Thursday, October 30, 2008

Change We Can Believe In (?)

Welcome back, hoops. We missed ya. TBB will be heavy with WKU and Sun Belt talk sprinkled with essays early on, but will transition into its comfy model of Brackets, Bubble Boys, and selection criteria as the calendar turns to 2009. On with it.

In this political season rife with talk of change, the WKU Hilltoppers are actually walking the walk. New coach. New backcourt. New philosophy. It's the one constant in fans' lives if they follow schools like WKU. One of the darlings of last season's NCAA Tourney, the Toppers lost their stellar backcourt of Courtney Lee (Orlando Magic), Tyrone Brazelton (pro overseas), and Ty Rogers (he of NCAA lore and an ESPY Award for "the Shot"). The Hilltoppers also lost head coach Darrin Horn and his entire staff who jumped to South Carolina after the Toppers amazing Sweet 16 run last March. He has been replaced by Ken McDonald, a former WKU assistant under Dennis Felton and, more recently, Rick Barnes' top assistant at Texas. If people want to see real change this political/hoops season, I would suggest following the WKU Hilltoppers.

Blue Ribbon has picked WKU to finish third in the Sun Belt East behind Middle Tennessee, the Belt favorite by a wide margin, and South Alabama. Those three look to be a cut above the other four in the East. The West again should be a scrap between a number of teams, but give me the UALR Trojans who return all five starters and are not afraid to play defense. UL-Lafayette and North Texas should be right there as well. Overall, the consensus is that WKU will still be in the upper tier of the league, but few expect the Tops to make it back into the bracket this season.

That said, if it is change that the people crave, this is the time and the Tops are your team. "Change" has been the primary theme in this everlong political season. Not a politics fan? The sports season changes from baseball to basketball (football is but a distraction, pay no attention). Need more change? Middle Tennessee is the Belt favorite in men's hoops. Still not enough? The entire Topper identity is in flux coming off one of the most successful season in recent times.

But, the most exciting part of all this is that there was frost on the pumpkins in southern Kentucky this morning, the radiance of fall is upon us, teams are strutting their stuff in exhibition games flooding the nation with optimism about their local college teams, and I will be in Diddle for the kickoff of another hoops season tomorrow night.

Fortunately, some things never change.