Post-season conference tournaments are a nightmare for regular season champions. Teams that earn regular season titles over the course of 16 or 18 conference games, get very little reward. They have to go prove themselves again in conference tournament action. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
Valparaiso for example, was leading the Horizon League all season. Then came an injury to their top player, Alec Peters, and the Crusaders were caught and passed by Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies entered the Horizon League Tournament as the number-one seed and Valpo was number two. Both teams ended up losing their first games. So did third-seeded Green Bay, which means there will not be a repeat HL Tournament champion and there will be a new team heading to the “Big Dance”.
Could it be Milwaukee? The 10th-seeded Panthers won their opening round game, then bounced Valparaiso from the field with a 43-41 upset on Saturday night. The Panthers (10-23) will face sixth-seeded UIC (15-17) in tonight’s semifinals for the right to play in the league’s championship game.
The Panthers are 0-2 against the Flames this season, but who knows.
Can you imagine if the Horizon League sent its last place regular season team to the NCAA Tournament? Panthers coach LaVall Jordan has to get his team to win two more games, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers are at the very least, entertaining the possibility.