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Conference preview: Shining a light on the Horizon

Kevin Van Wijk,LaMarcus Lowe

Valparaiso forward Kevin Van Wijk, right, battles for a loose ball with Detroit forward LaMarcus Lowe during the first half in the Horizon League conference tournament championship NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Valparaiso, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)


Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Butler’s gone! Butler’s gone! Whatever shall the Horizon League DO?

Carry on, one suspects. It’s worth noting that, since the turn of the millennium, the league has sent Milwaukee to the Big Dance three times, Illinois-Chicago twice, and Cleveland State, Wright State and Detroit once apiece.

In fact, Detroit is the league’s reigning tourney champion. Ray McCallum, Jr. is repeating as the preseason player of the year, as chosen by league coaches, media and sports information directors. And Detroit has only been tabbed as the second-best team in the league. More love has been showered on the Valparaiso Crusaders, who have prospered under the coaching of Bryce Drew, a man whose One Shining Moment as a Valpo player has become symbolic of mid-major glory.

The Crusaders return 6-7 Ryan Broekhoff, the Horizon’s leader rebounds per game from last season. At his side will be highly efficient big man Kevin Van Wijk and pass-first, defend-first guard Erik Buggs.

McCallum is an NBA-sized talent, but he isn’t alone in Motor City. Big man Nick Minnerath only played five games last year, sitting out the rest of the season after injuring his knee against Bowling Green. He’ll be back and ready to tear it up, as will senior guard Jason Calliste.

No other team garnered even one first-place vote from the panel, but Green Bay and Youngstown State have enough talent to figure in the league race, and Cleveland State is always good under head coach Gary Waters.

The days of two bids for the Horizon are likely over. Since those at-large bids always went to Butler anyway, things really haven’t changed all that much for the rest of the league.

All-League Team (*Player of the Year)

Kendrick Perry, 6’0” G, Youngstown State

*Ray McCallum, 6’2” G, Detroit

Ryan Broekhoff, 6’7” G, Valparaiso

Kevin Van Wijk, 6’8” F, Valparaiso

Alec Brown, 7’1” C, Green Bay

Predicted Standings

1. Valparaiso

2. Detroit

3. Youngstown State

4. Green Bay

5. Cleveland State

6. Milwaukee

7. Illinois-Chicago

8. Loyola

9. Wright State