On February 18 the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers looked dead in the water, having lost 66-61 to South Alabama to fall to 9-18 on the season.
The following day Ken McDonald was replaced as head coach by Ray Harper, and things took off from there.
The Hilltoppers would win six straight games, including four in the Sun Belt tournament, to grab the league’s automatic bid and make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009.
WKU beat Mississippi Valley State in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual national champion Kentucky, but that didn’t erase what was a memorable run.
None of Western Kentucky’s seven wins were by more than seven points, and they needed to come from behind in each of their four Sun Belt tournament victories.
And they trailed Mississippi Valley State by 16 with less than five minutes remaining in their first NCAA tournament game.
On Tuesday WKU fans will be able to relive those 25 days as the documentary “25 Days of Triumph” is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray.
WKU has to replace two of their top five scorers from a season ago (Derrick Gordon transferred to UMass and Kahlil McDonald graduated) but with forward George Fant and guard T.J. Price returning the Hilltoppers have some key contributors they can rely on.
Will they have enough to defend that tournament crown, especially considering the talent at North Texas with forward Tony Mitchell leading the way?
As WKU’s late-season run showed, anything is possible.
As one of the top players in the Class of 2017, 6-foot-8 small forward Michael Porter Jr. has been on the receiving end of attention from many high-major programs. Monday night Porter, a native of Columbia, Missouri who’s ranked second in the class by Rivals.com, revealed his top five schools at this point in time.
The five schools that made the cut (in alphabetical order): Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington.
A photo posted by Michael Porter Jr. (@m1chael_porter) on
Of the five schools on Porter’s list Missouri and Washington may be the most interesting given the family connections. Not only is Missouri the hometown school, but Porter’s older sisters Bri and Cierra are members of the women’s basketball team.
And one of the assistants on that coaching staff was Porter’s father, who earlier this spring joined Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington. The elder Porter isn’t the only Washington connection either, with Michael’s younger brother Jontay being a commit in the Class of 2018.
With the loss of all-conference forward Jalen Jones, Texas A&M was in a position where they could afford to add another front court body alongside the likes of Tyler Davis and Tonny Trocha-Morelos. Thursday afternoon head coach Billy Kennedy and his staff managed to do just that, as 6-foot-9 forward Eric Martinez Vila made his pledge to the SEC program.
News of Vila’s commitment was first reported by TexAgs.com, and the FC Barcelona Lassa (that’s the club’s basketball program) product took visits to Texas A&M, Missouri and Wake Forest earlier this spring. Vila’s viewed as more of a combo forward, with the ability to step away from the basket and hit perimeter shots, giving the Aggies some added versatility in the front court.
Vila has plenty of experience playing for both FC Barcelona’s B team (however he did appear with the A-team during the 2014-15 season), and he represented Spain in the 2014 FIBA U16 EuroBasket and 2015 FIBA U18 EuroBasket events. Vila is the fifth member of Texas A&M’s 2016 class, joining guards J.J. Caldwell and J.C. Hampton, wing DeShawn Corprew and forward Robert Williams.
Nevada forward Cameron Oliver to return for sophomore season
With the deadline for early entrants to withdraw from the NBA Draft set for Wednesday, some college basketball teams will receive important news as it pertains to the 2016-17 campaign. One of those teams was Nevada, which surprised many last season by winning 24 games in Eric Musselman’s first season at the helm. And with one of the key contributors from that team deciding to withdraw from the NBA Draft, the Wolf Pack will be well positioned to be even better in 2016-17.
Forward Cameron Oliver, who was one of the Mountain West’s best freshmen this past season, will return to Reno for his sophomore season with Musselman making the news official Monday afternoon.
The 6-foot-8 Oliver averaged 13.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for Nevada, shooting 50.8 percent from the field in his debut season. Oliver was named third team All-Mountain West while also earning conference All-Defensive team honors.
Oliver and wing D.J. Fenner (13.7 ppg) are the team’s top two returning scorers, with guard Marqueze Coleman (15.1 ppg) out of eligibility, and they’ll lead the way for a team that can contend in the Mountain West next season.
In addition to Oliver and Fenner, Nevada adds two talented transfers in Leland King and Marcus Marshall, with the latter averaging 19.5 points per game at Missouri State in 2014-15.
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia guard Juwan Parker has been awarded a medical redshirt, leaving him with two years of eligibility, after missing the 2015-16 season with a partially torn Achilles tendon.
Parker, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, played in Georgia’s exhibition game against Armstrong State but missed the regular season. He originally suffered the injury in the 2014-15 season, when he averaged 4.9 points and 3.7 rebounds while starting 14 games.
Parker will be a junior in the 2016-17 season.
Georgia also announced that forward Osahen Iduwe will transfer after averaging 0.5 points in 18 games.
Iduwe, from Nigeria, attended Central Park Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2012-13 and St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin, in 2013-14.
Xavier forward Trevon Bluiett will return to school for his junior season.
Bluiett did not receive an invitation to the NBA Draft combine, but he did get a few workouts with NBA teams after declaring for the draft in March. He did not sign with an agent, meaning he can withdraw his name from consideration without losing any eligibility.
This is big for the Musketeers. Bluiett, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward that gives Xavier some lineup versatility, averaged 15.1 points and 6.1 boards while shooting 39.8 percent from three last season. With Bluiett back in the fold, the Musketeers return their top four perimeter scorers and may have the best 1-2 punch in the league with Bluiett and point guard Edmond Sumner.