WKU Basketball: Takeaways From WKU’s Schedule Release
Tuesday afternoon, after a tumultuous Monday news day, the WKU basketball team finally released their schedule for the 2017–18 season. There were no major surprises since most of the games were known beforehand.
In July we discussed the takeaway’s from the conference schedule release. Here are our takeaway’s from the non-conference portion of the most anticipated basketball season on the Hill in recent memory.
Manageable tune-ups before the Battle 4 Atlantis
It’s been discussed ad nauseam that WKU has a brand new team of players for the 2017–18 season. With that lack of experience together (besides Costa Rica), the early slate of games will help WKU work out potential growing pains before the crucial trip to the Bahamas. After two in-state NAIA exhibitions to start off the schedule, the Tops get a solid Missouri State (17–16 record in last year, with plenty of players returning) team to open the regular season at Diddle Arena.
That is the type of team that WKU should beat but one that will push them and give us a good preview of how far along this team is to start the season. The Tops then play Division II Kentucky Wesleyan (which is a little surprising) to continue the growing process.
The last game before Atlantis is against a Nichols State squad that went just 14–17 last season. All of the games should tell us if WKU can out-talent lesser teams and evaluate how they play as a team. If WKU is anything less than 3–0 going into Atlantis , then we should all start gearing up for a conference-tournament-or-bust season.
Fun regional home games
While this year’s schedule doesn’t have the marquee name of a Power 5 opponent (Wisconsin comes to town in 2018!), there are still several quality home games against area teams that should provide much more interesting match-ups than last season.
The home headliner is Belmont; WKU will look to avenge several embarrassing showings since the series started a few years ago. Besides the Bruins, WKU will look to recapture dominance against EKU after suffering an embarrassing defeat to them last season (the first loss to the Colonels since 1987). Wright State, Indiana State and Missouri State are all programs from bordering states that have been solid at times in recent years. Overall the non-conference home schedule will be a fun showcase all against team’s they should be favored against.
Resume building opportunities
A big reason that fans have been down on the WKU basketball program over the past decade is that they haven’t seriously threatened to achieve deserved at-large status since the 2008–09 season. If WKU can translate talent to victories then their season will hinge on non conference games against Villanova, Wisconsin, Belmont, Tennessee or Purdue and another Atlantis team. Should WKU go 3–2 or 4–1, then watch out — the buzz of WKU heading into conference play will give fans the at-large watch that fans have been waiting for years on.
Potential Big December 2
The Wright State game is on December 2 in Diddle Arena.
That is the same day as the Conference USA football championship game.
If the football team has another high level season, it’s not unreasonable to think they could host for the third straight season (attendance be damned). If that happens, the first Saturday in December could turn into another special day on the Hill across multiple sports. Also worth noting, the game doesn’t have a start time yet. If WKU puts it after 4 p.m., we’ll know they are at least prepared for another special weekend. That double header would be a lot of fun.
With the ever-changing roster drama and lack of experience playing together, it is damn near impossible to predict how WKU is going to play this season, but lets give it a shot.
Chemistry will be the key for the most talented WKU team in a decade. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that WKU finishes their non-conference schedule 10–3 with losses to Villanova, Wisconsin and another Atlantis team (Tennessee, perhaps? If that’s even possible — that bracket is a tad confusing). That will lead to confidence and momentum heading into conference play. Over the course of the conference season, they will take some losses, especially on the road (MTSU, UTEP, Charlotte). But they will finish towards the top of C-USA with a 13–5 conference record, tied for second place. The 23–8 record won’t be enough for an at-large team will be a great improvement on years past and fans will eagerly await WKU’s trip to Frisco for the C-USA tournament.
A run there and WKU will once again threaten to make noise in the big dance.