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 37, here’s a recap of everything that happened last season:
- Coming off a heartbreaking loss in the Final Four, Western Illinois started the new season with a young roster featuring zero seniors. We began the year at No. 23 in the preseason polls and had a solid run in the non-conference schedule before uncharacteristically dropping two games against Summit League opponents. We rebounded to win the conference tournament and punch our ticket to the big dance.
- We earned a No. 7 seed to the NCAA tournament and beat Colorado State in the first round, and UNLV in the round of 32. We then lost in the Sweet 16 to NC State to end our season.
- We had no open scholarships, so didn’t land any new recruits. We did lose center Filipe Hopes early to the NBA draft after the season.
Here’s a first look at our roster for Year 37:
Our goal is to tie or surpass John Wooden for the most national championships in college basketball history before the series ends after Year 40. With four seasons left, we have eight national titles to Wooden’s 10. We need to start stacking championships ASAP, and we start the new year with a team that’s good enough to win it all.
Everyone is back from last year’s team aside from center Filipe Hopes, who jumped to the NBA. With an intriguing four-man freshman class coming off their redshirts and set to join the rotation, we should have one of our deepest and most talented teams ever. We start the new year ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls.
Let’s meet the starting lineup:
- PG Arvydas Hardy, 93 overall, redshirt senior: Hardy entered the program as our second-highest recruit ever (No. 12 overall), but hasn’t been able to fully live up to the hype yet despite some flashes of brilliance. Hardy is a huge lead guard at 6’4, 238 pounds, and he checks just about every box with his skill set. He’s blessed with a team-best 90 rating in three-point shooting, and he has A grades in passing and ball handling. Hardy’s only major weakness is that he’s often a little too passive offensively. We need to him to tap into his takeover scoring ability if we want to have a deep tournament run. Projected top pick out of Mesa, AZ with C- potential.
- SG Augustine Bruthelieus, 92 overall, redshirt junior: Bruuuu is a tough 6’5 guard who can man either backcourt spot. While he’s not exactly a knockdown three-point shooter (75 rating), Bru plays a physical brand of basketball by getting into the paint on offense and forcing turnovers on defense. He has A- ratings in passing and handling for a shooting guard, as well as B+ ratings in both offensive and defensive awareness. Just a solid all-around player even if he doesn’t have outlier size or a signature skill. Former No. 42 overall recruit out of San Diego with C+ potential. Projected lottery pick.
- SF Reece Mascoll, 93 overall, redshirt senior: A monstrous 6’9, 260 pound wing, Mascoll can play bully ball at the rim or stretch the defense with a high 70s rating in three-point shooting. We love that he has the versatility to play either forward spot, and can project as a primary scoring option at his best. After a big sophomore year coming off the bench, Mascoll’s tournament run as a junior wasn’t as dominant as we hoped. He decided to return for his senior year despite being a projected first round pick, and now should co-headline the team with Hardy. Former No. 40 overall recruit out of Riverside, CA with C potential. Projected top pick.
- PF Al Reece, 89 overall, redshirt senior: Reece has tremendous size at 7’1, 277 pounds for a natural power forward. He has the best shot blocking rating on the team (90 rating) and can slide easily to the five. Reece checks a lot of boxes for a ‘Necks big man, but there’s one thing that holds him back: he’s almost too aggressive offensively. He shouldn’t be taking more shots than Hardy, but that has happened often in stream games. We need him to be a role player rather than think he’s our star. Former No. 138 overall recruit from Glendale, AZ with C- potential.
- C D.J. Foster, 82 overall, redshirt sophomore: Foster is our lowest-rated starter in years, but we have no problem with that because he’s already proven to be a solid performer in tournament games. His best attribute is his size: at 7’2, 274 pounds, he’s able to protect the paint and rebound just by standing there. He also has more offensive game than you would expect, showing off a solid mid-range jumper last year. Former No. 173 overall recruit (No. 6 center) out of Chicago with C potential.
For as stacked as our starting lineup is, our depth might be the best asset of this team. We have the potential to go seven deep off the pine with no scholarships last season and four freshmen joining the rotation coming off their redshirts.
Redshirt junior Jerald Elliott (91 overall) is a 6’6 shooting guard with a ridiculous 99 rating in speed who also has A- ratings as a passer and ball handler. Elliott is our second highest rated shooter, but his slow release — similar to that of former guard Brandon “The Musket” Price — limits him some as a shooter. If Elliott is our ‘sixth starter,’ we have a group of freshmen and sophomores behind him who give us quality depth at every position.
