Lady Topper Hoops: How the Lady Toppers Can Win Conference USA
Since coming into the league in 2014, WKU women’s basketball has quickly established itself as one of the two (MTSU) premier programs in Conference USA.
This season, they’re 8–4 with an RPI of 33, have a win against a ranked opponent, and have looked to be the best team in the conference thus far.
However, eight other conference teams are in the Top 200 in the country, so if WKU is not playing good basketball, they could lose several games in conference. MTSU has played strong of late, beating Kentucky in its final non-conference tune-up.
So what does WKU need to repeat as conference champs?
What They Need
Brown and Brown
Seniors Tashia Brown and Ivy Brown are unquestionably the team leaders. Tashia is currently fourth in the country in scoring, and will finish her senior season in the conversation as one of the best five players to ever put on the red and white. Ivy has unbelievable hands in the post and is nearly averaging a double-double. She could finish in the top 10 in several all-time statistical categories by year’s end.
Very clearly, if WKU can’t rely on these two to do their parts, the Lady Toppers would struggle against anyone. Both of them have scored in double digits in nine straight games, and Tashia has scored at least 16 in every game this year.
However, these two cannot do it alone and therefore will not decide the fate of the Lady Tops in March.
Raneem Elgedawy (nine points, seven rebounds per game) is an unbelievable freshman. The 6'4" Egyptian has been a starter from the beginning, and has the post moves of a polished senior. She never quits, and will hustle more than anyone on the court each night.
Dee Givens has returned from injury more productive than ever. Although she has missed some shots, she’s a significant contributor and adds length on defense. If Dee could get on a roll in conference play, so could the Toppers.
Sidnee Bopp was the X-factor at the end of the year in 2016–17. After rarely reaching double figures prevously, Sidnee hit threes on command and became the fourth true weapon the Lady Tops needed last year to be champions. The Lady Tops need someone to step up and be the third consistent option. Sidnee has been visible this year but is still hit or miss. Regardless, she’s shooting 50% from three-point range. Could Bopp be the answer once again?
Young Freshmen Guards
Sherry Porter, Nichel Tampa, and Terri Smith are probably WKU’s best defenders. They ramp up the tempo and get after offensive players on the perimeter. Although they are all developing offensively, when they are in, they ratchet up the tempo and make the other team have trouble getting the ball across half-court. They could be game changers. Any points they score are bonus. If one or more of these ladies could be reliable offensively, she could really make an early mark in her career.
2018 X Factor
After watching and studying the Lady Toppers religiously, I believe Whitney Creech is the key to the Lady Toppers’ success in conference and in the NCAA Tournament. Why?
Let’s go through the roster:
- The Browns will always be good.
- Bopp, Givens, and Elgedawy are still developing and have potential to be great occasionally, but they are not ready to take the next step for different reasons.
- The freshmen and other players who see rare minutes are unlikely to develop into true stars in their first year on the Hill and shouldn’t be called on to play huge roles.
Who’s left? Whit Creech. As the all-time leading points scorer in Kentucky high school basketball history (boys or girls), she has the most potential of anyone. She has the game to change outcomes. She can elevate for her lethal mid-range, can shoot from deep, and is solid in every area of her game.
She is finally getting a hang of the college game. She has only committed 12 fouls all season, meaning she has plenty of margin to be more aggressive and thereby become the third part of a “Big 3” that the Lady Toppers really need to be head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. But Whitney has not put it together consistently just yet. When she does, that’s when the Lady Toppers will become an unstoppable force.
How Do the Lady Toppers Win C-USA?
They need three consistent offensive threats. They average 77 a game, which is great, but they get more than half of their points from their two superstars. Michelle Clark-Heard never knows who else is going to have a good game. Someone like Elgedawy, Creech, Givens, or Bopp, or someone else needs to step up and be that third person. WKU will need All-American performances from the Browns every night of the C-USA Tournament if they don’t get help.
The Lady Toppers struggle defensively. If they’re going to be elite, they must be able to stop opponents inside the paint. A tell-tale sign of porous defense is assists. WKU gives up 15.1 assists per game, which is too much for a team that typically runs a trapping 2/3 court press. WKU needs to force opponents to beat them 1-on-1. Defense comes down to effort and toughness consistently.
If WKU wants to win a ring, it’s almost certainly going through Middle Tennessee. Middle is unbelievably on the defensive side of the floor this year. They give up way less than 60 points per game, so if WKU can’t spread Middle out with multiple scoring threats tomorrow night and play enough defense to keep Middle’s scoring down, they could definitely lose despite being the better offensive team.