WKU early-season RPI outlook

29 11 2010

Because it’s never too early for some old RPI pondering? Is it?

I didn’t think so.

First thing’s first – through six games, WKU currently sits at a 168 according to RealtimeRPI.com. Not wretched, considering that the Hilltoppers are 3-3.

As far as WKU’s early-season losses go, I’d say only one thus far will almost surely likely go down as a bad loss in terms of RPI – and it’s not the Davidson loss.

Given South Carolina’s  weak non-league schedule, and the fact that the Gamecocks are picked to finish at or near the bottom of the SEC by most prognostications (which is far more important) – Saturday’s home loss to Darrin Horn in company won’t likely come off the books as a bad one (similar to the way the early-season LSU loss did a season ago). It might, but it’ll be close.

WKU’s loss to Minnesota won’t be a problem, because the Gophers play a stout non-league slate and are in perhaps the best overall league in the country this season. The loss against Davidson could turn out to be a bad loss – but that’ll likely be borderline.

WKU has some serious opportunities to start resume building this week – at Vanderbilt (30), at Memphis (47) and then at Murray State (62) and home against Louisville (54).

While those games provide big opportunities for RPI bumps, they won’t likely be killers if WKU loses.

Now I know none of this means much if WKU falls apart over the next two weeks before entering Sun Belt play, but just some food for thought.

As far as Saturday’s game was concerned, I know plenty of fans were ready to jump off a bridge after the outcome, as the game was obviously an emotional contest that the Hilltoppers had every opportunity to win.

But given the fact that WKU played much harder than it did in Puerto Rico, I’d say there is still hope for improvement moving forward.

There are some lingering issues, however.

Free throw shooting was horrible once again, and likely cost WKU the game in regulation.

Three-point defense was off late in the game, but that’s not something I’d get overly concerned with – unless it lingers. That’s a relatively easy fix.

Juan Pattillo played his tail off defensively, and ripped down 18 rebounds – but his touch around the basket leaves plenty to be desired and his desire to take outside shots (and the staff’s willingness to allow him to do so) is still something that makes me scratch my head every time.

As far as that end-game baseball pass scenario – here’s my take:

Ken McDonald’s a genius if it works, a fool if it doesn’t. It’s just one of those situations where there’s less than five seconds to play, you’ve got to go the length of the floor for a hail mary situation – it’s going to take a lot of help to convert that no matter how you slice it.

The real issue for me comes during tight possessions late in regulation and both overtime periods.

WKU’s up five with a minute to play in regulation. But Pattillo bricks the front end of a 1 and 1 before Caden Dickerson splits a pair with 30 seconds to play.

Make your shots there and the game’s over.

But they miss, South Carolina ties it with a triple at the 20 second mark. Ok, that’s fine. WKU still has 20 seconds to win the ball game.

But the Hilltoppers reverted back to last season’s late-game possession situations. I.E. Ken Brown dribbled the ball around for 18 seconds while no one moved, cut or did much of anything. Brown dumps it over to Pettigrew who shoots an off-balanced 3-pointer at the buzzer that saw him almost land in my lap on press row.

Not exactly a solid possession.

Forget the question of who takes the final shot for this team – the play never even got started there.

End of the first overtime, same scenario.

WKU’s up two with the ball and under a minute to play – McDonald calls a clear-out situation for Pattillo. That was a head-scratcher to me, but it still could have worked out if he went at the basket hard.

But instead, he pulls up for an 18-footer and clangs it. USC rebounds, goes back down, gets a hoop.

Fool me once – shame on you. Fool me twice – you lose.

Two game-winning possessions botched = a double overtime loss.

A big-time stretch is on the horizon for WKU basketball – perhaps one of the toughest non-league stretches in recent history.

And since we’ve been doom and gloom for the past few graphs, let me point to a few positives moving forward:

Ken Brown: He showed on Saturday that when he feels like it, he can be a serious difference maker with the ball in his hands. Jamal Crook will have time to rest his hamstring, but I really think that WKU’s point guard situation will be infinitely better than it was last season down the stretch run.

Sergio Kerusch: Played within himself and had probably his best game since the season-opener on Saturday. He was a stopper on defense at times and played very athletic around the basket. It reminded me some of the game he had last season against Vanderbilt in Nashville, quite possibly the best overall game I’ve seen him play in a WKU uniform. He’s had big scoring outbursts before, but his ability to hit the glass and take care of things on the defensive end are going to be the assets that give him a chance to keep playing once his college days are over.

Juan Pattillo: He seemed much more interested in the team concept Saturday, and though he’s still making questionable decisions on the offensive end, I can’t think of too many people in the Sun Belt that will be able to match up with him athletically.

In the end, if you’re one of those fans already looking over the ledge, I’d say give it a few more weeks before making that ‘to jump or not to jump’ decision.

This group might surprise you.

Then again, maybe not.

In any event, it should be an interesting ride.

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