Tops of the Sun Belt Moment #26 – WKU Basketball’s 1st SBC Championship


In 1992, the WKU Hilltoppers entered their 11th season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, and its third under basketball head coach Ralph Willard. The Tops had battled 10 long seasons with success in the regular season in the Sun Belt, capturing the regular season title once in 1987. However the title of SBC Tourney Champion still eluded the Hilltoppers.

The 1991-92 campaign was an improvement on seasons past and the Hilltoppers seemed primed to make an impact in the 92-93 season. The Tops got off to a hot start as they went 10-1 in the first 11 games, with a nine game win streak included during that span. The Hilltoppers would keep that same trend going as they ended the regular season with a record of 21-5 and a conference record of 14-4 that landed them 2nd in the regular season standings behind New Orleans.

The Hilltoppers prepared for the SBC Tourney and took care of opponents with ease…at least for the first two rounds. The Tops handled Lamar and South Alabama in rounds one and two with no problem, thus bringing us to the Championship match-up between the Tops and Regular Season Champions New Orleans. The Tops were 0-2 in conference play against the Privateers…so things didn’t look promising for the Hilltoppers. Despite being the underdog, WKU overcame the odds and sealed the deal earning their first SBC Championship in school history over New Orleans 72-63.

With the win, WKU earned a bid to the NCAA tourney. The Tops entered the tournament on a six game win streak, which they looked to continue. Round one featured a game against Memphis where WKU would slide past the Tigers by three points, setting the round of 32 match-up with Seton Hall, which nearly kept the Tops from moving forward, but after a four point game in WKU’s favor, the Tops would move on to the Sweet Sixteen. WKU would face the Seminoles from Florida State, and despite the eight game win streak the Tops run in the post season would come to a close after a heartbreaking 78-81 OT loss.

This season was a huge milestone for the WKU basketball program, as it set the groundwork for many more years and squads to come up until the end of WKU’s tenure in the Sun Belt Conference.