Friday, March 30, 2012
There have been talks, and the possibility of tapping into the Atlanta market would be huge for the conference.
Give new Sun Belt commish Karl Benson credit for being proactive in the constant shuffle of conference realignment.
Georgia State is currently a member of the Colonial Athletic Association in all sports.
The Panthers are infants in the college football world, their inaugural season was in 2010.
They are coached by Bill Curry, you know, the guy that thought it was a great idea to run a triple option offense with Tim Couch back in the day at Kentucky.
With Georgia State in the mix, Benson is closer to having his vision of a 12 team football conference become a reality.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
See this man? No, he is not the newest cast member on the final season of Desperate Housewives. But, he could be the solution to the Hilltoppers shameful kicking game.
His name is Daniel Padilla, the newest acquisition to the walk-on portion of the football roster. Padilla comes to us from Minnesota State - Mankato.
Isn't that the same place where Hayden Fox, Luther Van Dam, and Dauber won a national championship years ago?
Anyway, Padilla has quite a nose for the uprights while leading the MSU Mavericks in points last season, going 16-20 on field goal attempts and 39-42 on extra points.
To break down his accuracy, he was 5 for 5 within 30 yards, 7 for 8 within the 30 to 39 yard range, and 3 for 6 within the 40 to 49 yard range. He also converted a 53 yard attempt.
Compared to WKU's kicking game, this kid is lights out!
Welcome to the team Daniel, may your foot be accurate and may the pigskin finally sail between the uprights!
Keshawn Simpson - 32 carries, 134 yards, 4.2 yards per rush
Simpson showed great productivity the few times the rock was nestled tightly in his arms. Listed at 6'1" and 236 pounds, he provides a big frame with agility and shifty feet. Simpson is definitely a wrecking ball with cleats that will require a gang of angry tacklers to wrestle him to the turf.
John Evans - 8 carries, 43 yards, 5.4 yards per rush
Speed and quickness is Evans' virtue, who cut his teeth as a punt returner during his freshmen year. Although, weighing in at a slender 159 pounds, some offseason protein shakes and a quality squat routine should prepare Evans for a season-long accumulation of hits. Simpson brings the power, Evans will bring the speed.
Antonio Andrews - 15 carries, 42 yards, 2.8 yards per rush
When not dissin' Hilltopper fans on Twitter, Andrews can be found under center, in the backfield, returning kicks and punts. He is WKU's utility man and possesses all the abilities to be a productive full-time running back. However, I wouldn't expect his utility role to change considering his value in all aspects of the offense and special teams.
Long-shot candidates on the official spring roster include Marquis Sumler (RFr) and Courtney Dalcourt (Jr).
Incoming freshmen that could prove themselves during fall camp include Anthony Wales (Louisville, KY), Travis Elliott (Union, KY), and Leon Allen (Bradenton, FL).
Monday, March 26, 2012
- The contract runs from April 1st, 2012 to June 30th, 2016.
- Base salary is $375,000.
- 5% incentive of base salary if team exceeds a 940 on the Academic Progress Report.
- If team exceeds a 960 on that Academic Progress Report, head coach gets another 5% incentive.
- More 5% incentives if basketball season tickets exceed 3,200, 3,700, and 4,200 sold.
- Receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Harper gets a 10% incentive.
- If the Tops get to the Sweet 16 with that at-large bid, that's another 5% incentive for Harper.
- If, for some unforeseen circumstance (more cash), Harper leaves to coach another program, he guarantees a four-year home and home series with his new team and the Tops.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Sun Belt Tournament Champions
NCAA Tournament Appearance
First Four Victory Over Mississippi Valley State
Derrick Gordon 11.8 PPG, .364 FG %
George Fant 10.3 PPG, .479 FG %
T.J. Price 9.0 PPG, .362 FG %
Derrick Gordon 6.7 RPG
George Fant 6.1 RPG
T.J. Price 4.3 RPG
Jamal Crook 2.7 APG
Derrick Gordon 2.1 APG
T.J. Price 1.8
While this move may surprise some, it shouldn't be all too shocking.
