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Tom Mieskoski

Gary_WatersWith a 87-83 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday night at the Wolstein Center, Cleveland State let another golden opportunity for the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout next week's Horizon League Tournament slip away.

The loss drops CSU to 23-7, 12-5 in the Horizon League and in a three-way tie for first-place with Milwaukee (17-12, 12-5 Horizon League) and Butler (20-9, 12-5) with one game to go.

However, with the loss, CSU no longer control its own destiny for the No. 1 or No. 2 seeds and a bye into the semifinals.

If CSU wins at home against Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday they will lock up at least the No. 3 seed. That's because both Milwaukee and Butler hold the tie breakers over CSU and would need help from them in order to get one of the byes.

"Now we got to go the long route and this team isn't built to go the long route," said CSU coach Gary Waters. "Two years ago that team was built to do that because we had a bench. This team with five guys to go the long route will take a lot out of them."

Without the bye, CSU would host a game next Tuesday and would have to win four games in eight days to win the championship.

"They outplayed us at every phase of the game," said Waters. "You got to take care of business at home and we didn't take care of business tonight. All I can say is this team is not ready to win a championship."

The Vikings fell behind by 17 in the first half and they fought hard to close to within, 41-32, at the half.

"They were ready to play," said Norris Cole. "They came out got a good start and that hump was too much to overcome."

In the second half, CSU came out more aggressive taking the ball to the rim, instead of relying on jump shots. They would cut the lead down to, 41-36.

Then Aaron Pogue picked up his fourth foul and took a seat on CSU's bench. Without Pogue on the floor, Milwaukee took advantage of the undersized Vikings frontcourt and went on a 20-6 run over the next four minutes.

The 19-point deficit (61-42) in the second half proved to be too deep of a hole for CSU to climb out of.


Tom Mieskoski

Charlie_Woods_mugCleveland State forward Charlie Woods, who has missed the last three games after suffering a dislocated thumb during practice on Feb. 10, had an MRI last week.

"(The MRI showed that) nothing was broken and nothing was torn," said CSU coach Gary Waters at his weekly media gathering on Monday. "It was just a dislocation that popped back in and we are waiting for it to heal. We're hoping to get him back for tournament play."

The 6-foot-7 sophomore is averaging 2.8 points and 2.7 rebounds a game coming off the bench.

Big week: The place to be this weekend is at the Wolstein Center.

That's where CSU (23-6, 12-4 Horizon League) have a chance to win its first Horizon League regular season championship and host next week's tournament. If they can hold serve at home this week against Wisconsin-Milwaukee (16-12, 11-5) Thursday at 7 p.m. and Wisconsin-Green Bay (13-6, 7-9) Saturday at 2 p.m.

"These two games are vital," said Waters. "If we can win both games it puts us into the semifinals. For us that would be the best scenario for this team because we don't have a bench to be able to win four games."


Ryan Aroney

Horizon_League_LogoHeading into this weekend's final two conference games, the Cleveland State Vikings control their own destiny for the regular season championship and the top seed in the Horizon League Tournament.

If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with the unique format of the Horizon League Tournament. If you're new here, the top two seeds in the regular season are rewarded with a double-bye into the semi-finals.

The rest of the teams begin the tournament on Tuesday March 1st, with seeds 3-6 hosting 7-10 at the campus home of the higher seed.

The quarter-finals and semi-finals are held at the home of the No.1 seed on Friday March 4th and Saturday March 5th.

This means, by the time the top two seeds play their first game of the tournament, their opponent will be playing on back-to-back nights and its third game in five days.

The championship is then played three days later, on March 8th, at the home of the highest remaining seed. This is done to ensure a home crowd for the championship game. The Horizon League doesn't want a scenario that amounts to a neutral site game, say Loyola and UIC playing the championship in Cleveland in front of an empty Wolstein Center, which is exactly what happened in 2002 in the last year of the old format.

This format also protects the top teams and helps them get into the NCAA Tournament. That 2002 scenario also left 25-5 Butler out of the NCAA,

Since the switch to the new format in 2003, the top seed has played in every championship game, and one of the top two seeds has won the tournament in every year except 2008, when No.3 seed Cleveland State upset Butler at Hinkle Field House.

In fact, only two teams not seeded in the top two have even advanced to the championship game, the aforementioned CSU team and Detroit in 2005.

The format change has also helped the Horizon League have unprecedented success in the NCAA Tournament. The HL is one of seven conferences, along with the other six "power conferences", to win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament for six straight years. The League has also advanced a team to the Sweet 16 four out of the eight years since the switch.

Horizon League Standings:

The standings are as close as they've ever been this late in the season, with only one game separating first and fourth place.

1 Cleveland State 12-4, 23-6

2 Butler 12-5, 20-9

3 Valparaiso 11-5, 20-9

4 Milwaukee 11-5, 16-12

5 Wright State 10-7 18-12

6 Detroit 9-8, 15-15

7 Green Bay 7-9, 13-16

8 Loyola 6-10, 15-13

9 Youngstown State 2-14, 9-18

10 UIC 2-15, 7-22

It's pretty simple for Cleveland State, if the Vikings win their two remaining games, they will win the first regular season Horizon League championship in school history and host the tournament.

