Monday, November 10, 2014

Together . . . A New Beginning

For the first time since the 1981-82 season, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will not be competing in the Sun Belt Conference, as they move into Conference USA.  Here are Western's 23 appearances in the NCAA Tournament broken down by Conference membership (Final Four appearances in Bold):

Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference:  1940
Ohio Valley Conference:  1960, 1962, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981
Sun Belt Conference:  1986, 1987, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013

For WKU trivia buffs, here is each coach's record in Sun Belt Conference play (years of NCAA appearances are in parentheses):

Clem Haskins (1983-86):  24-32 (.429) (1986)
Murray Arnold (1987-90):  29-27 (.517) (1987)
Ralph Willard (1991-94):  46-20 (.697) (1993, 1994)
Matt Kilcullen (1995-98):  42-30 (.583) (1995)
Dennis Felton (1999-2003):  54-20 (.729) (2001, 2002, 2003)
Darrin Horn (2004-08):  57-21 (.730) (2008)
Ken McDonald (2009-12):  36-19 (.654) (2009) (replaced 3 games into 2012 SBC season)
Ray Harper (2012-14):  32-23 (.581) (2012, 2013)

So the Hilltoppers conclude their time in the Sun Belt with an all-time regular season conference record of 320-192, a winning percentage of .625, and 12 trips to the NCAA Tournament.

(For the record, from 1949-82 the Hilltoppers went 304-118 in regular season conference play in the OVC.  That was a winning percentage of .720, and was good for 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament.)

Now it's time for a new challenge.  No more trips to Arkansas!  (UK fans wish they could say the same.)  Here's the schedule (home games in all caps).  I'm sure WKU fans are particularly excited about the visit from Louisville, but personally I'm thrilled to see that Bowling Green is coming to Bowling Green:

11/15/14:  AUSTIN PEAY
11/18/14:  at Minnesota (NIT Season Tip-Off)
11/22/14:  BELMONT (NIT Season Tip-Off)
11/25/14:  at Stony Brook (NIT Season Tip-Off)
11/27/14:  St. Joseph's (New York) (NIT Season Tip-Off)
12/03/14:  BOWLING GREEN
12/06/14:  at Murray St.
12/13/14:  at Mississippi
12/17/14:  CHICAGO STATE
12/20/14:  LOUISVILLE
12/27/14:  BRESCIA
12/29/14:  ALICE LLOYD
01/04/15:  MARSHALL (conf.)
01/08/15:  CHARLOTTE (conf.)
01/10/15:  OLD DOMINION (conf.)
01/15/15:  at Florida Atlantic (conf.)
01/17/15:  at Florida International (conf.)
01/22/15:  TEXAS-EL PASO (conf.)
01/24/15:  TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (conf.)
01/29/15:  at Louisiana Tech (conf.)
01/31/15:  at So. Mississippi (conf.)
02/05/15:  N. TEXAS (conf.)
02/07/15:  RICE (conf.)
02/14/15:  at Marshall (conf.)
02/19/15:  at Ala-Birmingham (conf.)
02/22/15:  at Middle Tenn. St. (conf.)
02/26/15:  FLORIDA ATLANTIC (conf.)
02/28/15:  FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (conf.)
03/05/15:  at Charlotte (conf.)
03/07/15:  at Old Dominion (conf.)
03/11/15:  C-USA Tournament (Birmingham, Ala.)

There are 14 teams in the C-USA.  As you can see, Western plays two games each against Marshall, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Fla. Atlantic, and Fla. International, and one game each against the other eight members.  Presumably this will change from year to year, as it does in the SEC.

Here are Ken Pomeroy's rankings for each of the C-USA members.  If these rankings are correct, WKU should be quite competitive in its new league:

49.  Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
78.  UTEP Miners
95.  Charlotte 49ers
108.  Old Dominion Monarchs
115.  Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
122.  Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
126.  Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
164.  UAB Blazers
219.  North Texas Mean Green
244.  Marshall Thundering Herd
251.  Florida Atlantic Owls
257.  Florida International Panthers
292.  Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
301.  Rice Owls

Pomeroy says that C-USA is the 13th-strongest conference.  (The Sun Belt is 21st; the OVC is 22d.)  But I can't think of another conference that has a better collection of team nicknames.

We wish the Tops all the best in their new home, and we look forward to their next appearance in the NCAA's.


  1. I'm going to love ConfUSA. I just cannot believe that we get to play UAB, ODU and UNCC again. I hope Rax re-opens stores in all of these towns.

    1. What about LaTech? Didn't y'all used to have a big rivalry with LaTech?

    2. Louisiana Tech joined the Sun Belt after I got out of WKU, so that rivalry is not such a big deal for me personally. LaTech and WKU did have a very good early '90s rivalry in women's basketball. Arkansas State was another good one to this regard.

      But, for me personally, the true WKU rivals are UAB, UNCC, VCU, ODU, USF, Jax and USA. #BELT86!