After watching the Toppers’ 63-57 victory over Evansville, I came to the conclusion that the Western everyone knew last season is long gone. That being said, Ken McDonald should be happy with these close home wins (and the loss to Indiana State).
This team is not going to blow many teams out this season. It’s too young and too inexperienced, especially on the bench. Last season’s bench may have been short on talent, but it certainly wasn’t on experience. They were able to come in and provide minutes when they would hold onto the ball.
This team will have to make due with the great amount of young talent and potential it has, and the only way for young talent to grow is to be tested. For a team that essentially cruised at home last season, a loss or consistent close games at home is one of the best ways. It allows them to be in their comfort zone while being tested. It could turn out to be just exactly what makes this team tick into March.
Making players like freshmen Caden Dickerson and Jameson Tipping play minutes in the beginning and then letting them sit and watch how a team with a top-heavy roster wins games helps them learn, and on-the-go learning is how young players improve.
So any seed of doubt that Western can’t compete in an already-depeleted Sun Belt Conference because they play almost every game close is ill-advised. Playing in a one-bid conference where winning the conference regular season and tournament games are key, a few bumps in the non-conference schedule will set this team up for success when the game is tight late in February and March.