WKU Basketball: The Tops Need Josh Anderson and Moustapha Diagne
Let’s keep it real: WKU men’s basketball has the Hilltopper fan base buzzing for the Tops. This team looks special in just about every way, and it really snuck up on everyone. No one besides the team and some delusional die hards really thought WKU basketball would be any good after Mitchell Robinson and Jordan Brangers left the program early this semester.
In addition, WKU has been waiting on the NCAA (for a ridiculously long time) to clear four-star high school prospect Josh Anderson and highly touted JUCO transfer Moustapha Diagne. WKU has played their first eight games with eight total active players, and surely to the holy Lord there’s not a Yahtzee’s chance the Tops could be competitive until someone else gets eligible.
Not only has WKU looked competitive, not only have they looked like a contender for the Conference USA title, not only have they pulled off a shocking upset but they also looked like one of the better teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis (arguably the strongest regular season tournament field in 2017), they’re 6–2, and they’re rewriting recent and ancient WKU statistical history.
WKU set a (known) program record last Wednesday night with a 4-to-1 team assist-to-turnover ratio against EKU. They’re winning by 10 points per game, are shooting nearly 50%, shoot over 40% from three, score nearly 80 every night, have two legitimate post presences and have six players averaging double figures. All of those numbers have not been exhibited since when, Topper fans?
…At least 2009 in each of those categories.
Due to recent reports, it seems increasingly likely WKU will add at least one more to the lineup by the end of 2017. Pure conjecture, but it is absolutely possible to see both Josh Anderson and Moustapha Diagne in a WKU uniform by the end of the month. WKU head coach Rick Stansbury has mentioned in the past few weeks that they hope to have them available “in a few weeks.”
Who are these guys, anyway?
Possibly two starters on a team that’s 6–2 with eight active players against the 41st strongest schedule in the country. Both are considered raw talents, but as described by Coach Stansbury, 6'7" Josh Anderson is “probably our best athlete and maybe our best defender”. He was a consensus four-star and top 75 recruit. Stansbury said 6'9" Moustapha Diagne is “maybe our toughest player”. More tangibly, he would join Dwight Coleby as WKU’s tallest player. Moustapha originally signed with Syracuse out of high school and was a four-star center and top 100 recruit. Of the current active WKU players, no one was rated as high as Anderson and Diagne.
Why they would change WKU’s trajectory
WKU looks like they could be fine without them, but there is no conceivable way WKU could survive a 35 game season with eight players. With these two bodies, WKU would run ten deep and in a tough overtime game, or a tightly called game with 50 foul calls, the Tops would actually have enough bodies to deal with fouling out. Currently, WKU could have only three players foul out before they were forced to play all of their remaining players the rest of the game.
I guess if they wanted to be Alabama, now is the time, since they would only lose three in a fight.
WKU has two active post players. At the very least, Diagne would add a legitimate option off of the bench to spell either Justin Johnson or Dwight Coleby periodically. Instead of having to play Marek Nelson or Darius Thompson as a power forward, Stansbury could throw out a more traditional lineup.
Anderson provides even more speed and athleticism to an already explosive roster. Anderson is deceptively fast, with long arms and incredibly long legs that can keep him in position on defense, and get him to the cup on offense.
WKU could play aggressively, and if the Toppers wanted to play man-to-man or press, they could without fear of wearing out (i.e. Nicholls State).
With these two, the Hilltoppers would go from way undersized to slightly above par in an instant. Having an above average sized team with elite skill, athleticism, and shooting ability would make WKU truly terrifying for any team in the country. Please tell me how you stop nine or ten bona fide stars with great chemistry and diverse skill sets.
What is WKU Capable of?
Maybe you’re not familiar with WKU and just think they’ve gotten lucky. How many times have you seen a “mid-major” exceed expectations and back it up? Rarely. Laugh at the optimism if you want, but do it at your peril. If Anderson and Diagne are included, WKU boasts eight players on a roster of 10 that were rated at least three stars coming out of high school. Three of those have significant NCAA tournament experience at other schools. The two that were not rated are still making their presence known on the floor: Senior walk-on Tyler Miller is one of WKU’s better defenders and freshman Jake Ohmer is shooting 50% from three point land.
The Toppers nearly beat Villanova, actually beat Purdue, and shocked SMU. The only other loss was in the first game of the season by five to Missouri State after digging a 24 point hole, and the Bears were picked as the preseason Missouri Valley Conference champions.
WKU was an average Conference USA team last year (15–17 overall, 8th C-USA). This year, they’ve played three opponents they faced in 2016–17 who they went 2–1 against (Campbellsville, Kentucky Wesleyan, and EKU) last year, winning by 8, winning by 6 (2OT), and losing by 19. This year, they won by 41, 30, and 32, respectively.
Again, this is all with eight players.
There is no question WKU is improved from last year to this year, regardless of the hope of adding two more sets of lungs. If you will, Rick Stansbury found a way to craft together Murderer’s Row. Despite operating with a lonely bench and returning one scholarship player, he has a team looking of NCAA Tournament caliber.
Ignore, scoff at, and insult WKU men’s basketball at your peril. This team is good with or without extra bodies, but if Anderson and/or Diagne becomes eligible, WKU could crawl straight out of nowhere into the limelight.
Do yourself a favor: Keep your eyes on WKU basketball the rest of the season. Then you won’t be baffled how they came “out of nowhere” in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.