Tiny Dancers: Western Kentucky

After winning the Sun Belt as a No. 7 seed last season, Western Kentucky did it as a No. 6 this year. (USATSI)
After winning the Sun Belt as a No. 7 seed last season, Western Kentucky did it as a No. 6 this year. (USATSI)

Last season, Western Kentucky was the Cinderella of Championship Week. The Hilltoppers were 5-14 at one point last season and then entered the league tournament as the No. 7 seed to win the Sun Belt’s automatic bid.

I guess Ray Harper and the Hilltoppers had so much fun making that run last season that they wanted to do it again. They dropped to 13-14 in mid-February and were the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament -- but a 65-63 win over Florida International on Monday night means WKU is heading back to the NCAA tournament.

It’s a very different team than last season, but guys like T.J. Price and George Fant are enough to keep them competitive. Will they get sent to the First Four again? They had a tremendous comeback to beat Mississippi Valley State in Dayton last season, but it remains to be seen whether they will be sent there again.

Player to know: T.J. Price. The sophomore guard from Louisiana was Western Kentucky’s most consistent offensive player all season, and he will need to come up big in the NCAA tournament. While he did struggle in the title game, he averaged 21.3 points in the first three rounds of the Sun Belt tournament. He is a potent outside shooter, but is also capable of going off the bounce and creating in the lane.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 20-15 overall, 10-10 in Sun Belt
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2012
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 15
  • KenPom ranking: 183
  • Sagarin ranking: 184
  • RPI: 166
  • Best wins: FIU (twice), South Alabama (twice)
  • Worst losses: Florida Atlantic (twice)
  • Notable stat: The Hilltoppers don’t really excel at anything in particular, but they are solid on the offensive glass and also have several players who can knock down 3-pointers. They rank in the top 100 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 3-point attempt percentage.

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