Friday, January 17, 2014

Sun Belt Update

I have never seen a team more difficult to analyze than Ray Harper's teams at Western Kentucky.  In 2012, the Hilltoppers were 9-18, and then won seven games in a row to make it to the first round of the NCAA Tournament and a match-up with Kentucky.  In 2013, the Hilltoppers were 13-14, and then they won seven out of eight games to reach the NCAA Tournament and a match-up with Kansas, who only beat Western by seven points.

After each of those runs, I expected Western to come roaring out of the gate in the next season.  But it hasn't happened.  This year, for example, the Hilltoppers were off to a 10-5 start, which is OK, but now they have lost back-to-back home games to Georgia State and Arkansas-Little Rock.  The loss to UALR was terrible, as Western led 64-56 with only 4:53 left in the game.

One thing that is consistent about Harper's teams is that they take huge numbers of three-point shots, even though they are not good three-point shooters.  Last year, 36 percent of Western's field-goal attempts were from behind the arc, even though they were 226th in the country in three-point percentage.  This year, 42.1 percent of Western's shots are three-pointers, even though they are 245th in three-point percentage.  On the other hand, Western is 305th in the country in 2-point percentage, so maybe shooting three's is their best bet.

Anyway, I'm not going to make any predictions about Western, because I don't think anyone knows what they'll do next.  (Just to give you a sense of how odd they are, in conference play they are 0-2 at home and 2-0 on the road).  For all I know, Harper just views everything before the middle of February as practice.  Here are the Sun Belt standings (conference games only):

98.  Georgia St:  4-0
239.  Ark-Little Rock:  4-1
179.  Arkansas St:  3-2
106.  La-Lafayette:  2-2
201.  W. Kentucky:   2-2
261.  La-Monroe:  2-2
255.  Troy:  2-3
224.  Tex-Arlington:  1-3
252.  Texas St:  1-3
202.  S. Alabama:  1-4

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