Location: Bowling Green, KY
Conference: Sun Blet
Last Year’s Record: 25-9
Why they’ll make it: Its amazing, that as a mid-major, Western Kentucky is getting to the point where it doesn’t rebuild; it reloads. There are only five returning players for the Hilltoppers this season, but its the right five. Led by the frontcourt tandem of Sergio Kerusch and Stephon Pettigrew and second-team all-conference guard, A.J. Slaughter, the Hilltoppers will still have the most talented starting five in conference. The talent doesn’t stop with the starting five though. They have an outstanding recruiting class coming in led by the Gatorade’s Alabama Player of the Year, Jordan Swing and top junior college prospect, Cliff Dixon. Anyone expecting the Hilltoppers take a step back this season need only to look at this roster. Western Kentucky will continue to be difficult to defeat.
Why they won’t make it: Depth will be an issue for the Western Kentucky this season. Among the seven players they lost last season was the Sun Belt’s Player of the Year, Orlando Mendez-Valdez. He’ll be difficult to replace as will the quality depth this club has enjoyed in recent seasons. In addition to that, the Hilltoppers had to dismiss incoming freshman, David Laury from the team in late July. They still have a talented class coming in, but it’s always unclear how a group of freshmen, no matter how talented, will adjust to the college game. If they aren’t able to get solid play off the bench, the Hilltoppers may see their NCAA tournament berth in North Texas’ hands.