Welcome back to our simulated dynasty with the Western Illinois Leathernecks in College Hoops 2K8. You can find a full explanation of this project + spoiler-free links to previous seasons here. Check out the introduction to this series from early April for full context. As a reminder, we simulate every game in this series and only control the recruiting and coaching strategies. Dynasty mode runs for 40 years.
Before we pick up with the Leathernecks at the start of Year 36, here’s a recap of everything that happened last season:
- Coming off a devastating buzzer-breater loss in the Elite Eight to Florida State the year before, Western Illinois returned only two starters but had four seniors in the starting lineup. We held our own against a difficult non-conference schedule and went unbeaten in the Summit League again to earn our automatic bid to the NCAA tournament at 27-4 overall.
- We earned a No. 8 seed to the NCAA tournament and beat NC State in the first round, Seton Hall in the round of 32, Nevada in the Sweet 16, and South Carolina in the Elite Eight, and then lost to Wisconsin in the Final Four.
- We recruited for four scholarships and landed four players: No. 6 center Brody Munoz, four-star shooting guard Bernie Doyle, four-star small forward Floyd Keller, and three-star power forward Oscar Fray.
Here’s a first look at our roster for Year 36:
(As mentioned at the bottom of the Year 35 post, these ratings are from the start of our NCAA tournament run because it’s the only clean screenshot we have. The accurate beginning of the year ratings are listed below)
Our goal is to surpass John Wooden for the most championships in college basketball history before the series ends after Year 40. We have eight national championships to Wooden’s 10, and we only have five seasons left before the game forces us to hang it up.
If we win national title No. 9 this year, we’re going to have to do it without any seniors on the roster. On the flip side, our redshirt juniors who were once ranked as the No. 5 recruiting class in the country now fully enter the spotlight. We begin the year ranked as No. 23 in the preseason polls.
Let’s meet the starters:
- PG Arvydas Hardy, 91 overall, redshirt junior: Hardy is the second highest-rated recruit in program history (No. 12 overall), and it’s time for him to become a star. The 6’4 point guard is a great three-point shooter (A- rating) and has A ratings in ball handling and passing. He’s capable of stockpiling a ton of points quickly when he gets hot, but his tournament run last year ended on a huge bummer: a 5-point performance on 2-of-10 shooting in our Final Four loss to Wisconsin. This man needs redemption. Projected lottery pick out of Mesa, AZ with C- potential.
- SG Augustine Bruthelieus, 88 overall, redshirt sophomore: Bru earned big minutes off the bench for us on our tournament run last year, and now steps into the starting lineup as a well-rounded 6’5 guard. While he only has a mid-70s rating in three-point shooting, Bru is a physical defensive guard who can also handle and pass the ball well for a two. We’re already thinking about putting him at point and Hardy at the two during stretches in the NCAA tournament. Former No. 42 overall recruit out of San Diego with C+ potential.
- SF Reece Mascoll, 91 overall, redshirt junior: I really feel like Mascoll has a chance to go down as an all-time great alongside Hardy. A massive 6’9, 250-pound wing, Mascoll is a pretty good three-point shooter (75 rating) who is a load to handle in the paint. He can seamlessly switch to the four and provide matchup issues at whatever position he’s playing: he’s too big for threes, and too quick for fours. He was a consistent double-digit scorer off the bench for us last season, and now we gets a chance to be a star. Former No. 40 overall recruit out of Riverside, CA with C potential. Projected lottery pick.
- PF Al Reece, 86 overall, redshirt junior: We’re excited to have a gigantic 7’1, 266-pound power forward like Reece to help us fortify the paint on both ends. Reece is an aggressive offensive player who will let his jump shot fly even if he isn’t the most skilled shooter. Where Reece is really good is as a shot blocker, where his high-80s rating is the best on the team. We love that he can slide to the five in a pinch, and should tower over his matchup regardless of what position he’s playing. Former No. 138 overall recruit from Glendale, AZ with C- potential.
- C Felipe Hopes, 89 overall, redshirt junior: Hopes had the highest potential rating (B+) of any member of his recruiting class, and feels like a lock to leave for the NBA draft after this season. We’re just hoping to get one great tournament run out of him. While he’s not too big at 6’11, Hopes is super quick, shows impressive aggression as an inside scorer, and can hit the glass and defend the paint at an above-average level. Former No. 139 overall recruit (No. 8 center) out of Federal Way, WA. Projected lottery pick.
Hopes, Hardy, and Mascoll all could leave for the NBA after this year. We really need to make this season count.