Redshirt sophomore Ketshner Evertsen (83 rating) is a 6’8 shooting guard who we’ve moved to small forward. He projects as an elite shooter and proved he can be instant offense when he gets hot on our tournament run last season. Cam Kateley, a 6’6 redshirt sophomore point guard, and Bernie Doyle, a 6’9 redshirt freshman shooting guard, both provide size and floor spacing potential in the backcourt. We also have redshirt freshmen Floyd Keller (6’7 wing), Oscar Frye (7-foot power forward), and Brody Munoz (6’11 center) who could see time in the rotation in March.
We have four open scholarships this season. Since these players will only have three years with us before the series ends, we’re thinking about targeting some JUCO guys throughout the process. After scanning the available options, we decide to offer the following players:
- SG Everson Fitch out of Peoria, IL: No. 14 overall player and No. 9 at his position
- SF Kory O’Donnell out of Kansas City: No. 57 overall player and 6 at his position
- PG Archie Howell out of El Paso: Five-star JUCO freshman
- C Daon Whithers out of Cleveland: Five-star JUCO freshman
Fitch would go down as our third highest-rated recruit ever. O’Donnell is already massive at 6’9, 250 pounds for a high school small forward. Howell and Whithers are both five-star JUCOs, with Whithers profiling as a stud and Howell looking more gettable. We’ll see how it goes.
Reminder: WE’RE NO. 3 IN THE POLLS. Let’s do this.
How did the regular season go?
After a breezy season-opening win against Creighton, we faced No. 14 Oklahoma State in our next game and lost, 85-73. There will be no pressure to go undefeated this year. A few weeks later we lost to UConn and NC State, both talented but unranked teams, that dropped us out of the polls entirely.
We rebounded with wins over Kentucky, DePaul, and Lehigh to close out the non-con slate at 8-4. Not how we wanted to start the year.
Did we go undefeated in Summit League play?
No! We lost to Fort Wayne in our very first conference game of the season. An absolute shocker.
Oh my gosh, it happened again. This time to Southern Utah:
Two conference losses in each of the last two seasons, sheesh. This team was preseason No. 3!!! Are we even going to make the tournament at this point?
We won out for the rest of our regular season games and then entered the conference tournament. I am legit terrified we’re going to lay another egg and miss the dance entirely. After winning the first two games, we have a rematch with Southern Utah in the title game. They are rated as an 82 overall, which is about the highest you’ll ever see a team rated in this conference. We streamed the game here.
We won, and headed to the NCAA tournament. Man, this team doesn’t feel as good as I hoped.
How did recruiting go?
Not well! We landed no one at the early signing deadline, and saw three of our targets commit elsewhere. The only original target we’re looking strong with is Howell, the 6’2 JUCO point guard, but he’ll still need a little more convincing in the offseason.
We’ve pivoted to big man Logan Polk, the No. 185 overall player and No. 11 center, in the front court. We also have offers out to five-star JUCO power forward Erik Stepp and four-star shooting guard Cornell Berry, who is rated No. 33 overall. Polk looks like the most likely to sign out of those three, while Berry is a swing for the fences. I figure we might be due for a little bit of good luck at some point here.
2044 NCAA tournament
We’re a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, drawing MAC champion No. 9 seed Akron in the first round.
We’re rated as a 100 overall heading into the tournament at 27-6 on the year. The Zips are only rated as an 85 overall.
Before we get to the tournament run, let’s check in on the roster:
I know it hasn’t been the most dominant regular season, but damn, this roster is undeniably loaded. In terms of both top-end talent and depth, I’d put this squad up as one of my best ever. The reality is it won’t be remembered that way unless we run all the way to the national championship.
Hardy and Mascoll were big-time recruits with great tools who have had flashes of greatness, but have never put it together consistently. This is their chance as seniors. Reece and Foster, at 7’1 and 7’2 respectively, give us a major size advantage on any opponent. Bru and Elliott are versatile guards who feel like they could go either way in March. I’m really excited about our bench, with a few big wings who can shoot (sophomore Ketshner Evertsen and freshmen Bernie Doyle and Floyd Keller), some more size (freshman center Brody Munoz) and plenty of lineup versatility.
This team is awesome, but so far they have the underachievers tag. Let’s see if we can shake it. As always, we’re watching a simulated game between the computer. I’m not controlling the Leathernecks.
Win, 105-70. We’re rolling into the second round.
That was a straight up blow out — we were able to hit ‘sim to end’ with 13 minutes left in the game as we held at 30 point lead. This one was never in doubt.
