The Horizon League will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first conference I started to gather numbers for before I ended up expanding it to the 26 mid- and micro-majors. If you like the MAC, you’re gonna LOVE the Horizon. Buried up in the gym-rat country of the Upper Midwest, this league is always a threat to pull some upsets later on this month. Sometimes known for their regular season success against power-six teams, the Horizon League has also been a decent going into March Madness, winning 19 games outright since 1985 (Just as many as their big brother, the MAC).
When and Where: March 5th-12th, at various campus sites finishing up at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit
Defending Champ: Wright State Raiders
Who’s Good: Northern Kentucky, Wright State
Who’s Sneaky: Oakland
Who Stinks Out Loud: Of the qualified teams, my model numbers hate Illinois-Chicago quite a bit with their horseshit efficiency numbers.
Coolest Team Nickname: Oakland’s Golden Grizzlies. I’m a sucker for throwing a cool color before a badass animal for your team nickname.
Seeding and Rules: Only the top eight teams qualify. First round games are hosted by the high seeds with the semifinals and championship game in Detroit (Hence the MOTOR CITY MADNESS nickname).
Multi-Bid League: Not bloody likely. Only the winner gets in, and will probably be a 15 or 16 seed.
Breakdown: Another league without a true run away favorite. Despite the top-heavy prices below, I think it’s a bit more wide open as every team has at least five conference losses and there’s been plenty of parity. I’m 0-2 betting against Northern Kentucky, but 3-0 going against Wright State so, results are mixed. Northern Kentucky and Wright State have been very solid at home (30-3 combined) but unfortunately, the meat of this tournament is played on a neutral site. Could be a wild one, as the top seed has only won three out of the past ten years, and failed to even reach the final in four of those.
My Pick(s): Northern Kentucky is a good team, but doesn’t deserve the price given, I have them as pretty much a pick versus Wright State on a neutral, so give me the 2/1 number one seed in MoTown. I can’t ignore the efficiency/model numbers on Oakland and Detroit and will throw some smaller darts on them as well. If they can pull off a first round upset, Detroit would head back to their home town for the remainder of the tourney. It IS NOT their home arena but it’s about as close as they can get and should have some nice fan support. In that same vein, Oakland University is actually in a suburb of Detroit as well.
Wright State +215 (0.75x)
Oakland +500 (0.25x)
Detroit +4000 (0.1x)