Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We've Moved!!!

Everything that you once found on this here little blog, has been moved to the new and improved Horizon League Network!

You can find us at: http://www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv

Enjoy!


Regards-

The HLN Team

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Moving Forward

Originally posted March 27, 2009


No matter which men's basketball team you root for in the Horizon League, the end of the season is always difficult to deal with. Some may joke that the season is "finally over," but what they're really saying is, "I can't wait to see how much better we are next year."

The reason I know this reality is difficult to deal with is two-fold.

1) It's difficult for me, and above anything else I'm a fan...just like each of you.
2) The response we've gotten from you this season on our little blog, makes it very clear just how passionate the fans are here in the Horizon League. Sure, we all might complain about attendance figures in the arena...but I can tell you whole-heartedly that each of our ten schools have a core of fans that want nothing more than success on the basketball court (and on the soccer field, volleyball court, or baseball/softball diamonds as well).

Despite detractors who fill message boards with unfounded claims that what we have here in the Horizon League is sub-par or 2nd-rate, those of us that see the big picture understand the growth that is taking place within all ten of our Horizon League men's basketball programs. We understand that down years happen. Just like the players that go to battle each night, it's more about how the adversity is handled...and what the response is. Looking ahead to next season, I surely like what I see.

An accomplishment such as having four teams earn 20-win seasons for the second-consecutive year (with the past two seasons being the only two times in league history this feat has been achieved) is certainly worth noting. A streak of five-consecutive years with at least 1 NCAA Tournament victory, isn't too shabby either.

What's more important to me, however, is what I see with my own eyes. Understand that the way a team like Cleveland State plays against Milwaukee, for example, is wildly different from the way the Vikings would approach a game with Wright State. Thankfully, I was exposed to many of these situations during the men's basketball season...and it was truly an eye-opening experience. I encourage any of you reading this to do the same next year, or at the very least, watch games on HLN that don't involve the team you typically root for. Really watch it. And if you want to go a step further...watch games from other mid-major leagues, and compare what you see. Trust me, you'll come to appreciate what the Horizon League is able to do in men's basketball even more, when you consider the resources available to them.

I use the word "resources" on purpose...as it brings me to my next point.

Many of you who read here are also readers of The Mid-Majority (and resources are discussed a lot over there). Chances are you've already read this year's edition of The Epilogue, but if you haven't read it, you should. And if you have read it, then you are probably already aware that I'll be joining The Mid-Majority next season as a freelance writer. Essentially, my work there will be in addition to my duties here with the Horizon League Network. No worries, you can't get rid of me that easily. Although, I'm sure many of you have come to realize this season that my cohort Adam Coppinger is a pretty talented fella...and without his help on a lot of this, it simply wouldn't happen. And there's no question this wouldn't happen without the support and forward thinking of the people at Horizon League headquarters.

It's worth noting that I'm not joining Kyle next season so that I can be a mouthpiece for the Horizon League's awesomeness (even though it's clear that I certainly appreciate what this league has to offer). I'm joining Kyle next season because it is an opportunity for me to learn about other mid-major programs that go through the same ups and downs as the programs here in the Horizon League. I will be thoughtful, objective, and as precise as possible...just as I have tried to be here on HLN, and just as I will continue to be both here at the HLN Blog and on HLN. My hope is that this opportunity will allow me to gain an even greater appreciation for what we have here in the Horizon League, and pass that perspective along to you.

For the next few months, we'll be on a quasi-hiatus. The posts will be less frequent, but Adam and I will surely keep you informed of anything that warrants discussion.

Thank you for your support this year. Here's to making next season...a beautiful season.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Visionaries

I heard a great story in the locker room on Saturday. I'll try and paraphrase it here.

Coach Gary Waters has a notebook that he calls a 'vision book' where he writes down goals, both long term and short term. He showed the book to a potential recruit early last season. The recruit looked at Waters and basically told him that the goals were too lofty. Waters stood by his benchmarks. A week later CSU went out and beat Florida State in OT. The recruit, after finding out the result, explained to his coach that the victory against FSU was in the vision book. The kid must have thought Waters was a basketball prophet.

I liked the story because it shows what kind of a coach and leader Gary Waters is. He believed when very few did. It hit me after the game that this senior class for Cleveland State all bought into coach Waters' vision and built a foundation for future CSU teams. The foundation starts with J'Nathan Bullock. Without #35 there is no HL championship and no NCAA Tournament. George Tandy and Cedric Jackson found CSU after choosing somewhere else first. Chris Moore and his hard word. Renard Fields, the forgotten senior at times, was there through the tough times as well.

When the final buzzer sounded I was already thinking about the emotions that would be spilled out in that tiny little locker room in the corner of American Airlines Arena. I feel like I know the people in that room, even though I don't. I took some video but it's not really worth posting. There were no national writers in the room. All the video cameras and journalists were 20 feet down the hallway in another locker room. When asked about his altercation with Cedric Jackson, Chase Budinger couldn't remember his name or number.

We'll remember the ride that CSU took us on. How they thoroughly pounded a team that was ranked number one in the country. And how they let us hang out with them for the tail end of their incredible journey. Thanks.


