Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hilltopper Update

Here at the Heath Post, we are big fans of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers -- especially their men's basketball team.  And we were supportive of the decision to hire Ray Harper as the men's basketball coach midway through the 2011-12 season.  And we were ecstatic when Harper led WKU to Sun Belt Conference Tournament championships in both 2012 and 2013.  But let's look at WKU's record from 2011-12 to the present:

2011-12:  189 in Ken Pomeroy (16-19 overall, 7-9 in the Sun Belt)
2012-13:  183 in Ken Pomeroy (20-16 overall, 10-10 in the Sun Belt)
2013-14:  181 in Ken Pomeroy (20-12 overall, 12-6 in the Sun Belt)
2014-15:  141 in Ken Pomeroy (20-12 overall, 12-6 in Conference USA)
2015-16:  201 in Ken Pomeroy (10-10 overall, 2-5 in Conference USA)

I'm not yet ready to give up on Harper, but this is not the sort of progress we need to see.  To put Harper's career in perspective, here's how Darren Horn did in five seasons in Bowling Green:

2003-04:  118 in Ken Pomeroy (15-13 overall, 8-6 in the Sun Belt)
2004-05:  90 in Ken Pomeroy (22-9 overall, 9-5 in the Sun Belt)
2005-06:  99 in Ken Pomeroy (23-8 overall, 12-2 in the Sun Belt)
2006-07:  127 in Ken Pomeroy (22-11 overall, 12-6 in the Sun Belt)
2007-08:  37 in Ken Pomeroy (29-7 overall, 16-2 in the Sun Belt)

Now Harper took over a program that was doing badly, while Horn took over from Dennis Felton, who had done very well.  So it's not a perfect comparison.  But Horn's history shows that it's not unrealistic to expect WKU to be a top 100 program that occasionally cracks the top 50.  That should be the goal -- that's where Western deserves to be, and where it has been for most of its history.

Furthermore, the shift to C-USA isn't an excuse.  In fact, Ken Pomeroy ranks the Sun Belt as the 18th best conference right now, while he has the C-USA at 21.  (The OVC is 22.)  Here are the C-USA standings, with K-Pom's rankings.  As you will see, this is not exactly Murderer's Row:

113.  UAB:  7-0

118.  MTSU:  6-1
148.  Marshall:  6-1

189.  Fla. Int'l:  5-2

136.  La. Tech:  3-3

140.  Old Dominion:  3-4
204.  Charlotte:  3-4
231.  UTEP:  3-4
278.  Fla. Atlantic:  3-4

302.  So. Miss:  2-4

201.  W. Kentucky:  2-5
306.  N. Texas:  2-5
336.  Tex-San Antonio:  2-5

276.  Rice:  1-6

Western Kentucky should be able to beat teams like UAB, MTSU, and Marshall more often than not.  If the Toppers are not doing so, then something is wrong.

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