media day in Rosemont, Ill., which I attended.
Detroit junior Ray McCallum Jr. was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year for the second straight season, despite the fact that last season's Player of the Year, Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff, returns for his senior season. In fact, as the Horizon really wants you all to know, this is the only Division-I conference that returns all five of its first-team from last season.
Yep, Kevin Van Wijk (Valparaiso), Kendrick Perry (Youngstown St.) and Alec Brown (Green Bay) will all be back, in addition to Broekhoff and McCallum.
Of course Butler wasn't able to pick up a fourth-straight selection atop the league's preseason poll, but the Bulldogs were still able to ruffle some feathers. In his interview with the media Wright State head coach Billy Donlon, apparently exhausted by the nonstop questions surrounding whether or not the league will be impacted by Butler's departure, railed against the media as well as coaches for not standing up for the league and the talent and competitiveness that it has to offer.
Donlon and Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters both noted that Butler finished only in the middle of the pack last season, and that the Horizon returns a lot of quality talent.
Anyway, here's how the teams stacked up according to a poll of coaches and media.
Rank School (First place votes) Points
1. Valparaiso (40) 382
2. Detroit (4) 332
3. Green Bay 283
4. Youngstown State 243
5. Cleveland State 230
6. Milwaukee 178
7. Loyola 105
8. UIC 96
9. Wright State 86
Both Green Bay and Youngstown St. set new program-bests in this poll, and both return a lot of talent. Alec Brown and Brennan Cougill return to lead probably the league's second best frontcourt for Green Bay, and will be fed by highly capable sophomore point guard Keifer Sykes, who grew an inch in the offseason according to head coach Brian Wardle.
Youngstown St. returns probably the best backcourt in the league in this blogger's opinion. Perry and defensive force Blake Allen are back as well as forward Damian Eargle are back. Head coach Jerry Slocum assured me that his batch of newcomers should also mend any depth problems and help with size and rebounding in the front court.
The second team consisted of Loyola's Ben Averkamp, Cleveland State's Anton Grady, Sykes, Eargle and Detroit's Nick Minnerath.
For more thoughts from a reporter who was in attendence, and probably knows the league better than anybody right now, check out what Paul Oren had to say about Horizon League media day here.
Chris Burrows covers mid-major, Horizon League, Chicago and whatever other niches he can find in college basketball for Run the Floor. Find him on Twitter at @HLHoops.