The AD position at WKU is comparable to the football and basketball head coaching positions. When you are successful at a mid-major level, a university from a larger conference will want your services and offer you more cash for those services.
It makes it hard for dear ol' Western to compete contractually. Therefore, you can't blame Bjork for wanting to advance his career and accept a new challenge on a larger scale.
Bjork was entering his third year at WKU and despite the short stint, he made some bold moves during his tenure.
Let's take a look back...
- Extending football coach Willie Taggart's contract and bumping his salary after a successful 7-5 campaign last season. A decision that was shunned by many but was necessary in order to establish faith in a talented coach and keep him around for the near future.
- The firing of men's basketball coach Ken McDonald in the middle of the season. Now, McDonald should have properly been fired at the end of last season, but Bjork kept him around in order to maintain a talented freshmen class. Which was a smart decision.
When the Tops compiled a putrid 5-11 record to begin the season, Bjork did not hesitate to give McDonald the axe, which brings us to the next bold move.
- The hiring of Ray Harper to take the reigns of the men's basketball program. The unofficial announcement was made by Bjork via Twitter, which showed the AD embraced social media as way to create buzz.
After the announcement, the Tops went on a memorable run starting with a Sun Belt Conference Tournament title, a magical come-from-behind victory over Mississippi Valley State in the First Four round, and ending with a respectable loss to Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
- Oh yea, he also fired women's head basketball coach Mary Taylor Cowles at the end of this past season. The Lady Tops have been struggling since the great Crystal Kelly graduated back in 2008.
Click here for the official statement from Ross Bjork.
Monday, March 19, 2012
WKU begins it's third spring under head coach Willie Taggart and a lot is expected after a breakthrough 7-5 season.
Though, with great expectations comes significant holes to fill in order for this successful ship to keep sailing the Big Red seas of success.
And with that, here is what to look for in the spring edition of WKU football:
- 50% of the offense has graduated, and I'm just talking about Bobby Rainey. So, who will fill these massive shoes of yardage production?
Well, the running back depth chart is saturated with freshmen and sophomores. Deep? Yes. Inexperienced? Yes.
The best case scenario is a thunder and lightning combination of Keshawn Simpson and John Evans. Break the enemy down with power, submit them with speed!
- The Tops are still in need of an accurate kicker. Not just one with a pulse, but one with a solid leg that is consistent from up to forty yards out.
Unable to sign a kicker during the recruiting period, I have a feeling that punter Hendrix Brakefield may be pulling double duty this spring until some fresh faced walk-on enrolls this fall.
On to some good news...
- The Tops should have one of the best secondaries in the Sun Belt with Kareem Peterson, Tyree Robinson, Kiante Young and the shutdown crew returning.
Adding Florida transfer Jonathan Dowling into the secondary rotation should make opposing quarterbacks spend extra prep time in the film room. If, and only if, Dowling can react positively to critical coaching, which is something he failed to do at Florida.
- Kawaun Jakes is back, and this year I shockingly say that with a bit of confidence! Jakes played extremely well during WKU's successful late season run by making smart throws and eliminating turnovers.
But, beware. Brandon Doughty, who is coming off a season ending ACL injury, is participating in spring practice. While not quite full strength, expect Doughty to be ready to compete for the starting job when fall rolls around.
So, if Jakes thinks about referring back to his old habits...Doughty will be ready to take over.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
A fellow Commonwealth foe that treats WKU with the friendliness of a red-headed step child, well, maybe more like the drunk Uncle.
From the opening tip, Kentucky showed their athletic prowess by jumping out to an 8-0 lead early on.
But, the Tops mounted a comeback that was sparked by T.J. Price. His hot-handed shooting abilities gave WKU a brief 12-10 lead.
It was an 18-17 Kentucky lead after Price converted a hoop and harm. However, the Tops would get no closer the rest of the way.