We’re going to have a nine-man rotation with four guys off the bench. Our sixth man will be redshirt sophomore shooting guard Jerald Elliott (86 overall), a quality three-point shooter at 6’6 who looks like he can play 1-3. We have three redshirt freshmen debuting in the rotation after him. Ketshner Evertsen is a 6’8 shooting guard who we’re sliding to the three. Cam Kately is a 6’6 point guard with developing shooting ability. We also have 7’2 center D.J. Foster out of Chicago who will be our lone big off the bench.
We are also welcoming four new freshmen to the team. All of them will redshirt. This is the last recruiting class in school history that will have the potential to stay all five years.
- SG Bernie Doyle, No. 36 overall prospect: 76 overall, C potential. Has already grown an inch to 6’8. I’m thrilled to see he already has a 78 rating in three-point shooting.
- SF Floyd Keller, No. 101 overall recruit: 76 overall, C+ potential. 80 rating in three-point shooting.
- C Brody Munoz, No. 169 overall recruit: 74 overall, B potential. Has already grown an inch to 6’11.
- PF Oscar Fray, No. 118 overall recruit: 74 overall, C potential.
With no seniors, we have no scholarships to recruit for this year. This is going to be a quick regular season. Let’s hope it gives way to a long tournament run.
How did the non-conference slate go?
We started the season 8-0 and climbed as high as No. 11 in the polls. Our season-opening streak included wins vs. Michigan, Valparaiso, South Florida, Stanford, and Texas A&M. Then we ran into No. 25 Indiana and lost a heartbreaker, 67-66.
Our next game was against an 10-1 Colorado State team, and damn, we lost that one, too:
Then we had No. 8 Wisconsin, the team that smoked us in the Final Four last year. We won, 87-83, behind 19 points and 10 rebounds from Hopes, 17 points from Reece, and 15 points from Mascoll. Big dub, and suddenly this team is starting to feel special.
We beat Illinois by one the next game behind 19 points from Mascoll, and the 13 and 10 from big Al Reece. We beat Cal next behind 24 points and 12 rebounds from Felipe Hopes. We’re 11-1 as we enter the Summit League play, let’s go!
Can we go undefeated in the Summit League once again?
Uh, what the hell?
After running up a 19-2 record, we faced an 11-9 UMKC team that handed us our first defeat in conference season in what feels like 10 years (someone can check the records for me if they want and drop the exact number in the comments). I honestly can’t believe that happened.
Surely, it can’t happen again, right?
Oh my god. Oral Roberts entered at 5-20 overall, and upset us 62-57. Only Hopes and Foster scored in double-figures, and both only had 10 points. I am stunned. Are we going to lose in the Summit League tournament?
Thankfully not. Despite a close game in the final against UMKC again, we won and punched our automatic bid to the big dance. We’ll be entering the tournament at 28-4 on the year.
Before we sim to the tournament, let’s check out our end of season stats:
Hopes was as good as we hoped: 15.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and more than an assist, block, and steal per game. Mascoll was excellent too, averaging 14.2 points per game and hopefully setting the stage for a big tournament run. Reece was also awesome with averages of 13.8 points and 6.5 boards per game. Hardy was a little underwhelming, but maybe that will work out in our favor: he’s dropped from a projected lottery pick to a projected first rounder. Mascoll has suffered the same fall, while Hopes remains a lottery pick.
It feels like this is the final run for Hopes, but Mascoll and Hardy could go either way in terms of returning for their senior seasons or turning pro. This isn’t the time to think about next year, though. Let’s go win a damn ship.
2043 NCAA tournament
We’re a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament, and draw a matchup against No. 10 seed Colorado State. Yes, the same Colorado State team that beat us in the regular season.
We enter the tournament rated as a 98 overall, while the Rams are a 90 overall.
Before we get to the tournament rematch, let’s take a look at our roster:
While our starters didn’t improve a ton during the season, our bench did. I’m feeling pretty good about the prospect of getting Ketshner Evertsen and Foster and Kately some minutes. Elliott is practically our sixth starter as a 90 overall.
Ultimately, this run feels like it’s going to come down to the four juniors — and especially Hardy and Mascoll. Can they take the next step and become all-time greats within the program like former legends Wilky Henry, Nic Cummings, and Billy Assell? I think they have the talent to do it.
We need revenge on Colorado State to start off this run. Not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous.
As always, we’re watching a simulated game between the computer. I’m not controlling the Leathernecks. Let’s go!
Win, 92-80! We’re going to the round of 32.
Man, that was not as easy as I would have liked for a first round game. Colorado State was leading most of the first half, but we entered the break with a three-point lead after Ketshner Evertsen beat the halftime buzzer.
