Hilltoppers vs. Charlotte

WKU freshman guard Jordan Rawls (3) chews on his mouthguard during the men's basketball game against the Charlotte 49ers on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. The Hilltoppers were defeated 72-70.

With the college basketball season a little less than a month away, I don’t think it’s a bold claim to say that this is the year WKU has to win the Conference USA championship.  

For the last three years the Hilltoppers have gotten to the C-USA championship and have fallen short every time. First a one-point loss, 67-66, to Marshall In 2018, loss to Old Dominion  62-56 in 2019, and lost to North Texas for the C-USA regular season title, while the conference tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.  

In those games, it would always seem like one player would take over for the opposing team and lead them to victory.  

For Marshall it was Jon Elmore who had 27 points, six assists and four rebounds. For Old Dominion it was Xavier Green who showed up big late going 3-for-5 from the three-point line as WKU shot 4-18. For North Texas it was Javion Hamlet who scored 25 points and nine assists on 8-14 shooting.  

The Hilltoppers will face some great competition in the 2020-21 season against foes like Louisville and LSU in their two separate respective bubbles to start the season. They have to travel to Charlotte, North Texas, Florida Atlantic, and play Florida International who they lost to at least once last year. Those games will be able to show us what this team is made of with a good mix of veterans and new guys. 

“From a preparation standpoint, I feel good where we are at,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Naturally we have to get better in a lot of areas. Trying to bring some new guys and some young guys along…[but] I think we’re in a good place right now with four weeks to go.”  

Taveion Hollingsworth enters his senior year, Josh Anderson is a senior, Kenny Cooper a redshirt senior, Carson Williams is a redshirt senior, and Charles Bassey is a junior who is likely to leave after this year. These players, minus Kenny Cooper who had to sit out last year as a transfer, combined for 56 of the team’s average of 76 points a game. 

They are the core of the team who has made this program run over the past four years, excluding Jared Savage who graduated last year. 

This team is known for coming up short in the big spotlight but this can and should be the year where they eclipse that and take the conference title. 

Last year, it was really a six-man rotation for most of the season due to a season ending injury to Charles Bassey and other recurring injuries to other players, which would make the starters play 95% of the game leading to exhaustion and not enough stamina at the end. 

This year, with the addition of freshmen Dayvion Mcknight and Kylen Minton and grad transfer Luke Frampton, this team can be an eight or nine deep rotation type of team. 

“We have a lot of different moveable parts, guys who play multiple positions and I like that,” Stansbury said. “I don't like to play position basketball, I like guys who play multiple positions and I think we have guys who can do that and score in different ways.”

This basketball season will be unpredictable due to the current situation we are all going through but make no mistake, if there was ever a time that WKU needed to take advantage of a season and win it all, it is now. 

Men’s basketball beat reporter & columnist Kaden Gaylord can be reached at kaden.gaylord559@topper.wku.edu. Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.

Kaden Gaylord is the men's basketball beat reporter for the College Heights Herald. He previously covered the softball team and women's volleyball team.