[Moderated by Matt Jones]
It has been a crazy tournament as both favorites, Middle Tennessee and Arkansas-Little Rock, were knocked out in their first games on Sunday. Out of 721 entries in the Canes KSR Conference Challenge, only 18 (15 for WKU, 3 for N. Texas) remain. The Hilltoppers and the Mean Green (yes that is there real nickname) will play for their seasons tonight at 7pm on ESPN2.
The Hilltoppers, through all of their trials and tribulations this season, are 40 minutes away from the NCAA tournament. On January 5th the Toppers lost to Louisiana-Lafayette at home as the Ragin’ Cajuns used the old 6 on 5 play to win the game and drop WKU to a 5-11 record. The next morning Coach Ken McDonald was fired and Ray Harper was named interim coach. Since that time the team has gone 9-7 and stands at 14-18.
WKU defeated Florida International 67-63 Saturday, second seeded Arkansas-Little Rock 68-63 Sunday, and third seeded Denver 67-63 on Monday night to advance to the championship game. This will be the Hilltoppers first trip to the championship game since they won it in 2009. The team is led by four freshman (sound familiar) including George Fant, who scored 19 against Denver, and Vinny Zollo (also sound familiar) who has been a valuable contributor on the bench.
The University of North Texas is located in Denton, Texas which is just north of Dallas on I-35. The school’s nickname, “The Mean Green”, was derived from NFL Hall of Famer “Mean Joe” Greene who played at the school before his NFL career. To answer your next question, no, I did not just make that up.
The Mean Green hold an 18-13 overall record and a 9-7 mark in the Sun Belt. They defeated Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday 65-62 and Arkansas State 76-72 on Monday. This will be the third year in a row the team had made it to the championship game, beating Troy in 2010 and falling to Arkansas-Little Rock in 2011.
Western will be playing its fourth game in four days while North Texas will be playing its third due to the Sun Belt only having 11 teams. The Hilltoppers have to be tired after grinding out three straight games but are playing their best basketball of the season and have won eight of their last eleven. The Mean Green beat the ‘Toppers in their only meeting this season 84-67 in Denton on January 12th.
I predict Western will win 67.333-63
Here is who is still alive in the Canes KSR Conference Challenge for the Sun Belt. Would the three people who picked North Texas please humor me and let me know how/why you picked them to win?
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