The Wildcats puffed out their chest and began asserting their dominance down low and in transition, outscoring WKU 35-14 to end the half.
Kentucky jogged into the locker room with a 45-26 halftime advantage.
It was more of the same in the second half, with Terrence Jones and company building a snug 32 point lead.
And it was clear: the lead, the talent, and the clock were too insurmountable to overcome.
But, the Tops were not going to fold up their tents and send the Thrilltopper World Tour back to Bowling Green without a prideful fight.
George Fant started rollin' and WKU made a late game run to make the final score a respectable one, 81-66.
The Hilltoppers played tough until the final buzzer, that's how thing will be under the direction of Ray Harper. Are you excited for the future?
The bow is wrapped on this season and with a successful run through the Sun Belt Tournament, a memorable comeback against Mississippi Valley State, and a respectful showing against Kentucky; you couldn't ask for a better ending to a season.
Especially when you consider how it began!
With the loss, the Hilltoppers finish with the most memorable 16-19 season in team history.
T.J. Price finished with 21 points and four rebounds and George Fant chipped in with 13 points.
Kahlil McDonald capped off his WKU career with 13 points and five assists.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Madness might not be the proper word to describe what transpired, the best analogy I can make would be: insanity!
For the first 35 minutes of the game the fundamentals of basketball were clearly lacking.
The Hilltoppers handled the basketball as if it were smothered in Crisco, morphed into Kobe Bryant mode on fastbreaks, and were shooting at rims that had lids.
It was only a 23-19 advantage for the Delta Devils at halftime, thanks to ice cold shooting by both teams.
As the second half began, the shots started to fall for MVSU and the turnovers continued to mount for the Hilltoppers.
The Delta Devils built a 53-37 advantage with 4:48 left to play and the outcome was looking bleak.
Ray Harper brushed that dirt off his shoulders and reached into his bag of tricks to incorporate one hellacious full court press that rattled Valley to their core.
It was a complete role reversal, with the Delta Devils replacing the Hilltoppers in the role of a team plagued by turnovers.
And just like that, Derrick Gordon converts a layup off a nice feed from Jamal Crook to cut the deficit to one point at 53-52 with 2:28 remaining.
The Tops finally retake the lead when Crook found T.J. Price on an inbound pass for an ol' fashioned 3-point play.
Tops claim a 57-54 lead!
Jamal Crook knocks down some clutch free throws in the final seconds to secure the victory and WKU keeps on dancing, your final score is 59-58!
The Hilltopper full court press sparked a 22-5 run to finish off Mississippi Valley State and the Thrilltopper world tour heads to Louisville for a showdown with Kentucky.
Ray Harper gave President Obama a confident staredown and said, "that's how you increase your approval rating!" Okay, that didn't really happen, but it should have.
T.J. Price was money in the clutch minutes, he finished with 11 points and eight boards.
Derrick Gordon couldn't make a free throw or a jump shot but finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds. That is a true sign of hustle.
The Tops make NCAA Tournament history with 60 rebounds! They also out-rebounded the Valley by 28, another tournament record.
They also overcame the largest deficit (16) in tournament history with under five minutes to play.
Yum Center here we come!
Monday, March 12, 2012
- Yes, fans are excited about the potential showdown with the Wildcats. But, the first order of business is the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State.
Fun Facts about MVSU:
1. They are coached by Sean Woods, remember him? He hit that nifty leaner before Laettner drained that infamous shot over two UK statues about 20 years ago.
2. The Devils are on a roll of their own, winning 21 of their last 22 games in SWAC play after getting crushed by the likes of North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Florida in non-conference battle. Battle tested for sure.
3. While this is a very winnable game, the Delta Devils are a formidable opponent.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
This is for the right to be a 16 seed with the winner playing overall #1 seed Kentucky on Thursday at Louisville's palatial Yum Yum Center!
Below is reaction of the announcement, the guy with gold headphones is super pumped!!