(13) Cleveland State vs. (12) Arizona

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Razing Arizona

Tomorrow around 2:40 Cleveland State will once again be underdogs. Unfortunately, the element of surprise is no longer on their side. Arizona was the last team in the field and they aren't about to take anybody lightly. They have three guys that can score in bunches. 6-7 Chase Budinger, 5-10 Nic Wise, and 6-10 Jordan Hill. Stop them and AZ can't win. Budinger is the most dangerous for CSU. He has the size to shoot over Cole and Jackson but is too quick for Bullock. This is specifically the type of guy who D'Aundray Brown would check. Matchup nightmare for the Vikings. They have to feel confident about containing Wise after shutting down Teague but Wise is much more likely to stay aggressive for 40 minutes. Hill is more of an offensive rebound guy. Keep him from getting good position down low and box him out and he won't be a huge factor offensively. 

What do the Wildcats think of Cleveland State? Here's Budinger in the locker room on CSU:

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The locker room today was a lot more crowded than yesterday or the day before. All the Vikings have taken it in stride. I mentioned yesterday that the smart people go to Norris for a good quote. Well apparently the word is out. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you "media darling" Nooooooooorrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiissss COLE!


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After Mr. Cole was done with all the really important people I got him to answer a couple questions about the game with Arizona tomorrow.


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What kind of preview would this be without some big guys? I've said it a couple times already but Chris Moore, Renard Fields, and George Tandy were so good defensively last night it got me thinking about many true post threats they've had to play against in the last 6 weeks. Matt Howard (Butler) is the only name that comes to mind and they held him in check as well. They were goofing around, which explains some of the random laughter. Here's Chris Moore then George Tandy:

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I got to ask Coach Gee about Chase Budinger and how the Vikings were going to stop another NBA-bound player. He compared Budinger to one of the HLN Blog's favorites...


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Thanks coach. I'll do my best to get some video up before tomorrow's game but the NCAA is pretty strict about video in and around the arena. The live blog will start up tomorrow at approximately 2:00 eastern. Stop by and root for the Vikings and follow along with what I'm seeing court side. See ya then!

In the Mean Time, the In-Between Time...


The Vikings came out so fast and so furious last night I thought I was watching a terrible Vin Diesel movie. Jackson's two 3-pointers had the Wake Forest coaching staff asking about the scouting report that they had that said he couldn't shoot, 32% for the year. Chris Moore's defense inside and his ability to run the floor got CSU easy opportunities at the basket. Norris Cole defended Jeff Teague well all game and J'Nathan Bullock was J'Nathan Bullock. Everybody coach Waters ran out played to their strengths and avoided making costly mistakes. The same can't be said for WF.

Eighteen turnovers, seven by Teague, showed that Cleveland State's ability to play the passing lanes, get deflections, and maintain a physical defensive style without fouling can frustrate even one of the best offensive teams in the country.

The Vikings' toughness was on full display as well. As they were fighting through tough calls (Jackson block/charge anyone?) the Demon Deacons were whining, showing their youth, and drifting in and out of timeouts. During the live blog someone asked about a foul that wasn't called when Bullock was shoved out of bounds and my response: he doesn't budge. They rarely complain about close calls, never expect a foul to be called, and treat reach-ins, holds, and hand checks by the other team as if they're flies that need to be ignored.

Coach Waters and his staff did a remarkable job getting their team prepared and it won't stop now. The business trip may just be getting started.

That Was Fun Wasn't It?

The title of this post is a quote from Horizon League Commissioner Jon LeCrone. And it was SO much fun. I was seated right in the middle of the Wake Forest section and it was AWESOME.
I was live blogging from right here during the game and I need some more CSU fans to show up during the game Sunday around 2:40.

POST GAME GOODIES:

I thought Chris Moore did a phenomenal job defensively tonight along with Renard Fields. I got a chance to ask Chris about the team's defensive gameplan tonight:

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Almost everybody in the room was trying to get quotes from J'Nathan but we all know that's a hard hill to climb. If you want a decent quote you go to the shooter, Norris Cole. As the story goes, he walked into practice on Monday and said "I got Teague". Right here on this very blog we had Cedric Jackson saying that Cole was most likely going to get a a turn on Teague. Here is Norris:


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Cedric was getting some 'treatment' at the beginning of the open locker room session but eventually made his way out. I'm guessing he experienced a little cramping during the second half and needed some fluids and an IV. He had a bandage on his arm and he was visibly shaking when he first came in. He was so good tonight I had to post something from him in the post-game soundbytes. Here he is talking about setting the tone at the beginning of the game:


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Coach Waters always seems so genuine during all his interviews with the media. I piggybacked on a question that ESPN.com's Pat Forde asked coach about what this win means for the Cleveland State program:


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I'll try to post more video tomorrow during the afternoon. CSU has their media session in the early evening and I'll post some video ASAP.

There are about one hundred moments that happened and thoughts I had during the game tonight and I really can't put them all down here or it would be a rambling mess. One thing I will say is that there really is nothing quite like rooting for a hard working group of guys like Cleveland State, knowing how tough of a conference they came out of, and having other people recognize that as well. Tonight was just so much fun. I'll post more thoughts/stories from the game at some point tomorrow because if I try right now it will sound like a bunch of fanboy nonsense. Gary and the boys are on a 'business trip' and as they got on the bus to go back to the hotel I can only imagine they were jammin' to THIS.