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We simulated a video game with the worst college basketball team ever, and got an instant classic

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Seasons No. 2 and No. 3 in our quest to win a national title with Western Illinois in “College Hoops 2K8”

This is the continuation of our quest to a bring a college basketball national championship to Western Illinois University in the greatest simulated sports game ever made, College Hoops 2K8. In Part 1 of this series, I introduced what we’re doing here and ran through the first season. Here’s a Year 1 recap:

  • Finished the year 14-13 overall, with an opening-round loss in the Summit Conference tournament to IUPUI
  • Signed four three-star recruits who all project as freshmen starters, led by power forward Bud Richards (75 overall, C potential)
  • Earned three coaching achievement points, all of which were added to “charisma” to improve recruiting. Coach Rick — AKA Ricky Charisma — is maxed out as an A+ in the category after one year.

Let’s take a look at the roster to start out the year:

I’m going to have four freshmen starters after moving Cisse to small forward and Thompson to center, who both maintained their overall rating despite the position change. My team rating at the start of the year is now 75 overall. That’s tied for second best in the Summit behind leader Oral Roberts (77), and the same as North Dakota State and IUPUI.

I have four more scholarships to fill this year. Two bigs and two guards are on the agenda.

I visit three-star shooting guard Tracy Hehn, No. 151 overall and No. 48 at his position, and 6’10 power forward Jaja Blackwell, ranked No. 191 overall and No. 31 at his position, in my first week of recruiting. I officially offer both players the following week, and also extend offers to 6’4 small forward Lonnie Barrett (Mr. Basketball out of Iowa and ranked No. 180 overall) and center Daon Ward, 6’11 center out of Macon, Georgia, ranked No. 408 overall and No. 24 at his position. Seeing some sneaky upside in this kid given his size — 6’11 would be a massive center in the Summit League — and the fact he’s a double-double machine:

Time for my first game against Morehead State ... and I get smoked, 73-46. Yikes. My center Thompson finishes with 16 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting in his debut. Richards goes 0-1 with no points and two rebounds after playing only nine minutes because of foul trouble. Can only go up from here.

We beat Eastern Kentucky the next week for my first dub behind 13 points, three assists, and two boards from Cisse.

As the signing period starts, I’m leading and sitting pretty for Blackwell with his only offer. SMU leads for Hehn, but they haven’t offered yet. Nebraska has a big lead for Barrett with no offer, and Mercer has a big lead for Ward with no offer.

Meanwhile, we string together consecutive wins over NJIT and McNeese State. Look at that double-digit scoring out of the freshmen.

The early signing period comes to an end. The results are a bit of a mixed bag:

Bad news: Jaja Blackwell has multiple offers from other schools and has me way down on his list. I pull my offer to him. Barrett signs with Nebraska.

Good news: Mercer drops out for Ward, so I now lead for him, but only have 53 percent interest. Long way to go. I’m holding steady with Hehn, who still doesn’t have another offer.

With my newly freed up scholarship, I extend an offer to Wilbur Messy, a 6’3 shooting guard out of Fontana, California, who is ranked No. 132 overall and No. 40 among two guards. He doesn’t have an offer yet and has only received middling interest from mid-major schools like Middle Tennessee State, San Diego, and Pepperdine. Hoping I can convince a Cali kid to come to Macomb, Illinois — it’s beautiful here and the winters are, like, totally manageable. Trust me.

After a few rounds of recruiting him, I’m already making up ground:

I end up offering Jerald Sterley, the No. 130 overall player, with my other available scholarship. It’s a long shot, but he doesn’t have a ton of interest right now and has no offer. GW leads the way for the New Jersey native. Back on the court, I get an achievement point for winning an in-season tournament a week later, beating perennial powerhouse programs CSU Bakersfield and Sacramento State to do it. Cisse goes off for 22, four steals, three boards and assists in the win over Sacramento State, shooting 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from three. Feeling great about this kid.

I’m currently sweating bullets hoping SMU doesn’t offer Hehn as I close in on them in interest. We’re also desperate to land Ward at this point since he’s my only big man recruit.

We open up full conference play with two losses, to Oral Roberts (losing 67-52) and South Utah, who smokes us by 20. This is the downside to starting four freshmen, and also putting all my points in charisma rather than, like, tactical coaching.

Looks like not everyone is thrilled about my four freshmen starters: I have three veteran players unhappy. This is actually not a terrible thing early in legacy mode — if any of them decide to transfer, I will get a scholarship to offer in the spring. None of these guys are going to be essential for me moving forward.

We win both conference games the ensuing week, beating South Dakota State and Oakland. Richards goes for a double-double in both games, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds vs. SD State and 12 points, 10 rebounds with five stocks (steals + blocks) against Oakland.

I’m maxed out my flights on Hehn and still slightly trail SMU despite the fact they haven’t offered him yet. I’m putting the full court press (basketball term) on Ward. I desperately need a third big for next year and the pickings are slim if I don’t get him.