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Crazy events have unfolded in Hot Springs tonight with the Hilltoppers pulling off an unbelievable run by winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in defeating North Texas, 74-70.
This game started off with a feverish, high tempo, up, down, left, right, A, B, select, start pace with both teams shooting a combined 9 of 16 in the first four minutes.
Everyone was talking about the talents of the Mean Green’s Tony Mitchell, talented indeed, but tonight he was going up against the Sudanese Sniper, Teeng Akol.
Akol definitely ate his Cocoa Puffs before the game, displaying his overall skillset of turnaround jumpers, sky hooks, and even swatting Mitchell on several occasions. Mitchell seemed somewhat stunned.
The game was fought tooth and nail in the first half as Tony Mitchell threw down an alley-oop slam to send the Mean Green into the locker room with a 32-30 halftime lead.
Midway through the second half it looked as if the gasoline odometer was getting low for WKU when North Texas went on a 12-0 run to claim a 55-42 advantage.
It was time for someone, anyone to step up and turn this non-fictional drama into a tearjerkin’ New York Times best seller, that person is George Fant.
Fant goes on a rampage of clutchness, scoring the next seven points in igniting a Hilltopper comeback. Akol puts back a missed layup by T.J. Price to complete a 9-0 run for WKU, cutting the deficit to 55-51.
Alzee Williams, Jacob Holman, and Tony Mitchell didn’t make matters easy but the boys in red kept their poise.
With 50 seconds remaining Brooklyn’s finest, Kahlil McDonald, nails a clutch three pointer from the top of the key to give the Tops a 70-68 lead.
O’karo Akamune grabs a monster offensive board for an easy layup off a missed free throw by T.J. Price to expand the lead to 72-68.
Then, Ray Harper’s head almost explodes after Derrick Gordon commits a foul on a 3-point attempt by Brendan Walton, easy freshman!
Walton sinks the first two, then intentionally misses the third in hopes the Mean Green could grab an offensive rebound for one last shot, but Akamune swoops in and dashes their dreams.
Kahlil McDonald ices the game from the line, nailing both free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining to make it 74-70.
A hopeless heave from the Mean Green as time runs out, the horn sounds, and this chapter is etched in the annuls of Hilltopper basketball history.
WKU was led by Teeng Akol, who checked in with a career day, scoring 23 points with five rebounds and four blocks.
George Fant had a beastly 17 points and six boards while Kahlil McDonald chipped in with 14 points.
The Hilltoppers punch their ticket to the big dance.
Four wins in four days! Operation: Hot Springs is complete! Over and out!
T.J. Price sank a 3-pointer off the opening tip and WKU jumped out to a 16-8 advantage early in the first half.
However, those pesky Pioneers and their efficient "Princeton style" offense went on a momentum stealing 14-1 run to take a 22-17 lead.
WKU regained their composure and secured a 34-31 lead at halftime.
It was closely contested throughout the second half as Denver reclaimed a 61-60 lead off a Brian Stafford 3-pointer with just over two minutes remaining.
But, "Mr. Hilltopper" responds by drawing a foul and converting both free throws to give WKU a 62-61 lead that would not be relinquished.
After a defensive stop, Vinny Zollo throws a beautiful lob pass down low to George Fant who converts the layup, complete with a primal scream!
Fant laced up his clutch boots in second half, dominating the paint offensively with multiple layups and drawing numerous fouls.
The Hilltoppers were clinging to a 65-63 lead when Denver's Brian Stafford attempted a game winning 3-pointer, he missed, but Royce O'Neale grabs the offensive rebound and tries for the put-back to tie the game with three seconds remaining...
Derrick Gordon bounces his check, swatting the ball away as Kahlil McDonald corrals the rock and is fouled.
McDonald sinks both free throws, game over! Your final score is WKU 67, Denver 63!
Fant led the Tops with 19 points and Kahlil McDonald chipped in with 14.
