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Horizon League Basketball: Preseason power rankings for 2021-22 season

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 09: The Cleveland State Vikings celebrate winning the Horizon League Men's basketball championship after defeating the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 09, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 09: The Cleveland State Vikings celebrate winning the Horizon League Men's basketball championship after defeating the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 09, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /
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Sussex Hamilton forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. Horizon League Basketball Sussex Hamilton basketball
Sussex Hamilton forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. Horizon League Basketball Sussex Hamilton basketball /

4. Milwaukee Panthers

2020-21 season record: 10-12 (7-10 in Horizon)

Key losses – Te’Jon Lucas (14.9 ppg and 5.8 apg), Amir Allen (5.6 ppg and 5.5 rpg)

What makes the Horizon League so interesting to watch this season is that somehow, a 25 ppg career scorer (Davis) isn’t the biggest name in the conference. That would be Patrick Baldwin Jr., a 6’8 forward and five-star prospect that choose his father and head coach Partick Baldwin Sr. over the Duke Blue Devils in what was a highly publicized recruiting saga.

Baldwin Jr. is a top-10 overall freshman recruit and likely “one and done” player that from a talent perspective, is clearly the best player in the Horizon League. The question will be what kind of impact he single-handedly will have on a game-to-game basis. The 6’8 forward that can score anywhere on the court and handle the ball on the perimeter is likely set to be a leading facilitator of the offense, which if successful, would offset the loss of Te’Jon Lucas, who was the do-it-all playmaker for the Panthers last season.

In case they need a true point guard to run the offense, transfer Jordan Lathon, who missed last season due to injuries, is capable. Also in the backcourt is DeAndre Gholston, who led Milwaukee in scoring at 16.8 ppg last season. 6’4 wing Josh Thomas (12.5 ppg) is back after shooting 52% from the field, joined by Coffeyville (JUCO) transfer guard Markeith Browning for more depth.

The perimeter will be just fine for Milwaukee but Baldwin’s assistance will be needed more in the frontcourt, where they lack consistent production outside of forward Tafari Simms. They did add some potential pieces in the offense, including a pair of AAC transfers in Moses Bol and Samba Kane, along with D-II newcomer Joey St. Pierre. All of these guys are taller than anyone the Panthers had last season and the 6’8 Baldwin gives them plenty of size to work with this season.

If Baldwin proves to be a transcendent talent that makes everyone better, the Panthers could very well win the regular-season title and even get the automatic bid. But if he’s just a very good stat producer that doesn’t correlate to the win-loss column, they’ll just be a highly entertaining top-half program in the standings. So No. 4 is a good spot to hedge bets but I could very well be wrong here if Baldwin is the real deal.