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.


yates33333 7 years, 10 months ago

Amen! We would have been better off with several 14 or 15 seeds. I wish there was someway basketball could get out from under the NCAA's clutches like football did with the BCS. Of course, the major effort now is to do in the bowl games and have a playoff series like in basketball. I really do not like the NCAA. Its actions relative to its reality gives new meaning to the idea of hypocrisy.

okiedave 7 years, 10 months ago

If we are scared of Western Kentucky, we don't deserve to be in the tournament, not even mentioning a #1 seed,. If we are scared by WKU how are we going to feel against Georgetown, NC and Louisville/ The better teams we play early, the sharper we should be deeper into the tournament. Bring it on.

Curtis Stutz 7 years, 10 months 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.

Phil Leister 7 years, 10 months ago

What kind of fan bets against his own team?

REHawk 7 years, 10 months ago

He's a fan who envisions a $250 return on a $10 wager. If the Jayhawks were playing a "B" team, I might consider a $20 wager at those odds. No disrespect to Self and Co., just business.

Curtis Stutz 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm a fan that bets against my own team so they'll win. Betting on your team is the ultimate jinx, so it follows that betting against them is a reverse jinx. I bet against KU in the first 5 games of the NCAA's last year. UK was favored, I didn't want to mess with the title game, KU lost. I bet against KU once the conference title was in danger. Against KSU in Lawrence, on the road at OSU, on the road at ISU. I missed the BU game 'cause I was bed ridden. I bet the ISU and KSU Big12 tourney games. I know it sounds like superstitious nonsense, but you can't argue with results. I had to take Okie St money line 'cause they were a slight favorite, sure enough, couldn't have been closer. I'll keep doing it this year as long as KU keeps winning. The last time I bet ON KU, the TCU game, never again.

Curtis Stutz 7 years, 10 months ago

Actually maybe I'm exaggerating, might have been I bet on KU against OU after the TCU game. Either way, last time I bet on the Jayhawks they had a painful loss.

rtwngr 7 years, 10 months ago

Sounds like a true gambler to me! Make that bet and double down each round as they advance!

Marcia Parsons 7 years, 10 months ago

Sounds like a superstition thing to me. Edit: in way of explanation, I posted this in answer to "what kind of a fan" and ended up at the bottom of the page far away from the question.

Marcia Parsons 7 years, 10 months 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.

Matt Bowers 7 years, 10 months 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

FearlessJayhawk 7 years, 10 months 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.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 10 months ago

...and your handle is Fearless?? :)

Not to worry..Bill can just write three letteres on the chalkboard and we'll be good to go...what three letters you say....TCU!!

FearlessJayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

I am fearless, but I'm also not stupid like many of you dimwits. Anytime you start getting cocky is when you'll get your butt kicked.

jayhawkinATL 7 years, 10 months ago

Checked their win/loss on ESPN and didn't see UK.

JayHawkFanToo 7 years, 10 months ago

Come down "fearless" and look at the actual facts. Western Kentucky did not play Kentucky; the closest teams to KU they played are Louisville and VCU and they los to them by 23 and 32 points.
Here is their schedule:

sammyr2 7 years, 10 months ago

Fearless is correct: Western Kentucky did indeed recently beat Kentucky. The important fact he omitted however, was that it was in football, not basketball.

Micky Baker 7 years, 10 months ago

They lost to Kentucky in the round of 64 last year.

tis4tim 7 years, 10 months 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?

Waylon Cook 7 years, 10 months ago

When did we lose to Davidson?

Self has a habit? Oddly we have passed UNC and will pass Kensucky for overall wins before he is gone.

jaybate 7 years, 10 months ago


Excellent flow charting of this issue.

Issue resolved.

Rock Chalk!

Sam Constance 7 years, 10 months 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.

JayHawkFanToo 7 years, 10 months ago

Western Kentucky also got in by virtue of winning the conference tournament. WKU finished 10-10 in conference and 4th in their division, and when the division are combined, their record places them at 6th out of 11 team in the Sun Belt conference. Middle Tennessee, which was bubble team, is by far the class of that conference.

kennethst 7 years, 10 months 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.

Kevin Jenkins 7 years, 10 months 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!!!!

kerbyd 7 years, 10 months ago

I Love It!!! You will be young Harper.....You will be....

johninkc1 7 years, 10 months 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.

FearlessJayhawk 7 years, 10 months 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.

machinegun 7 years, 10 months 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.

monkeehawkSL8 7 years, 10 months ago

Your right, no harp here. I'm using a late 50's Les Paul and a quad stack of 200w amps on "11", C-G-D blue's progression, and the lyric's?


LLH 7 years, 10 months 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.

jaybate 7 years, 10 months 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.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 10 months ago

I read this thread and thought the same thing. If not for TCU, we might be vulnerable vs. WKU. But we're not vulnerable in this one.

johninkc1 7 years, 10 months 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.

kay_you 7 years, 10 months ago

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

jaybate 7 years, 10 months 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.


Robbk1066 7 years, 10 months 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.

Rocky Darger 7 years, 10 months ago

Right coach, until midnight EDT this Friday!

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