Milwaukee was picked to finish last in the Horizon League this season after winning only eight games a year ago.
So much for conventional wisdom.
The Panthers completed a remarkable run through the conference tournament Tuesday with a 69-63 victory over Wright State to capture the championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Milwaukee lost eight of 11 games from mid-January to the end of February and appeared to be living up to its low expectations, but it turned things around with five consecutive victories, including an overtime win over tournament favorite Green Bay to earn a spot in the final.
Senior Kyle Kelm was a rebound short of a double-double in the championship with 20 points and nine rebounds. He led the Panthers to a double-digit victory in the first half. Milwaukee held double-digit leads on all four teams it beat in the tournament.
Senior guard Jordan Aaron earned the Horizon League tournament Most Valuable Player award. He scored 18 points in Tuesday’s championship game.
The Panthers are in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time, the first since 2006. They are 3-3 in previous trips, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2005.
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