Shner was the breakout player of this game, and legitimately looked like a future star in his first NCAA tournament game. He finished with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. A 6’8 natural shooting guard who we’ve moved to the wing, Shner has the size and shooting to be a big time weapon for us. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
Bruthelieus (16 points despite 1-of-5 three-point shooting) and Mascoll (15 points on 5-of-15 shooting) didn’t have their best shooting nights but still contributed to the win with timely scoring. All three of our bigs — juniors Al Reece and Felipe Hopes and freshman D.J. Foster — looked huge and great and each finished with 10 points.
Hardy was not good — six points on 1-of-7 shooting — but did finish with 10 assists. I really expected him to be a takeover scorer, but I’d be okay with him turning into a passing savant, too. Just need a few shots to fall next time.
The win sets up a round of 32 matchup with No. 2 seed UNLV
UNLV enters at 28-4 and rated as a 96 overall. We’re 29-4 and enter at 98 overall.
This looks like it’s going to be a super tough game. The Runnin’ Rebels are a legit No. 2 seed with great senior guards and some big wings on the roster. We’re really going to need our front court to show them who’s boss.
Sweet 16 on the line. I need a dub. Let’s go!
Win, 90-88! We are back in the Sweet 16.
Wow, that one was close. UNLV dominated early by forcing us into nine turnovers in the first half. We went with our own full court press in the second half to wrestle away the lead, but it was still a one-point game with under two minutes left. Hardy shook free for a layup late to put us up three, and from there Hardy and Bru knocked down enough free throws to ice the win. I was straight sweating in those final minutes. Thank gosh we were clutch from the line, going 21-of-23 on the night.
I thought Hopes absolutely kicked ass, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and four steals. An absolutely tenacious performance on both ends of the floor — that’s why that man is a lottery pick. Bru was solid again with 18 points and four assists. Hardy finished with 16 points and four assists and did a nice job taking care of the ball late after some early turnover troubles.
Mascoll only had 11 points, but he had some big plays. First, this three-point at the halftime buzzer gave us the momentum we needed going into the break:
While he didn’t have his best shooting night, Mascoll has always been at his best rumbling his way to the basket. The jumbo forward also had our best dunk of the night:
Foster gave us really good minutes off the bench, too. As for Shner, he led us in scoring in the first half with eight points and then didn’t score again. Is it possible to hit the rookie wall in the second round of the NCAA tournament?
The win sets up a Sweet 16 matchup with No. 3 seed NC State
Our run to the Final Four last season started with a first round victory over the Wolf Pack. I’m sure they want nothing more than to knock us out this year.
NC State enters at 27-6 overall and rated as a 94. We’re 30-4 and rated as a 98.
We need a win here to continue to hunt for national title No. 9. Let’s go!
Loss, 107-104. A shocking and completely heartbreaking defeat to end our season early.
NC State controlled the game in the first half as Hardy (two fouls) and Bru (three fouls) both had to be pulled for long stretches because of foul trouble. We eventually took the lead and fought to keep it over the final 111 minutes.
With 2:30 left, the ball found Hardy for a quick catch-and-shoot three, and he drained it to put us up five. It was his sixth three-pointer of the game and gave him 20 points on the night. This is the type of performance we’ve been waiting for since he entered the program:
Unfortunately, we didn’t score after that the rest of the night.
We just couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch, with Mascoll and Hardy both missing wide open shots that likely would have given us the win down the stretch. We did have one more chance with under four seconds left on the clock, but Shner’s three fell just short.
I honestly can’t believe we lost that game. We don’t choke down the stretch like that often, but maybe that’s what happens when you have a team without any seniors.
Every tournament loss hurts at this part of the dynasty, and this one feels like it’s going to eat away at us. The one thing that’s keeping me going right now is that we should have a great team next year, depending Hardy and Mascoll’s draft decisions. We may have found a future star in the 6’8 redshirt freshmen Everstsen, who went off for 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting from three in defeat. It was an incredible performance and has me so excited for his future:
Foster is going to be a great replacement for Hopes as a 7’2 center. I think big Al Reece should be in for a productive senior year, too.
This loss stings horribly, but I know we will be back.
- Florida wins the national title
- HARDY AND MASCOLL ARE BACK! We lose Felipe Hopes to the NBA draft, but everyone else is returning. We’re going to be absolutely loaded next year.
- My career record now sits at 1,042-199
We have no scholarships to recruit for, so this is going to be a quick offseason. Let’s set our schedule for next year:
Creighton, NIT Season Tip-Off, Illinois State, Hofstra, @ UConn, Bradley, @ NC State, @ Kentucky, DePaul, Golden Bear Classic
Here’s a first look at the roster for Year 37:
We start the year at No. 3 in the preseason polls.
This should be one of the deepest and most talented teams we’ve ever had. Let’s go win No. 9.
Watch Western Illinois’ Year 37 tournament run
What: Western Illinois’ Year 37 NCAA tournament run
When: Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET.
Where: My Twitch stream