Do you want to know more about BC’s opponent besides its won-loss record? No problem. BCI brings you the “cheat sheet” for a quick rundown of BC’s next opponent, Western Kentucky.
The Hilltoppers are a four seed in the NIT Tournament and are only one of the four Mid-Major teams that are hosting a first round game in the NIT. The other 12 games are being hosted by Power Five teams.
Most recently Western Kentucky fell short in an unbelieveable comeback attempt against Marshall in the Conference USA Championship game. Down 12 with just 3:40 left, WKU went on a 11-0 run to end the game and fell just short of punching a ticket to the Big Dance.
WKU has a balanced scoring attack that features five players averaging double digit points per game. The leader of the bunch is 1st Team All-CUSA forward Justin Johnson who leads the team in scoring (15.3) and rebounding (9.6). Johnson goes at 6’7” and nearly 250 pounds and is kind of an old school power forward. Johnson spends a lot of time inside the three point line and uses his build to get good position inside to score, or to set screens for his guards on pick and rolls. The senior forward has only attempted 98 three pointers all season but has hit 42.9% of them. If you don’t respect him popping out for three he is capable of beating you that way as well.
Another big man that could cause problems for BC is center Dwight Coleby. The 6’9” center averages 11 points and 8 rebounds per game and while he doesn’t have a lot of moves in the paint the guards do a great job of driving to the hoop and dishing to Coleby for open dunks down low.
The other two players that stand out on film are guards Darius Thompson (2nd Team All-CUSA) and Taveion Hollingsworth (All-CUSA Freshmen Team). While both players have a little bit different skillsets they are both exceptional at finding lanes into the paint and drawing fouls or dishing to teammates for open shots. A lot of the time these drives are setup by screens from Johnson. WKU’s screen and roll game is a huge concern as BC has had trouble defending this all year.
Behind the Numbers
In a day and age where it seems every team likes to bomb away from three WKU is kind of refreshing to watch. The Hilltoppers have attempted the 21st least three pointers in the country and have the 15th highest amount of free throw attempts. WKU also had the 37th best two point field goal percentage in the country at 54.6%. In a nutshell, WKU is usually in attack mode at the rim and is looking to get a dunk or a foul off of that action. While not a team that prefers to shoot the three, WKU does shoot a respectable 35.9% from three if the situation calls for it.
There aren’t a lot of holes in WKU’s statistical data except its three point shooting defense which allows 36.3% which is a fairly high average. With the three point line moving back 20 inches for this tournament it’s unclear if BC will be able to take advantage of this deficiency in the WKU defense.
What to Expect
Don’t get me wrong it’s very exciting that BC was able to qualify for the NIT and I’m sure all BC fans are very appreciative of the selection. That being said, the NIT didn’t do BC any favors in the seeding. As mentioned earlier only four Mid-Major programs were awarded first round home games, and of those four teams only Western Kentucky and Boise State draw Power Five teams, meaning BC and Washington are the only Power Five teams in the NIT heading on the road to a Mid-Major. Why is this a big deal? Because usually the Mid-Major programs are very excited to host a Power Five team at home since they don’t get the chance to during the regular season. For a program like Western Kentucky with a lot of history this is a very big deal. On top of this, BC hasn’t beaten a good team in a true road game all year.
Aside from the location of the game this seems like a touch match-up for BC. The Hilltoppers have proven on a few different occasions that they can hang with good and even great teams this year losing to Villanova by 8, beating Purdue by 4 and losing to Wisconsin by 1. All of those games were away from home by the way.
WKU’s screen and roll game is going to pose a huge problem for BC. Thankfully for the Eagles, WKU doesn’t have much of a shot blocking presence aside from Coleby down low, and even he isn’t on par with some of the shot blockers that BC has faced in the ACC this year. Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman should be able to score at will like they have all year. That being said I think the three point line moving back actually hurts BC more than WKU and I’m taking the Hilltoppers at home.