A few takeaways: Hardy was awesome, popping off for 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting. What a great start to his final tournament run with us. It was an ideal game for Mascoll, too, hitting a couple threes and dishing out six assists. Bruthelieus was great scoring the ball, and Elliott looked solid as our backup point guard.
We only hit two three-pointers in the first half and were still up 21. That seems like a good sign.
The win sets up a game with No. 1 seed Richmond in the round of 32
There’s nothing worse than getting a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament, because it means we have to face the top seed in the round of 32. For us, that means a matchup with Richmond. I have to say, I’m shocked to see the Spiders are this good.
Richmond enters the game rated as a 98 overall. We’re a 100 overall.
It’s possible this will be our toughest game on the road to the Final Four. I guess we might as well take it on early. It’s not like we’re playing for Sweet 16 appearances over here. We need titles.
Massive game. The nerves are real. Let’s go!
Win, 111-99! We’re into the Sweet 16!
This was another ‘sim to end’ game with five minutes left, but in reality it was a lot closer than the final score would indicate. The first half was a dog fight, with Richmond using a zone defense to coax our perimeter players into taking threes. We attempted 27 threes in the first half (making 10), and 45 threes on the night (making 17). That has to be a record. Seeing as we were making them at a 37 percent clip, I was happy to let our guys keep shooting.
Bru was the biggest star, with 17 of his 22 coming in the first half. He finished 6-of-13 from three despite only being rated as a 75 in three-point shooting. That was huge, especially on a night when Arvy Hardy didn’t have it (1-of-7 shooting).
Mascoll (18 points on 6-of-12 shooting) was awesome again, and our sophomore center Foster (11 points, 11 rebounds) looked every bit of 7’2 out there. Major shout-out to Jerald Elliott as well, who helped blow this game open in the second half when we put him at point guard went with a full court press. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and added a couple steals and a bunch of assists. It is an immense luxury to have a versatile guard rated in the 90s like him coming off our bench.
The win sets up a game with No. 4 seed Rhode Island in the Sweet 16
Rhode Island is rated as an 85 overall. They don’t have any super highly rated players, but it looks like they’ll have a formidable team for a stream game with a big small forward who can shoot and a couple veteran guards.
I’m starting to gain confidence in this team. We already knocked out the No. 1 seed, and I think we’ve found something with lineups that have Elliott at point guard. Let’s keep this run going. Let’s go!
Win, 94-71! We’re rolling into the Elite Eight!
Three games, three ‘sim to end’ blowouts. I had a good feeling about this one when Reece Mascoll ripped a three off the opening tip:
Those good vibes wouldn’t last long: nine minutes into the game, Rhode Island was up double-figures. We took a timeout, put Elliott in at point guard, turned up the full court pressure, and before you know it we were going into the halftime break ahead by 13 points.
Elliott is really becoming a stud. He’s a great shooter (86 rating from three), but his slow release handicaps him on the wing. That’s why we’ve mostly been playing him at the one, where his size (6’6) and uber-elite speed (99 rating) is a terror. He’s really solid as a passer and decision-maker, and that’s been enough to give us a boost when he put him in for Reece as our first sub.
Look at the speed!
Hardy was also really good this game with 16 points, four assists, and a couple threes. We’ve been waiting five years for Hardy to carry us, but it seems like he’s just not aggressive enough to be a superstar. Instead, he’s really solid within a team concept, hitting open threes, dropping dimes, and never forcing his own offense.
Mascoll is starting to play like a star. He finished with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists, and five steals, just an incredible performance. Also: Floyd Keller got his first real minutes and scored nine points during a key stretch. Hell yeah. We are looking good.
The win sets up a game with No. 2 seed Louisville in the Elite Eight
We have our work cut out for us if we’re going to reach the Final Four. Louisville is one of the best teams we’ve ever faced in this simulation. Yes, they’re a 100 overall, and their roster is even stronger than ours. They have five players rated in the 90s, two players rated as 89s, another rated as an 88. We showed off Louisville’s roster at the start of the video below.
I’ve never felt more pressure as a coach. We need national title No. 9 if we want to match or surpass Wooden, and I doubt we’ll have a team as good as this one again before the series ends. We need a title, and Louisville is an enormous test in the Elite Eight.
One time, ‘Necks. Let’s go!
Win, 113-95. We’re going to the Final Four!
We had some technical difficulties in this one, and by the time I resolved them we were well on our way to a fourth straight ‘sim to end’ game in this tournament. It is absolutely unbelievable that we were able to blow out that Louisville team. Just a great performance by our guys.
