The Green Bay Phoenix are two wins away from an NCAA Tournament appearance.
It’s a position the program has found itself in quite a few times since joining the Horizon League prior to the 1994-1995 season.
In fact Green Bay is making its 15th appearance in the semifinals in 25 seasons as a member of the conference, the most of any other team in the league over that time frame. Detroit Mercy is second with 13 semifinals appearances followed by Wright State (11), Cleveland State and Milwaukee (10), and UIC (9).
The Phoenix are making their 5th semifinals appearance in the past seven seasons, tied with Monday’s opponent – Wright State – for the most over that span.
But Green Bay’s history in the semifinals has not been very good. The Phoenix have won two straight semifinal games including a buzzer beater victory over UIC in 2015 and a thrilling overtime victory over #1 seed Valparaiso in 2016 en route to the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid in 20 years.
However the Phoenix are just 4-10 in semifinals games since joining the Horizon League, including the current two game win streak. That means despite playing in more semifinal games than any other team, Green Bay has played for a tournament title just four times, winning it twice (1995, 2016).
Monday’s semifinal game will be a rematch of a game played just about a week earlier in Green Bay. The Phoenix won that one 70-67 after losing by 12 earlier this season on the road at the Nutter Center.
“I thought we played really well and executed well against them,” assistant coach Ben Swank said of Green Bay’s victory over Wright State after his team’s win against UIC on Tuesday. “I’m sure they’re going to make some adjustments on their end.”
“We’ll have to get in this week and figure out a game plan moving forward.”
Wright State had won four straight games against Green Bay prior to their loss at the Resch Center, including in last year’s conference tournament quarterfinals in Detroit. The Phoenix hold a slim 32-30 edge in the all-time series against the Raiders but are 4-6 against them since Linc Darner took over as Green Bay head coach in 2016.
Wright State has won 3 of the 5 postseason match-ups with both of Green Bay’s victories being championship games (1995, 2016).
Green Bay has won 5 of its last 7 games heading to Detroit and will look to build on its momentum from an exciting home victory in the quarterfinals on Tuesday night.
Wright State, for its part, is the hottest team in the league and the #1 seed thanks to winning 12 of its last 14 games.
“This year was kind of an up and down year,” Green Bay head coach Linc Darner said recently on the Bill Michaels radio show. “First half of the conference season we struggled, especially on the road. Second half we’ve played a lot better.”
“I feel like we’re playing our best basketball right now.”
Green Bay in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals:
1995 W – Northern Illinois (Won championship vs Wright State)
1996 L – Detroit
1997 L – Butler
1998 W – Detroit (Lost championship to Butler)
1999 L – Butler
2002 L – Loyola
2005 L – Detroit
2006 L – Butler
2007 L – Wright State
2009 L – Cleveland State
2013 L – Valparaiso
2014 L – Milwaukee
2015 W – UIC (Lost championship to Valparaiso)
2016 W – Valparaiso (Won championship vs Wright State)