WKU's unbelievable run continues as they will play North Texas in the Sun Belt Tournament final on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
Stand up and cheer as the Hilltoppers attempt to complete the quadfecta! Four wins in four days? It's March Madness!
Sunday, March 4, 2012
The Toppers couldn’t ask for a worse start offensively, going scoreless for the first five minutes of the game and clanging their initial seven shots from the field.
With the Trojans holding a 4-0 lead, Kahlil McDonald finally broke the ice with a 3-pointer to put WKU on the board.
UALR built a 14-3 advantage before Derrick Gordon ignited an 8-0 run to cut the Trojans’ lead to 14-11.
WKU was able to keep it close throughout the first half as “Mr. Hilltopper” scored 14 first half points, but frosty free throw shooting (3 of 11) kept WKU from claiming the lead.
Arkansas Little-Rock took a 29-27 advantage into the locker room.
WKU begins to unravel a bit midway through the second half due to cold shooting and turnovers that UALR’s Chuck Guy and Courtney Jackson kindly turned into points.
The Trojans took their biggest lead of the game at 53-40 with around eight minutes left to play.
But, a Big Red storm was forming over the Hot Springs area and WKU struck with a 22-3 run after utilizing the full court press and a 2-3 zone.
During the run, George Fant swatted away three shots on three consecutive UALR possessions.
Derrick Gordon's free throws gave WKU its first lead of the game with a shade over three minutes to play at 57-56.
The Tops kept rolling, building a 62-56 advantage before the Trojans finally weathered the storm with a couple of free throws to cut the lead to four with under a minute to play.
Despite missing 20 free throws (21-41) on the night, WKU was able to hold off UALR down the stretch and score a huge 68-63 win!
WKU advances to the semifinals on Monday night against Denver at 8:30 p.m.
Stat of the night: WKU owned the offensive glass, a 13 to 5 advantage over the Trojans.
Arkansas Little-Rock was led by D’Andre Williams with 19 points and Chuck Guy chipped in with 13.
Derrick Gordon had a monster performance with 23 points and 15 huge boards, a catalyst of energy throughout the entire game.
Will their be enough gas in the tank for WKU to take down the Pioneers? Tune in to the next episode of...Hot Springs Hoedown!
MTSU shot themselves in the foot in the closing minutes, missing their last five free throw attempts which helped the Red Wolves complete a huge upset.
Arkansas State advances to the semifinals, they will be playing North Texas in the top portion of the bracket.
With the loss, MTSU has very likely played themselves out of an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
Which is a shame, the Blue Raiders have a 25-5 record and claimed the Sun Belt regular season title in dominating fashion.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
It was a tightly squeezed contest early in the first half when WKU caught fire from the isle of three, leading by as many as 12 points. The Tops fail to score in the final 2:44 of the half but held onto a 33-27 halftime advantage.
The second half began with a T.J. Price arc bomb and an ol’ fashion three-pointer from George Fant to regain a 12 point cushion at 39-27.
With the Tops holding a 46-36 lead, the Golden Panthers stormed back with a 16-1 run to take a 52-47 advantage.
DeJuan Wright was on fire during this stretch for FIU, he finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
However, after a Ray Harper lecture, the Toppers steal momentum back as Kahlil McDonald drained a couple of three-pointers during a 12-2 run.
Teeng Akol lit some fireworks with a tomahawk slam all up in Dominque Ferguson’s grill!
Derrick Gordon comes up huge in clutch time, tipping a potential game tying field goal attempt, grabbing a hustle rebound, and making four straight free throws in the final seconds. Just another solid effort for Mr. Hilltopper!
It was truly a game of momentum and mo shifted in the Tops' direction at just the right time.
Signed, sealed, and delivered...67-63 victory!
Kahlil McDonald led WKU with 19 points and 4 rebounds, while Derrick Gordon finished with nine points and 10 boards.
With the win, the Tops advance to play Arkansas Little-Rock and send the Golden Zekes back to Miami, which isn't bad when you compare it to Hot Springs.
Back in action Sunday @ 8:30.