Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What to do about Rick Stansbury?

The Angriest Fan Base in the world -- also known as the fans of Western Kentucky University's basketball team -- are furious over how their team lost a third consecutive C-USA title game on Saturday night.  The Tops fell behind North Texas 17-0, stormed back to lead 48-41, and still led 48-43 with just over a minute to go.  Somehow they managed to lose, and they're going to the NIT.

Naturally, these events raise the question of whether Western should seek a new coach.  Here are my thoughts:

Western coaches since 1999:

1999-2003:  Dennis Felton:  3 NCAA's in 5 seasons.  Left to take Georgia job.  Ken Pom ratings:  154, 179, 58 (NCAA), 44 (NCAA), 56 (NCAA).

2004-2008:  Darrin Horn:  1 NCAA in 5 seasons.  Reached Sweet 16.  Left to take S. Carolina job.  Ken Pom ratings:  118, 86, 92, 116, 43 (NCAA-Sweet 16)

2009-2011:  Ken McDonald:  1 NCAA in 3 seasons.  Reached Round 2.  Ken Pom ratings:  88 (NCAA-Round 2), 127, 216

2012-2016:  Ray Harper:  2 NCAA's in 5 seasons:  Ken Pom ratings:  193 (NCAA), 173 (NCAA), 179, 141, 169

2017-2021:  Rick Stansbury:  0 NCAA's in 5 seasons:  Ken Pom ratings:  232, 47, 116, 113, 94

Felton was great and should have stayed at Western forever.

Horn was very good and also should have stayed at Western.

McDonald took a good program and wrecked it.

Harper brought some energy to the program -- and pulled off some amazing conference tournament wins -- but couldn't get the right level of talent.

Stansbury has stabilized the program and gotten the talent closer to wear it should be.  From 1997 through 2020, Western ranks as the 113th best program, according to Ken Pom.  Here are its comparable programs:

110.  So. Illinois (6 NCAA bids)
111.  Fresno St. (3 NCAA bids)
112.  New Mexico St.  (10 NCAA bids)
113.  W. Kentucky (7 NCAA bids)
114.  Murray St. (10 NCAA bids)
115.  Valparaiso (8 NCAA bids)
116.  George Mason (5 NCAA bids)
117.  St. Bonaventure (3 NCAA bids)
118.  Charlotte (7 NCAA bids)
119.  Belmont (8 NCAA bids)

 That seems about right to me.  (It's really striking to see how, over a 25-year period, Western, Murray, SIU, and Belmont are all so close together.)  Now if you throw out the first year -- when he was rebuilding -- Stansbury has gone 47, 116, 113, 94.  So he has Western doing slightly better than its historical average.  Personally, I think Western's luck is just evening out for the two tournament wins it got under Harper.  And don't forget that Stansbury has had to deal with C-USA, while the other guys were in the Sunbelt.  So I would keep him, unless you really can get Rick Pitino (or someone else at that level) to come there instead.

By the way, here are Western's targets if it want to move up, based on 1997-2020 ratings:

100.  Washington St. (2 NCAA bids)
101.  UAB (5 NCAA bids)
102.  George Washington (6 NCAA bids)
103.  Missouri St. (1 NCAA bid)
104.  UMass (3 NCAA bids)
105.  Colorado St. (3 NCAA bids)
106.  Kent St. (5 NCAA bids)
107.  Old Dominion (6 NCAA bids)
108.  Akron (3 NCAA bids)
109.  Illinois St. (2 NCAA bids)

 Notice that these teams don't get as many bids because they have a rougher road to hoe.

Finally, here are the 1997-2020 rankings for C-USA.  Western is very competitive there, but it's not easy:

101.  UAB
107.  Old Dominion
113.  W. Kentucky
118.  Charlotte
123.  Louisiana Tech
124.  UTEP
132.  Mid. Tenn. St.
140.  So. Mississippi
142.  Marshall
196.  Rice
198.  N. Texas
234.  Tex-San Antonio
237.  Florida Int'l
259.  Florida Atlantic

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