Tuesday, March 19, 2013

WKU coach: ‘We won’t be scared’


National radio talk show host Jim Rome asked Western Kentucky basketball coach Ray Harper to divulge the first thing that popped in his head when informed his No. 16-seeded Hilltoppers would be playing No. 1 seed Kansas University on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Let’s play somewhere else ... that was the first thing,” Harper said Monday, referring to Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., site of the 8:50 p.m., contest. “You know they are a basketball program with a huge tradition and a Hall of Fame coach in Bill Self, so we know the challenges that lie ahead,” Harper added.

Harper is not complaining. His (20-15) Hilltoppers made the field of 68 by winning four games in four days in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. That was the only way his squad, which went 10-10 in the conference regular season, would have garnered a bid.

“As a coach I don’t really get caught up in seeding,” said second-year WKU coach Harper. “We’re just happy we are still playing. We went through a stretch we had our entire backcourt injured. When we’ve had our entire team together we are 17-5. I was hoping they (NCAA tournament committee) would look at that, but at the same time we’re happy we’re still playing.”

Nine Hilltoppers returned this year from a team that beat Mississippi Valley State, 59-58, in a first-round 2012 NCAA Tourney game in Dayton, Ohio, then lost to eventual-champion Kentucky, 81-66, in the second round. This year, the Hilltoppers played four games against tournament teams, including Louisville and VCU and two match-ups with Sun Belt champion Middle Tennessee. WKU lost all four games.

“I heard one of the so-called experts last night said we wouldn’t be scared but we should be scared, and I can assure you we won’t be scared,” Harper told Rome.

Harper, who won two NAIA national championships at Oklahoma City University and two NCAA Div. II crowns at Kentucky Wesleyan, now is coach of a program that has made some noise in the NCAAs.

The Hilltoppers own four NCAA Tournament victories since 2008, boast 22 NCAA Tournament berths all-time, have won 42 conference championships (tied for third most in NCAA history) and are 17th in NCAA history in all-time wins. The program has advanced to the Sweet 16 seven times and qualified for the Final Four in 1971 in Houston, where it topped KU in the consolation finals.

Harper brought in a player off the 1993 NCAA Sweet 16 team — Mark Bell — to speak to his troops about the postseason.

What was Bell’s message?

“No one is talking about you right now. Nobody will be talking about you when you leave Bowling Green (for KC). When you get back home, let’s have everybody talking about you,” Harper related to Rome.


Rocky Darger 1 year, 1 month ago

Right coach, until midnight EDT this Friday!


Robbk1066 1 year, 1 month ago

wow we all need to get better things to do with our Including me, i read all of this. It is a 16 seed, play our game and we win, play like we did at TCU and Houston we got a problem.


jaybate 1 year, 1 month ago

"Any time you lace them up, and referees are involved, your team is at risk." --grandpa jaybate

This was the most sage advice ever given to me for it generalizes to all of life.

This is why risk management is such a great field to get an education in. :-)

The key here is not to be black or white, but probabilistically grey, approximate some coarse grade probabilities for winning and losing for your team, then do exactly what OakVille said: write three letters on the locker room board.


It puts your team behind an eight ball from the beginning, which you usually don't want to do against an opponent.

But unless you are willing to waste an amp beating a 16 seed, you have to put your team behind an eight ball and say find your own way out from behind it if you have any real desire to survive and play someone who matters.



kay_you 1 year, 1 month ago

They're playing with house money, why would they be scared?


johninkc1 1 year, 1 month ago

Maybe that TCU loss will help us after all. We shouldn't take anyone lightly. OSU helped us be humble in '08 and that ended fairly well for us. Hoping for a great tourney run.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 1 month ago

Hmm, some scared jayhawk fans above...WHY? Thanks to TCU, this particular team will not be cocky. All business. But anything can happen in a OAD tourney. And if we do face UNC in round 2, just how long will 1 blueblood (KU) keep another blueblood (UNC) down in-a-row? Just playing devil's advocate--dont be cocky, but dont have fear either. Our program is about as all-business as is possible with 18-23yr old kids executing game plans. We have a solid plan for both ends of the floor in almost every game. We are accustomed to taking everyone's A-game.


jaybate 1 year, 1 month ago

"We won't be scared."

I don't know. I'm not sure that works as a leadership tool.

Imagine some of the following historical figures:

Eisenhower invading Europe: We won't be scared invading Europe.

Neil Armstrong: We won't be scared landing on the moon.

Edmund Hilary: I won't be scared climbing Mt. Everest.

Bill Russell: I won't be scared guarding Wilt.

Mike Jordan: I won't be scared going after my 6th Title.

Julia Child: I won't be scared making a soufflé.


LLH 1 year, 1 month ago

Mark Bell. I use to watch him in my youth at Barton County Community College. He was a hell of a point guard. He use to get out on the break and bounce the ball off the floor to himself as an oop, amazing little guy. That being said, even if WKU had Bell himself playing, and a few other notable alums, I just don't see them upsetting KU. Not saying it couldn't happen, but I doubt it will. No worries on this game for me. Honestly, UNC is the ONLY team in this region that causes any concerns to me. I know many won't agree, I have my reasons, but too long to list. I feel IF KU sees them, KU wins a nail biter and marches on to Atlanta thereafter. Just my two cents, probably won't play out anything like that, but everyone has an opinion this time of year.


machinegun 1 year, 1 month ago

Elijah is going to open up a can of "whoop whoop" and we are going to roll all over those boys from Kentucky. Elijah is the leader of a 29-5 championship team. Stop harping about turnovers.


FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 1 month ago

The team that goes the farthest in the tournament is the one that can stay focused on the team they are playing and nobody else. My advice is to take care of business by holding onto the ball, especially you EJ. Stop playing scatter-brain basketball; keep your emotions under control. KU's biggest problem is making way too many turnovers. It's going to be tough getting out of KC. Don't let anybody kid you.


johninkc1 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't care who we play. We should beat WKU easily. If we don't, we don't deserve our seed or our ranking. Our players should take the statement, that "WKU isn't scared" and make them scared. Time to play and shut the competition up on the court.


Kevin Jenkins 1 year, 1 month ago

I think KU players understand the importance of playing each game at time. I heard Jeff and Releford talking about playing one game at a time after the selections were made. They have heard all the stories. I just worry about our PG play and the turnovers, but then again Tyshawn made few whoppers. We will be alright. Not to many put us going to far, but I am a true KU fan. Believing that this team will give their best. And as a true full blooded KU fan, would never bet against us just for a few coins in my pocket. Rock Chalk!!!!


kennethst 1 year, 1 month ago

Not scared, eh? Kind of sounds like Iowa Stae wanting to play Kansas the other day. How did that turn out?

KU obviously should not overlook WKU......but there is a reason they have lost 15 games against much less talented teams than KU.


Sam Constance 1 year, 1 month ago

Why is anyone afraid of this game? I mean, beyond the basic fear of being the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed, which is more based on the consequences were we to lose than it is on the likelihood of us losing.

WKU finished the year 20-15. Read that again--FIFTEEN different teams defeated the Hilltoppers this year. If you look at the rest of the tourney field, only two teams managed to compile more losses than WKU: Liberty (15-20) who got in only by virtue of winning their conference tournament, and North Carolina A&T (19-16), who also got in only because they won their conference tournament. And Western Kentucky is no different. Harper can talk about hoping the committee considered their W-L record when healthy, but give me a break. They weren't getting in without running the table in their conference tourney.

Their best win is over Kenpom #132, Arkansas State. Their best loss is to Kenpom #29, Iowa by 8 points early in the season. This team has no chance to hang with Kansas, especially after the TCU loss, especially playing in the Sprint Center.

Don't get me wrong--they can't overlook or take WKU for granted, but as a fan, I have no fear that we will win this game and do it going away.


Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 1 month ago

OK, let's get a few things straight:

1) WKU IS a legitimate 16 seed. The only reason they're here is because they went on a run in the weakass Sun Belt league's tournament after finishing in the bottom half during conference play.

2) WKU does NOT fit the profile of a cinderella. Yes, they shoot threes and yes, the shoot them at a fairly good clip, but they also turn the ball over more than even we do, they don't play D, and they don't generate steals. Cinderellas shoot the 3 and play good D. WKU doesn't.

3) Even if WKU gets hot from three, if they're turning the ball over as much as they do, they'll have to shoot over 60% as a team to make up for all of the run outs KU is going to have.

With that said, I'm not going to say we can overlook this team. You can't overlook anyone. KU under Self has had this habit of losing to teams that they absolutely never in a million years should at least once a year. TCU was that game this year. Davidson was last year. VCU before that. UNI. Even the 08 title team lost to a very crappy OSU that year. Only the 09 team managed to escape that fate from what I can remember. Long and short, these guys know they can lose to anyone if they don't bring it, and this being a one and done tournament, I expect them to bring it.


William Blake 1 year, 1 month ago

From here on out we just have to be prepared to play a game. When we do that we win, regardless of the competition.

If we see an inspired Jayhawk team on Friday we'll see the Hilltoppers run out of the arena... they turn the ball over and Travis Releford may set his personal scoring best by being at the end of several run outs. It should be a very entertaining game to watch!

If we see an inspired Jayhawk team...


tis4tim 1 year, 1 month ago

"Nine Hilltoppers returned this year from a team that beat Mississippi Valley State, 59-58, in a first-round 2012 NCAA Tourney game in Dayton, Ohio, then lost to eventual-champion Kentucky, 81-66, in the second round."

Amazing ... they're going to lose to the eventual champions two years in a row. :)

All Bravado aside, WKU's situation is much like watching a slasher film a second time. That is, they already know what's lurking around the corner. In this case, it's a severe beat down.

I agree with their coach. Why be scared when you know how it ends?


FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 1 month ago

Somebody please tell Bill Self this is NOT a legitimate 16 seed. I would hate to be the first number one seed to lose to a 16. We will never be able to live it down. PLEASE, don't take this team lightly! They beat Kentucky earlier this year. This is a legitimate conspiracy to get a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed.


Matt Bowers 1 year, 1 month ago

What is with people in the Midwest and the constant since of doom? Honestly, this isn't a bad match up. I want the boys to play good competition so that they will be focused and ready to go. If you want to worry about anything, worry about the distractions that will be surrounding our team in KC.

Rock Chalk


oldalum 1 year, 1 month ago

He said: "...our entire backcourt injured. When we’ve had our entire team together we are 17-5. I was hoping they (NCAA tournament committee) would look at that..." Sorry, Coach. I think you have to be Duke before that happens.


phogphan2000 1 year, 1 month ago

I've seen the Hilltoppers in action several times throughout the years when I've gone to opening weekend games, and I'm pretty sure they won their 1st round game every time. I even got used to chanting T O P S, tops tops tops as all Kentucky teams seem to use this basic chant. I don't like them as a 16 seed, no doubt, but KU should take care of business. As per my new custom, I'll be betting against KU in every round of the tourney, taking WKU on the M/L at 25 to 1, hope I can add that ticket to my collection of "losers" due to KU dominating. I didn't bet against KU @BU 'cause I was sick. Nothing will keep me from making those bets in the NCAA tourney.


actorman 1 year, 1 month ago

That's one freakin' scary 16-seed.


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