Western Kentucky Men's Basketball 2013 NCAA Tournament Capsule

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Sun Belt (20-15, 10-10)

 Purchase Western Kentucky Merchandise

Western Kentucky has had a pretty good run in terms of making the NCAA tournament the last couple of seasons.  They have punched their ticket to the dance for the second year in a row after defeating a rapidly improving Florida International team in the championship game, a team who placed ahead of them in the conference standings.  Head Coach Ray Harper, in his second season, is two-for-two with conference championships and tournament bids.  He is setting a standard that hopefully the program can continue to live up to.  The Hilltoppers are 4-3 in the NCAA tournament since 2008.  They are no longer a Cinderella story.

Big Wins: 11/21 vs DePaul (70-61), 12/27 Florida International (76-63), 3/11 Florida International (65-63)
Bad Losses: 1/12 Florida Atlantic (62-65), 1/19 Arkansas-Little Rock (54-59), 2/14 at Florida Atlantic (78-84)
Coach: Ray Harper (2 years at Western Kentucky)

Why They Can Surprise:
The main reason Western Kentucky can surprise a team in the tournament is because they have done it before.  Ray Harper led them to a win last year before falling to eventual champion Kentucky.  They reached the regional semifinal in 2008.  They have won at least one game in their last three tournament appearances.  2013 remains to be seen, but the Hilltoppers certainly have momentum on their side.  They are the first team in the NCAA to win four games in four days to win a conference title two years in a row.  That has obviously led to some success for them.  Western Kentucky’s biggest advantage is size.  They have two guys over 6’10” and they generally outrebound their opponents.  They have a more bruising style, when possible, than a finesse shooting team.  Sophomore forward George Fant, moderately sized at 6’6”, is key.  If he gets going, the rest of the team seems to pick up their game.  He is the team’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder.

Why They Can Disappoint:
This team really falls apart with turnovers and sloppy half-court play.  They average 15 turnovers per game.  Their point guards do not do the best job at finding the open shooters or cutters.  They are in the bottom half of the conference in assist to turn over ratio (.75).  Western Kentucky is best served playing an inside-out game with their big guys in the middle.  When they are reduced to shooting from the outside, they do not convert efficiently from three.  Western Kentucky will most likely have to play a bigger team at some point in the tournament.  Their shooting is going to have to come through for them in that situation.  What will hurt them more is the fact that they cannot consistently hit foul shots.  The Hilltoppers only hit about 67 percent from the free-throw line.  It would have cost them against Florida International had they not shot 10 more free throws than the Panthers (WKU went 13-19).  They also tend to keep teams in games because of their propensity to foul shooters.  They average 19 team fouls per contest.  Some team will make them pay if they foul at that rate in the tournament.

Probable Starters:
Jamal Crook, Senior, Guard, 12.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
T.J. Price, Sophomore, Guard, 15.3 ppg, 2.4 apg, 4.4 rpg
Caden Dickerson, Junior, Guard, 2.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg
George Fant, Sophomore, Forward, 12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Aleksejs Rostov, Freshman, Center, 4.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Key Roleplayers:
Brandon Harris, Junior, Guard, 8.3 ppg, 1.9 apg, 5.7 rpg
O’Karo Akamune, Junior, Forward, 2.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 67.3 (179th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.8 (154, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.0 (194, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.4 (160, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.4 (140, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.2 (240, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.4 (233, 9)
Rebound Margin: 3.3 (77, 2)
Assists Per Game: 11.3 (288, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 15.0 (288, 6)

Last Five Postseason Appearances:
2012    NCAA    First Round win over Mississippi Valley State
2012    NCAA    Second Round loss to Kentucky
2009    NCAA    Round of 64 win over Illinois
2009    NCAA    Round of 32 loss to Gonzaga
2008    NCAA    Round of 64 win over Drake
2008    NCAA    Round of 32 win over San Diego
2008    NCAA    Regional Semifinal loss to UCLA
2006    NIT        First Round loss to South Carolina
2005    NIT        Opening round win over Kent State
2005    NIT        First round loss to Wichita State

*all team stats through 3/10


See All Men’s Basketball Postseason Capsules