I beat UL-Calcutta for my third straight conference win, then lose to Fort Wayne by 20 to fall to 8-9 overall. I start flying to visit Messy. His AAU numbers aren’t great, but he would be the highest-ranking player I’ve ever landed and he doesn’t have much outside interest right now

Things head south quickly for Coach Rick over the next month. We lose five out of six in conference play before finally beating South Dakota State to stop the bleeding. My frosh point guard Wiedemann leads the way with 15 points, four assists, and 3-of-7 shooting from deep.

The late recruiting period is now over. Hehn still doesn’t have an SMU offer and has 100 percent interest in Western Illinois, so I should get him. Ward is looking promising too, as he still has no other offers.

We end up finishing in last place in the 10-team Summit at 10-18 overall and 5-13 in league despite starting the year as the second highest-rated team. I guess I need some coaching points.

I somehow didn’t even make the Summit Conference tournament. And just like that, Year 2 is over. Wiedemann leads the team in scoring with 9.7 points per game. Loving the supplemental playmaking out of Cisse on the wing, as well.

Sheesh, that was a trash year. If I blow it in Year 3, I’ll be on the hot seat, and could even get fired. Let’s get some talent into Macomb this spring.

Michigan State wins the title behind the likeness of Travis Walton and Raymar Morgan. The biggest news of the offseason so far is my sophomore center No. 44 transfers out which opens up another scholarship. I still cannot believe I finished 10-18 this season after a strong first year.

I have three coaching points, and I spread them out in offense, defense, and teaching (a category that boosts the internal improvement of my players). I plan on boosting teaching next since charisma is maxed out. I also upgrade both my assistant coaches who are now B- teachers, hopefully that helps my guys progress faster.

I sign Hehn as the late signing period begins. Hell yeah. If that steal rate and three-point stroke are any indication, this guy is going to be a baller. Top-50 shooting guard, baby.

I offer power forward Manourou Mayer with my extra scholarship, No. 119 overall and No. 15 at his position. Kinda of a Hail Mary but I don’t see many better options. Maybe he won’t get that New Mexico offer and I can sweep in?

Sterley — the small forward I offered months ago — finally signs with GW. I offer point guard Jaison Waller, who had been on my target list for a while, because he has no other interest and is ranked No. 159 overall and No. 44 at his position. He has no AAU stats so maybe some programs are sleeping on him. This would be a great late-spring signing if I can make it happen.

I sign Ward the next week. Got a 6’11, 240-pound big coming to the Summit League. We still have three offers out there. Messy is coming down to the wire.

Messy! He signs the following week. Call me Two-Guard U. Huge get to land the No. 132 overall player despite the fact he doesn’t have super great numbers.

Doesn’t look like I’m going to get Mayer with one week left to go before the end of the signing period. Waller is also on the fence. I throw out a last-second offer to power forward Austin Fletcher, No. 204 overall. He likes UNC but if he doesn’t get an offer, maybe he signs with me?

He doesn’t, but I do get Waller. He could be my point guard of the future. I fill four of my five scholarships and have a nice mix of talent coming in next year. Here’s a look at my Year 2 recruiting class:

  • SG Wilbur Messy, No. 132 overall and No. 40 at his position.
  • SG Tracy Hehn, No. 151 overall and No. 48 at his position.
  • C Daon Ward, No. 408 overall and No. 24 at his position
  • PG Jaison Waller, No. 159 overall and No. 44 at his position

I set my schedule and sim through to Year 3.

Year 3

Here’s the first look at my roster.

I’m doing the “raised hands” emoji in real life right now. Messy and Hehn are both 74 overall as true freshmen and are tied for my second-best player. Waller is my first guy to have B- potential, so he should be really good eventually. I’m thinking I should redshirt Waller since I have some depth at guard. Going back and forth on if I should redshirt Ward, but I need a third big man so I’m going to keep him active.

I move Messy to small forward, and he goes up one to 75. Cisse is going to be sixth man this year. Rotation looks so much better. Still super young, but better.

My Leathernecks are rated as an 80 overall in Year 3. There’s no one better in the conference than a 75 (Oral Roberts and Oakland). Need a Summit tournament run this year. Need it!

I have two scholarships to work with for this year. I offer Jairus Dudley, a 6’9 power forward from Milwaukee, ranked No. 123 overall and No. 13 at his position. I also offer Giovanni Nelke, a 6’4 point guard from Santa Clara, ranked No. 112 overall and No. 40 at his position. There are few things I love in this sick, dark world more than tall point guards.

We win our first game against Samford, and then beat Murray State to start 2-0. Hehn is leading the team in scoring and he looks like a sniper from three-point range. I spend the next two weeks alternating wins and losses.

Signing week has started. I am the only school on Nelke’s board after the first signing period and I’m at 68 percent interest. I’m in a dogfight for Dudley. Would love to land both guys and wrap up recruiting early this year. Both look like studs. I throw a few centers on my recruiting list in case I miss out.