If CSU loses a game, things will get hectic at the top. The Vikings could drop as far as fourth with a single loss in the final weekend because of tiebreakers.

Tiebreakers: (skip ahead to the next section if you don't want a tiebreaker-induced migraine)

The first tiebreaker in the Horizon League is head-to-head. CSU is currently 1-0 vs. Milwaukee, and if the Vikings take care of the Panthers on Thursday, it will knock Milwaukee out of the discussion for the top seed.

On the other hand, CSU is 1-1 vs. Valparaiso and 0-2 against Butler and both teams have a chance to catch the Vikings if CSU loses either game.

If two teams are tied in the standings and split the season series, the record against the next team in the standings is used as a tiebreaker.

So, if CSU ties Butler, they lose the 1st tiebreaker because of head-to-head, and if CSU ties Valpo, they lose 2nd tiebreaker because Valpo split with Butler while CSU was swept.

Stay with me.

If more than one team is tied at the top, the cumulative head-to-head record is the tiebreaker. For example, if CSU tied both Butler and Valpo for the top spot, Butler would win the No.1 seed because they are 3-1 vs. CSU/Valpo, while Valpo is 2-2 against the others and CSU is 1-3.

Make sense?

Now, this can go in a million different directions this weekend, but the main point is this, CSU controls its own destiny, but doesn't control any of the tiebreakers if they lose.

All of this does leave Milwaukee in a good spot for the tiebreaker, so they too control their own destiny for the top seed thanks to their remaining game with CSU and their sweep of Butler.

Likely Scenarios:

If CSU wins out, they're the champs.

If the Vikings lose to Milwaukee, CSU is probably the fourth seed with Milwaukee grabbing the No.1 seed.

If CSU beats Milwaukee and drops the finale to Green Bay, the Vikings are probably the third seed with Butler taking the No.1 seed thanks to its sweep of the Vikings.

Valpo can still claim the top spot if they win out, but they would need CSU to beat Milwaukee and then lose to Green Bay, as well as have Butler lose its last game at home to Loyola.

Tom Mieskoski


Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters has coached several players that went on to play in the NBA in his 37 years of coaching and the last 15 years have been as a head coach. So he knows an NBA player when he sees one.

After Norris Cole's 41 point, 20 rebound and nine assist outburst against Youngstown State last Saturday, Waters talked about Cole's NBA draft stock.

"He's got the potential. He's got that killer instinct out there," said Waters. "He's learned the point guard to my estimation as well as you can learn it.

"He knows how to control tempo. He knows when to use his speed and go past you for a layup. He can hit threes. He can shoot the mid-range. Not many point guards that can do that in basketball."

On Monday, Waters was asked if he thought Cole will get drafted: "At least a second-round [pick]," he said at his weekly media gathering. "I think if someone really likes him, I think they will take a chance at him in the first round."

This summer, he caught the eyes of several NBA scouts at Nike's Deron Williams Skills Academy for point guards.


Ryan Aroney

Norris_Cole_2010Cleveland State heads into its BracketBusters game at Old Dominion (21-6, 33 RPI) with its at-large chances hanging by a thread. One of the showcase games in the BracketBusters series, the Cleveland State-Old Dominion game will be televised by ESPN2 Sunday at 1 p.m. and offers both teams its best remaining chance to bolster the at-large resume.

The Vikings currently stand at 23-5 with an RPI of 34 and a 4-4 record against the RPI top-100. The Cleveland State resume includes victories over Valparaiso (54 RPI), Kent State (94), St. Bonaventure (98), and Milwaukee (99). CSU also boasts a victory over Iona (112) and two wins against Wright State (115), with both teams having a chance to move back into the top-100 before all is said and done.

Victories against top-100 opponents are important for an at-large birth because no team has ever been selected as an at-large with fewer than three top-100 victories. In all of those instances, at least one of the top-100 wins came against a top-50 team. A team like Cleveland State, without a victory over a top-50 opponent, needs at least four top-100 victories to be selected.

The Vikings currently sit right on the historical border of being a bubble team, but with three of their top victories a loss or two from dropping out of the top-100, CSU still needs to pick up some big wins and get some help along the way.

Comparisons to Other Bubble Teams:

Cleveland State's five losses have come at the hands of West Virginia (23), twice to Butler (34), Valparaiso (44) and Detroit (150). The only loss that stands out is Detroit, but even that one is not as bad as some losses on the resumes of other bubble teams.

Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Boston College, Michigan State, Richmond and Memphis as his last four in to the tournament. Boston College lost to Yale (144), Michigan State lost to Iowa (153), Richmond lost to Georgia Tech (165), and Memphis lost to SMU (189).

The closest comparison to CSU out this group is Richmond. The Spiders lost to an Iona team that CSU beat, has a strength of schedule ranking of 153 compared to 123 for CSU, and is 4-5 against the top-100 teams with one top-50 win. The top-50 win happened to come against Purdue, and that upset is the main thing putting the Spiders in the tournament over CSU. A couple of late losses by Richmond, like their 20-point loss at the hands of Temple on Thursday, could help the Vikings cause.


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