2008 NCAA Tournament Capsule: Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Sun Belt Conference (27-6, 16-2)
Big Wins: 11/24 vs Michigan (73-69), 12/5 Nebraska (69-62), 2/16 at Middle Tennessee State (71-66)
Bad Losses: 12/1 at Northern Arizona (61-64), 12/22 at Southern Illinois (78-88), 2/21 South Alabama (64-69)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2003, First Round loss to Illinois
Coach: Darrin Horn (First NCAA appearance)
Tyrone Brazelton, Senior, Guard, 13.3 ppg, 3.6 apg
Ty Rogers, Senior, Guard, 6.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Courtney Lee, Senior, Guard, 20.4 ppg, 2.1 apg, 4.6 rpg
Jeremy Evans, Sophomore, Forward, 5.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
D.J. Magley, Freshman, Forward, 4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
A.J. Slaughter, Sophomore, Guard, 7.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Orlando Mendez-Valdez, Junior, Guard, 5.9 ppg, 2.2 apg
Steffphon Pettigrew, Freshman, Guard, 4.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Boris Siakam, Senior, Forward, 4.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
Few teams in the nation can claim to have such a dynamic, experienced and talented group of perimeter players. Nobody is that prolific of a shooter from beyond the arc, but they all can hit the open long ball and, more importantly, do not take bad shots. The team as a whole shoots a solid 38.8 percent from long range and that is due to the upperclassmen not forcing bad shots.
Courtney Lee is one of the best scorers in the nation and averages 20.4 points per game. Point guard Tryone Brazelton is not too far behind him at 13.3 points per contest. Ty Rogers is the other starter in the backcourt and he can put up some big numbers when the team needs him to do so. A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez would not be coming off the bench on most teams, but there is not much choice with the talent in front of them. Those five players can all score, but Lee and Brazelton will take most of the shots when they are on the floor.
Why They Can Disappoint:
If only there was a 6-5 height limit in college basketball…Western Kentucky would be a national title contender. Underclassmen Jeremy Evans and D.J. Magley have gotten a majority of the starts in the frontcourt and Boris Siakam will come in off the bench. The trio does their part in the rebounding department and play solid defense, but nobody is much of a threat to score in the paint. If WKU had a post scoring threat, the team would get even more open shots on the perimeter and that is a scary thought for the opposition. The Hilltoppers commit a lot of fouls and the injury to Mike Walker hurts the depth of the frontcourt.
Who To Watch:
Lee and Brazelton are the guys to watch. Lee hits about 50 percent from the field. That might not be too great for a forward, but Lee takes his fair share of outside shots. He can hurt you in so many ways it makes him nearly impossible to guard. Brazelton spreads the ball around to all the scorers and does plenty of scoring himself when the opportunity presents itself. If those two are hitting their shots, and usually they are, Western Kentucky is a tough team to beat. If they want to look for a big upset though, somebody else will need to have a big game.