Two years I’ve been writing for Examiner.com and I’ve given zero column space to the Cleveland State Vikings men’s basketball team. And that’s my mistake. Being blinded these last few years by the glitz and glam that is the NBA, I’ve completely overlooked a rising basketball program right in downtown Cleveland. And maybe you have too.
Currently the Vikings are 20-3 overall, 9-2 in the Horizon League, good enough for first place in their conference. They have two pivotal games coming up this week, at home against Valparaiso on Thursday and at home against NCAA Tournament finalist Butler on Saturday. That game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Coach Gary Waters has done a phenomenal job with this once-ailing basketball program. In his fifth season, he has taken the Vikings from the bottom of the conference to the top. Along the way, he picked up an NCAA Tournament win in 2009, defeating Wake Forest in the first round after winning the Horizon League conference tournament.
This year he is seeking to bring CSU its first regular season Horizon League Conference Championship. The last time CSU finished first in their conference was in 1993, when they played in the now-renamed Mid-Continent Conference.
The Vikings are led by senior point guard Norris Cole, who is averaging 20/5/5 per game. His fluid style on offense and hustle on defense makes him a joy to watch. And junior guard Trevon Harmon can change a game in a heartbeat with his three-point shot. He’s making them at a 40% clip this season.
Like most mid-major schools, the Vikings are lacking a bit in size. But any hot-shooting squad like CSU can overcome this shortage, as Butler proved last season during that school’s march to the finals. If the Vikings hope to reach the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need to keep that hot shooting trend to continue.
Wins over Valpo and Butler this week would almost certainly bring CSU into the Top-25 rankings, helping their prospects of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they don’t win their conference tournament.
And the Vikings will also have another nationally televised game on Feb 20th when they travel to Old Dominion for ESPN’s 9th annual “BracketBusters”. More national exposure can only help the Vikings in their quest to be a part of March Madness.
So if you’re a fan of basketball, take a well-deserved break from the hopeless Cavaliers and head down to the Wolstein Center this week to see a winner. You’ve earned it.
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