WKU basketball: Previewing the Conference USA Tournament


WKU basketball lost more than a basketball game to close out the season in a blowout loss against Old Dominion. They lost their shot at one of the four first-round byes, something that seemed almost like a sure thing halfway into the Conference USA schedule, and now instead of taking a look at the competition on day one of play, they’ll have to earn their way into round two.

As if losing the first round bye isn’t enough, the Tops have, arguably, the most difficult road to navigate if they want to find themselves in the CUSA championship game.

It all begins tomorrow evening at six, when the Tops tip off a rubber match with Marshall, who they defeated to open CUSA play in Diddle, but got down to too large a deficit to fully come back from back on Valentines Day. While the stats as a whole for the Hilltoppers in that second meeting aren’t eyepoping, they still found a way to hang in the game, and with how magical Ray Harper teams are in March, I like the Tops chances against the Herd.

So, lets assume the Tops do, in fact, escape Marshall. They’ll then face the host UAB Blazers in the #4/#5 game, another team that got the best of the Tops in the regular season. I’m not 100% sure why, but this matchup scares me. We all remember what happened last time these two teams hooked up (a 71-66 Blazer win in which WKU shot 39% from the floor) and UAB had a double-digit lead for a majority of the game. I know that matchup was in the midst of a four-game losing streak for the Tops, but still, I’m afraid history might repeat itself and see the Tops leave way too soon.

More from Bluegrass Dominion

So, say the Tops right the ship and make the semifinals. They have a trio of options of who they’ll face – #8 North Texas, #9 Rice (who will open the tournament against one another) or #1 Louisiana Tech. WKU beat only one of these teams in the regular season, and the conventional favorite seems to be LA Tech (as it should be, as the #1 seed and defending champ), so I’ve gone ahead and penciled them into the semifinals. Even though a


Tops/Tech matchup would be on a neutral court, I still don’t see how the Techster’s run-and-gun style of play matches up well against the Tops old-school, slowed down pace.

So, while I doubt it’ll happen, lets say the Tops make the championship game. They’ll face the winner of the bottom half of the CUSA bracket – UTEP, Old Dominion, MTSU, UTSA, FIU and Charlotte. This half is anyone’s, really, to win or lose, and could be much more fun to watch take shape. But, if the Tops do find themselves playing on Saturday, one of those six teams will be the opponent.

More from Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

So, how do I see the tourney going for WKU? In a word – not well. I don’t see the Tops getting past the semifinals, especially if they face Louisiana Tech. They have no sort of momentum guiding them into Birmingham and have lacked consistency as of late. I’d love for them to show up, show out and prove me wrong, but I’m afraid that wont happen.

How do you see WKU’s tournament playing out? Let us know in a comment below, or on twitter @BlueGrassDom.

Next: Did You Miss The Hilltoppers' Lackluster Performance Against Old Dominion? Fear Not.