Saturday, March 12, 2016

Farewell to the Hilltoppers

As usual, Coach Ray Harper's Western Kentucky Hilltoppers made a mad dash down the stretch.  The Tops -- who famously pulled a series of impressive upsets under Harper to win the Sun Belt Tournament in 2012 and 2013 -- were 12-14 on February 19, having gone 4-9 to open conference play.  But they won five of their last six games in the regular season, and then knocked off North Texas and Alabama-Birmingham to reach the semi-finals of the Conference USA Tournament.  Unfortunately, Western then lost to Old Dominion by the score of 89 to 77, thus ending their season.  But the Hilltoppers' late charge left them with a record of 18-16 overall, including a record of 8-10 in C-USA.  They also pulled their final ranking up to 168 on Ken Pomeroy.

It should be noted that this was Coach Harper's fourth full season at WKU, and the first in which he didn't win exactly 20 games.  His record for those four years is 78-56 overall, and 42-32 in conference play.  In these four seasons, Western has finished 183d, 181st, 141st, and 168th in Ken Pomeroy's rankings.

Here at the Heath Post, we really like both the Toppers and Coach Harper, and we wish them all the best of luck.  But we hope that the folks in Bowling Green aren't willing to settle for a sort of mid-table mediocrity.  That type of performance is not worthy of one of the great programs in college basketball history.

Western's departure leaves the University of Kentucky Wildcats as the only team in the Commonwealth that could win the National Championship this season.  In fact, the Cats will be the only team representing the Commonwealth in the NCAA Tournament, and it's been a long time since that happened.

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