Foster was wildly good. The 7’2 sophomore center popped off for 22 points and 12 rebounds. He can score with either hand around the basket, has a decent face-up jumper, and is just so, so big. Louisville had no answer for him:
Our depth also shined again in a big way. On a night when Mascoll (10 points) wasn’t taking over, we were lucky to have 6’8 sophomore wing Ketshner Evertsen, 6’9 freshman two guard Bernie Doyle, and of course our boy Elliott get hot and help carry us.
Elliott just rules at point guard, going off for 16 points and seven assists on 6-of-7 shooting. I swear the guy never misses, and rarely makes a bad decision. Doyle (nine points) got going attacking the basket, and I really think he can be a future star. Then there’s Shner, who broke out as a freshman in the tournament last year and remains a great weapon for us off the bench:
Shner finished with 18 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three. I’m telling you, the wing depth is really what makes this team stand out.
There was also a kick ass Mascoll tip-dunk during our technical difficulties that was so good I had to pause the game and figure out the stream so we could make a clip of it as a replay.
We’re feeing it right now. On to the Final Four!
The win sets up a game with No. 1 seed BYU in the Final Four
BYU has had a really solid program throughout this simulation, and this looks like one of their better teams. The Cougars enter the game rated as a 97 overall, and they play a bit better than that because they have a ton of size in the front court.
We are one win away from the chance to play for title No. 9. Let’s go!
Win, 94-88! We’ll be playing for the national championship!
There was no ‘sim to end’ in this one; instead, it came down to the final minutes. I really thought this was headed for a blowout, but a wild end to the first half set the table for the final 20 minutes. After Ketshner Evertsen hit a three with seconds remaining before halftime, BYU came down and drained a halfcourt shot at the buzzer:
We were comfortably in control for most of the second half before BYU started to make its run. Up 14 with under five minutes left, BYU started making everything and suddenly we couldn’t buy a bucket. The Cougars made it a two-point game with under a minute left, but some clutch free throw shooting from Hardy iced the win. This was unquestionably the most difficult game we have had on our tournament run, and it has me thinking that a national title game win won’t come easy.
Jerald Elliot, the 6’6 junior shooting guard, was awesome again, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting and almost exclusively playing the point for us. Our dude might be making a run at MOP if we can win it all.
Evertsen — aka Shner — was also killer again, going 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from three to finish with 15 points. It is so nice to have a 6’8 natural shooting guard on the bench we can go to for a jolt of offense. The starters also played well enough, with Hardy and Mascoll each scoring 13 points and Bru putting up 12 points.
The win sets up a game with No. 2 seed UCLA in the national championship game
We beat UCLA for our second ever championship, and we’re going to have to do so again if we want title No. 9. The Bruins have a loaded roster with four players rated in the 90s.
We enter at 32-6, they enter at 31-6. They’re a 99 overall, we’re a 100 overall.
Given that we’ve stated our goal is to tie or surpass John Wooden’s record 10 championships before the series ends after Year 40, there’s a case to be made that this is the biggest game in program history. This would give us title No. 9 with three seasons left. We aren’t catching Wooden if we lose.
Please, ‘Necks. One time. Let’s go!
Win, 101-81! WESTERN ILLINOIS IS NATIONAL CHAMPIONS FOR THE NINTH TIME IN PROGRAM HISTORY!
This game was tight for the first 33 minutes or so, but our SECOND HALF TEAM came through when it counted. In fitting fashion, it was a true team effort with five players scoring in a double-figures and bench player being named MOP.
Jerald Elliott finished his amazing tournament by putting up 16 points, seven assists, five steals, and three blocks in the natty on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. He was deservedly named MOP. Elliott came into this season with a nice rating but major question marks about what role he would play. It turns out he was the point guard we needed all along, and that let the rest of the team fall into place.
It was also great to see Hardy have such a good title game performance. He finished with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with three assists and just one turnover. It was a quintessential Arvy Hardy effort: he picked his spots and was efficient with every shot attempt. I’m going to say he lived up to the hype as our second highest rated recruit ever.
We needed this one:
And then there was Bru. We once recruited Bruthelieus and Elliott together as shooting guards in the same class, and that couldn’t have worked out any better. Bru finished with a game-high 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting and might have pulled a full DiVincenzo by playing his way into the NBA draft.
This three off a pin-down screen was the dagger.
Reece Mascoll also went out as a champion in his last game. While he never became a monster scorer like Jitim Dupree, Skip Clemmons, and Nic Cummings before him, he was one of the best players on this team the last three years and an invaluable contributor to this championship. His ability to play either the three or the fourth was an incredible dimension for us that we won’t have next year.
