Editor’s picks

By Jackson Gilbert

The Oakland men’s basketball team sits in fourth place in the Horizon League at 6-2 behind three schools deadlocked at 7-2.

But that record is deceiving — Oakland has beaten all three teams currently ahead in the standings: Valparaiso, Green Bay and Cleveland State.

The road to the Horizon League tournament (knock on wood) is shaping up for the Golden Grizzlies; they’ve played their home games against the toughest conference teams.

They play six of nine on the road in February including a final regular season matchup at Green Bay that could potentially be for the first seed in the tournament.

Finishing first or second has huge advantages in the Horizon, with those two seeds only having to win two games to be crowned league champion. The first seed gets to host the tournament. So let’s get to the picks.

Oakland at UIC 8 p.m. Wednesday

UIC (5-18, 1-7) is arguably the worst team in the Horizon League but that doesn’t mean it’s a team of slouches. The Flames play well at home. Their only win in league play is against Youngstown State at home.

However, they have played Cleveland State, Detroit and Valparaiso very close at home, losing  those three by a total of 11 points.

Senior guard Jay Harris leads UIC with 13.8 points per game and is second on the team averaging 3.1 assists. Junior forward Jake Wiegand leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per game and is second with 10.5 points.

Oakland is a better team that UIC, but the Flames have proven to be resilient and will be hungry for an upset after a heartbreaking loss last weekend to Valparaiso. All league games are important at this point in the season and Oakland coaches should do everything they can to avoid overlooking the Flames.

Prediction: Oakland 73, UIC 65

Oakland at Valparaiso 2:30 p.m. Sunday

This is the game of the week in the Horizon League. Valparaiso (20-4, 7-2) will be ready to avenge a January 2overtime loss at the O’rena.

Since then, Valparaiso’s only loss has been at Green Bay by one point.

Alec Peters continues to look like one of the top players in the Horizon League, going for 24 and 19 points in his last two contests, victories over Milwaukee and UIC.

He’ll be matched up against the possible HL defensive player of the year, Dante Williams.

Saying Valparaiso had a cakewalk schedule in the nonconference is a fair criticism; the Crusaders played some terrible teams on the way to winning 20 games.

But their 7-2 league record has to be respected and Oakland’s history with Valparaiso and the Drew coaching family means coach Greg Kampe will have the Golden Grizzlies ready.

Prediction: Oakland 63, Valparaiso 59