#61 Western Kentucky Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview


Western Kentucky Hilltoppers


2017-2018 Overall Rank: #61

Conference Rank: #1 Conference USA

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Coach Rick Stansbury is still working on reloading the Western Kentucky roster. In his debut season, the Hilltoppers struggled to a disappointing 15-17 overall record. With just two players returning, there is still plenty of reloading to do. This season will be all about mixing the new pieces together. That was the case last year too and it did not go particularly well. However, this time around Coach Stansbury should have more talent to work with and by March this team should be extremely dangerous.
2016-17 Record: 15-17, 9-9
2016-17 Postseason: None
Coach: Rick Stansbury
Coach Record: 15-17 at Western Kentucky, 308-182 overall
Who’s Out:
Pancake Thomas, Que Johnson and Junior Lomoba were regular starters during their final seasons at WKU. Thomas was the team’s most prolific and consistent three-point shooter and averaged 13.8 points per game. Johnson, a transfer from Washington State, added 13.2 points per game. Lomoba, a Providence graduate transfer, added 6.1 points and dished out a team high 3.4 assists. Anton Waters and Ben Lawson split starting time in the paint. And most of the depth is gone too with Jabari McGhee, Damari Parris, Tobias Howard and Marty Leahy providing quality minutes off the bench at one time or another.
Who’s In:
But this team is all about who is coming in, not who is out. Lamonte Bearden is one of four Division I transfers who will make a big impact on this team. Bearden spent two seasons at Buffalo where he was a regular starter for the Bulls. As a sophomore in 2015-2016, he led the Bulls with 13.7 points and 4.2 assists. He should be a great point guard for WKU from day one. Darius Thompson averaged 6.2 points and 2.2 assists at Virginia last season. He can score much more than that given the opportunity and at the least will be a dangerous three-point shooter for the Hilltoppers. Jared Savage should not be overlooked despite the bigger names coming into the program. He comes from Austin Peay where he averaged 10.3 points per game two years ago. He will be a great shooter off the bench. Dwight Coleby spent last season at Kansas where he did not play much, but he is a very talented player who can hit the glass effectively and block some shots. Junior college transfer Moustapha Diagne adds some more much needed experience to the frontcourt. The incoming freshmen this year are Taveion Hollingsworth, Marek Nelson, Jake Ohmer, Josh Anderson and Mitchell Robinson. Adams and Hollingsworth, who had had a very good showing during the team’s foreign trip, are the two to watch in the backcourt. Robinson is the program’s first ever McDonald’s All-American signing. The 7-1 center will make a huge impact once all the off court drama goes away.
Who to Watch:
Justin Johnson spent his offseason playing tight end for the football team, but rejoined the basketball squad in the summer. That is great news for the basketball team. He started 31 games and led WKU with 14.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Not only is he an extremely productive player on both ends of the floor, but his leadership and experience will be invaluable while the Hilltoppers fit all of the new pieces together. With Johnson leading the way and Coleby, Diagne and Robinson joining the fray, Western Kentucky has a ton of potential in the frontcourt. Senior walk-on guard Tyler Miller is the only other active player from last year’s roster returning this season. Once again he should not have to play a large role on this team.
Final Projection:
Coach Stansbury eventually got most of the players he wanted, although there were a couple junior college transfers who did not end up in the program. Regardless, the massive roster turnover seems to be over, for now, and when the music stopped, the Hilltoppers were still left with a good roster that has enough depth and talent to win the Conference USA title. Of course, there is plenty of work to be done and there will be growing pains. The offseason trip could not have come at a better time and even those few extra practices are helpful for Coach Stansbury when it comes to developing team chemistry. It still might take some time, but expect this group to be playing great basketball by the time conference play rolls around.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Lamonte Bearden, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Darius Thompson, Senior, Guard, 6.2 points per game (at Virginia)
Taveion Hollingsworth, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Justin Johnson, Senior, Forward, 14.5 points per game
Dwight Coleby, Senior, Forward, 1.7 points per game (at Kansas)
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.0 (271st in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.9 (172, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.0 (198, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.2 (246, 11)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (233, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.4 (154, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.1 (278, 10)
Rebound Margin: 0.4 (180, 8)
Assists Per Game: 12.4 (244, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.1 (88, 4)
Madness 2018 NBA Draft Rankings:
#14 Mitchell Robinson
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#8 Mitchell Robinson
#57 Josh Anderson