Aaaaaand Dudley gets an offer from Western Michigan, who he likes more than good ole WIU. I’m pulling that scholarship. Instead, we offer and visit Deke Van, the No. 15 center (No. 293 overall player) from San Antonio. This guy’s numbers are pretty sick: he’s a killer on the glass and has a knack for making big plays on defense.

Oh no: I get a message saying my boy Cisse is unhappy with his sixth-man role. I definitely don’t want to lose him to transfer after the season, so i give him a pep talk (you get 10 of these to use on the year).

We enter conference play at 7-4 overall after a back-to-back where I lose to Appalachian State but beat Florida Gulf Coast. Dunk City is but a dream at this point. Cisse responds with 16 points and four steals off the bench. This guy is nails.

Still, I get another message that says Cisse remains upset with his role. This is going to be a story throughout the year, I’m worried. We start conference play with a loss to Oakland, but then reel off three straight. My conference record improves to 5-1 before a loss to Oral Roberts.

We’re still the only school to offer Nelke, and now we’re up to 85 percent interest. Tight. Van has two schools in front of me — UTSA and Texas State — but he’s not super interested in either and I’m in third as his only offer. We’re gonna ride it out.

After eight games, I’m 6-2 in conference. I need a tourney bid this year, y’all.

I’m starting to catch fire now, going 6-1 in conference play over my next seven games, including a revenge win over Oakland off the back of a monster game from sophomore star Bud Richards, who finishes with a spicy 17 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks.

With a win over IUPUI in my last game, I hit 20 wins on the season and get another coaching improvement point. I conclude the regular season at 20-8 overall and a share of the regular-season conference championship with South Dakota State. Hell yeah.

The conference tournament has started. I’m the top seed playing North Dakota State. I’m an 81 overall, they’re a 70.

I win, 72-65, with four starters in double-figures, led by 14 points and 11 boards from sophomore center Ferdinand Thompson.

Next up, Oral Roberts.

Beat down — I win 68-45. Hehn is killing it with 15 points, four assists, and three steals. Thompson puts up 15 points and eight rebounds.

I’m onto the conference championship game against South Dakota State for an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament. They’re a 73, I’m an 81.

With my first March Madness berth on the line, I decide to actually watch this game. I start the game putting my controller in the middle instead of picking one side and settle down for a full game with 20-minute halves. My girlfriend is reading a book on the couch and is incredibly confused why I’m watching a video game without actually playing it. Only 37 more seasons to go, girl.

Let’s go!

Summit tournament championship game

Western Illinois is coming out hot. My sophomore point guard Weidleman is making it rain, scoring eight of my first 12 points by knocking down shots from the perimeter.

We hold a double-digit lead for most of the first half, but SD State closes on a little run. We’re going into halftime with a 42-35 lead, with Wiedemann leading the team in scoring with 13 points and Hehn dropping 10 points.

Halftime box score:

Hehn comes out of the break on absolute fire, draining four threes in five minutes. We can’t get a stop to save our life, though: South Dakota State is scoring on pretty much every possession and somehow keep matching Hehn on threes.

Somewhere in the second half, it all falls apart. SD State takes the lead on a jumper from their star, Assel, and it keeps building from there. By the time I start recording my TV, they hit a three-point to put them up 10 with just over two minutes left.

It really looks like the dream is going to die right here. What a bummer.

But then, Wiedemann and Messy start draining threes. We get a couple stops. Suddenly, Western Illinois has life.

We pull within one as I start recording the game again. My buddy Zach (AKA @ZM_Baseball) texts me asking for an update on the Western Illinois dynasty. I send him a Zoom link and we watch the end of regulation together.

Down five with 15 seconds left, we have ourselves an instant classic.

The baseline drive by Cisse to force overtime! A furious comeback for the Leathernecks at the end of regulation has Zach and I screaming. My poor girlfriend is bewildered.

Overtime is heart-racing — super tight the whole way. Please, enjoy the final 90 seconds.

Messy with the go-ahead jumper! How do they miss that baseline J for the win?

Western Illinois is going to the NCAA tournament

OMG — I’m sweating.

Final box score:

Absolute madness. I’m just so proud of my guys today (/weeps).

The party in Macomb rages on for the next week. We get a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament and draw an opening-round matchup against Florida. The Gators are a 97 overall. I am an 81.

I seriously consider watching this game too, but figure my team can’t compete with a powerhouse like Florida just yet. I sim it, and I get whooped.

Oh well. That was a hell of a third year. Arizona wins the national title.

My contract gets renewed for five years in the offseason. I get three coaching attribute points and put them all in teaching, so the guys on my roster should really start improving. Coach Rick is now a B in teaching, a C in offense and defense, and an A+ in charisma.

I also get my first job offer from Toledo, but I pass. That’s how we’re playing this dynasty. I’m Western Illinois all the way through.

I land both Nelke and Van immediately and recruiting is wrapped up. I am really happy with this class.

I set my schedule and sim forward to next year.

Here’s a first look at my roster for Year 4.

Update: Season 4 and Season 5 are here

You can read the next chapter in this series right here.

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