He also had a big dunk, if you’re into big dunks.
One last shout-out to Hardy for using his final game in a ‘Necks uniform to .... take our first ever charge!?! I honestly can’t remember this happening before.
From the moment we brought in the Hardy-Mascoll-Reece-Hopes group that was named the fifth best recruiting class in the country, we always thought their senior year would be our moment. While all of those guys were great, I think I’ll instead remember this team for having so much versatility and such great depth.
Pretty much everyone played two different positions for us on our run. We had size, we had shooting, we had size that could shoot. If this wasn’t our best team ever, I really do think it’s damn close.
Let’s see that hometown newspaper. Print lives in 2044!
It feels so good to win national championship No. 9. We’re one behind John Wooden with three seasons to go. All we wanted was a legit chance to match or surpass him, and now we have it.
So: let’s see who’s coming back next year.
- Western Illinois is your national champion. Feels great to say.
- Hardy, Mascoll, and Reece all get drafted. We did lose one other player to the NBA: Augustine Bruthelieus. The man went out on top, having the best game of his career in the national title. Mad respect.
- My record stands at 1,075-205.
- I get offered jobs by NC State, Arizona, Indiana, and Arkansas, but turn them all down.
- We lose an assistant and hire someone new with B- ratings across the board.
So just a reminder: recruiting isn’t going too well. We have four open scholarships and no one who is ready to accept.
The player we’re closest with is five-star JUCO point guard Archie Howel. After the second week of the spring signing period, he becomes our first recruit:
Howel is a 6’2 guard out of El Paso who we identified as gettable early in the process. He won’t redshirt and will be a senior in Year 40 because he’s entering school as a sophomore. The only position we didn’t recruit for two years ago was point guard (remember, we had no open scholarships last year), so filling this position was crucial. We’ve had a couple good JUCO point guards over the years in Damon Hendriks and Diondre Haynes, so hopefully he can be the next one.
We also badly need a center and have been chasing Logan Polk since we lost our initial target. A week later, he becomes our second commit:
Polk is rated as the No. 11 center in his class, and the No. 185 overall player. His AAU numbers are incredible: 17.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. He’s ranked a tad bit lower than the guys we usually get at his position, but he should be a solid three-year big for us before the series ends.
We have two more open scholarships, but our two targets — four-star shooting guard Cornell Berry and five-star JUCO Erek Stepp — both sign elsewhere. We need a big guard and wing, but we also just have to take what we can get. We decide to offer the top international player, 6’2 point guard Christano Ngoundu out of Cameroon, because he projects as the top player available. On the last week, he signs with us.
Our last scholarship is offered to 6’8 small forward Ivan Adler out of Bellflower, CA. He’s only rated No. 192 overall, but his AAU stats were awesome — 13.3 points per game on 44 percent three-point shooting — and we love his size. We were his only offer going into the final week, but unfortunately he did not commit. We’re going to have to roll over that scholarship to next year.
Now it’s time to set next year’s schedule:
@ Richmond, Maui Invitational, Vanderbilt, @ Providence, @ Duke, Northwestern, @ Penn State, Saint Louis
Here’s a first look at our roster for Year 38:
- This team has a chance to be very good
- The lineups we play in the regular season will not be the same ones I’m playing in tournament games as we try to win national championship No. 10
None of the freshmen are redshirting. Here’s what they came in:
- Christano Ngoundu, 77 overall, B potential: I was hesitant to offer Ngoundu because oftentimes international recruits take five years to get good, but I’m so glad I did because he’s easily our best get. The 6’2 guard should get backup point guard minutes from the jump.
- Logan Polk, 76 overall, C potential: Probably about as good as we could have reasonably hoped for given that he was only ranked No. 11 at the position. He’ll likely earn spot minutes as our second big man off the bench.
- Archie Howel, 71 overall, C- potential: This one hurts, but he does he have a 75 rating in three-point shooting, so maybe he can be a depth piece and a weapon in tournament time if nothing else.
We’ll have three scholarships to recruit for this year.
We’re going to be streaming Year 38 on Sunday, May 2 at 8 p.m. ET on my Twitch channel. We’ll be recruiting and simming through our regular season, and then going into the tournament. If we have a long tournament run and can’t complete the season in one night, we’ll finish out the tournament run on Wednesday, May 5 at 8 p.m. ET on my Twitch.
Watch Western Illinois in Year 38
What: Western Illinois Year 38 season
When: Sunday, May 2 at 8 p.m. ET. If necessary: continued on Wednesday, May 5 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: My Twitch stream