|Posted by Brian Dickmann on October 16, 2013 at 11:30 PM|
For the first time since the 1995-1996 season, the Green Bay Phoenix are the preseason favorites to win the Horizon League. Conference media members, coaches, and sports information directors voted the Phoenix as the favorite to win the league championship at the annual Horizon League Media Day in Chicago. Green Bay was also named the league favorite in the league's first ever Preseason Fan Vote.
The high expectations come on the heels of a third place finish a season ago. A season that was a roller coaster ride from start to finish. It was a season that was plagued with injuries and suspensions but also featured a home win against Marquette and a joyful buzzer beater victory in the Horizon League Tournament against UIC to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since 2009. It was a season that also had more than one buzzer beater loss, including a gut punch loss at Valparaiso at that same Horizon League Tournament that saw the Phoenix come as close to the NCAA Tournament as they had in recent memory.
The early 90's Phoenix teams still remain the high water mark in Green Bay basketball. The program's lone NCAA win came in the 1994 tournament against Jason Kidd and his California Golden Bears. Dick Bennett got the team back to the tournament in 1995 in his final season in Northeast Wisconsin before taking the Badgers coaching position in Madison. In 1996, the Phoenix earned an 8 seed and lost to the 9 seed Virginia Tech in Mike Heidemann's first year at the helm. Last season was the closest Green Bay has come to the tournament since then.
So with those days almost 20 years in the past, it's time to get back to the NCAA tournament. Green Bay's 7-1 center Alec Brown will almost certainly be an NBA draft, the program's first since Jeff Nordgaard in the 1996 NBA Draft. Brown and junior point guard Keifer Sykes were both named to the Horizon League's preseason first team all-conference squad. So with an NBA bound player, the league's best point guard (Sykes), the leagues best rebounder (Jordan Fouse), and a squad that boasts more depth than any Phoenix team in the past few seasons, there are plenty of reasons to believe that this will be the year the Phoenix returns to March Madness.
Like any mid-major, there are question marks with this team. Who will play shooting guard? Can anybody hit a three point shot? Have the road woes been cured? Wright State beat Green Bay both times last season and returns their entire team, shouldn't they be the favorite? The Horizon League is wide open, no doubt. But in the opinions of those who follow the league the closest, Green Bay is the favorite.
The Horizon League keeps getting better. There is reason to believe that this season in Green Bay, we will have a college basketball team that is the best team in one of the best mid-major basketball conferences in the country. These high expectations are reason for excitement. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Green Bay Press-Gazette: UWGB picked as Horizon League preseason favorite
GreenBayPhoenix.com: Green Bay tabbed preseason Horizon League favorite
Categories: Green Bay Basketball