Horizon League Basketball Media Day previews 2017-18 season

With the stage set at the new Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit, the Horizon League hosted its 2017-18 basketball media day on Friday, Oct. 6. All 20 coaches from both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were present, as well as Tom Wilson, the president and CEO of Olympia Entertainment, and Jon LeCrone, the Horizon League commissioner.

At media day, the Horizon League previewed this year’s upcoming basketball season. For the first time since joining the league, Oakland University men’s basketball was picked to finish first in the Horizon League’s preseason poll. The poll was voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches, media members and men’s basketball contacts throughout the league. Oakland received 31 out of 47 first place votes.

Men’s basketball is set to have a season that is “one for the books” according to Head Coach Greg Kampe.

This season, Oakland added University of Illinois transfer Kendrick Nunn to the lineup after sitting out a year due to the NCAA transfer rules. Seniors Nick Daniels, Martez Walker and Jalen Hayes will be returning this season and with Nunn now on the court, the Golden Grizzlies will have four players who average 20 points a game.

“We got three guys who need shots so we’re going to have to manage that,” Kampe said. “We have a very unique situation. We have four fifth year seniors…Nick Daniels, I think, would be a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. He’s very good, he can score 30 [points] on any given night.”

Women’s basketball finished third in the preseason poll after finishing the 2016-17 season with 18 wins and a 12-6 league record. This marked the first time the Golden Grizzlies won 12 Horizon League games since joining the league in the 2013-14 season.

“I think it’s a great honor to be picked third in our league,” women’s Head Coach Jeff Tungate said. “It just shows the growth of our program and how we keep progressing, getting better every year. Our league this year is unbelievable, from top to bottom the league is amazing. So to have your peers pick you to finish third in a really, really good league shows the program we’re building and the direction we’re taking this program.”

The Black and Gold lost its key defensive player, Hannah Little, last season. Little averaged 12 rebounds per game and the women’s team will have to make up for those rebounds.

“If every starter can get two more rebounds and someone off the bench can get a couple then we’ll make up that twelve,” Tungate said. “For us to be successful we have to get those twelve rebounds made up, and it’s going to be more than just Taylor Jones, a lot of people are going to have to get us some extra rebounds…It’s a huge hole that we’re going to have to fill.”

Motor City Madness, the Horizon League’s championship tournament, will be hosted at Little Caesars Arena. LeCrone wants the arena to be completely filled every night during the tournament.

“We want to sell [the championship game] out this year,” LeCrone said. “I think that has to be our commitment. We want the place to be full on championship game night and for all the other rounds…I want to thank Tom and [John Ciszewski] for this extraordinary opportunity.”

Last season, Motor City Madness was held in Joe Louis Arena, but following the “Joe’s” recent demolition, the tournament will take place at Little Caesars Arena. By bringing the tournament to the new arena, Wilson is hoping more college students will want to come to Detroit to experience the “constantly changing city” and college basketball.

“At the end of the day you’re going to love the city, you’re going to love what it’s become, you’re going to love what it’s becoming because it’s changing positively everyday,” he said. “I think that you’re just going to love this building and coming to see great college basketball.”

Motor City Madness will take place March 2-6, 2018.