The 2021 Horizon League Tournament title will be decided on Tuesday evening when the Cleveland State Vikings face the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in a battle between top-three seeds, with the winner advancing to the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Cleveland State is the top seed in the tournament, though it was tested in both games before landing in the finals. Oakland, the No. 3 seed, opened the Horizon League Tournament with an overtime win over Youngstown State, before an 11-point victory against Northern Kentucky in the semifinals.
Tournament: Progressive Insurance Horizon League Championship – Final
TV schedule: Tuesday, March 9, 7:00 pm ET. ESPN
Arena: Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, Indiana
Teams: Oakland Golden Grizzlies 12-17 (10-10) and Cleveland State Vikings 18-7 (16-4)
A year ago, Oakland had defeated Cleveland State by a score of 80-59 in the Horizon League Tournament opening round. Now, these two teams are playing for the opportunity to receive the automatic bid from the Horizon League to compete in the NCAA Tournament.
Even though Oakland and Cleveland State are both high seeds in this tournament, neither were expected to make it to the championship game. However, the Vikings and the Golden Grizzlies have been proving their doubters wrong after both teams were winless in non-conference play.
The reliance and determination displayed by Oakland and Cleveland State since late December when the Golden Grizzlies swept Detriot Mercy on the road and the Vikings sweeping Purdue Fort-Wayne on the road as well is a testament to the players and coaching staff of both programs. As the old saying goes, it is not how you start but how you finish.
Oakland for example even though they started the 0-9, they took national ranked Michigan on the road to overtime and they played four power-five conference teams, on the road as well. The Vikings after a poor showing on the road against Ohio played very well on the road against Ohio State where they outscored the Buckeyes in the second half before losing by only six points. Both teams grew and developed team chemistry which gave them momentum going forward into league play.
The Golden Grizzlies don’t have a tremendous amount of overall depth, especially in the frontcourt as they have young talent but their big guys up front are inexperienced. However, Oakland has a dynamic backcourt in Jalen Moore and Rashad Williams and both have played well thus far in this tournament and both will be needed to defeat the Vikings.
Their frontcourt is improving every game this tournament and they are lead by junior forward Daniel Oladapo who had a great game against Northern Kentucky in the Goldern Grizzlies semi-final victory.
Cleveland State is lead by Torrey Patton who is the Viking leading scorer. Cleveland State similar somewhat to Oakland is that they have a good guard-oriented team. Their top four leading scorers are guards and their defense is why they are in the position that they are in today competing for a league tournament championship.