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 39, here’s a recap of everything that happened last season:
- Western Illinois entered the season as defending national champions after capturing the ninth title in program history in Year 37. We lost four starters off that team, but returned enough talent to begin the year at No. 23 in the preseason polls. We tore through non-conference and Summit League play with only two total losses before punching our automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
- We earned a No. 2 seed to the NCAA tournament and beat Weber State in the first round, Oklahoma State in the round of 32, Illinois in the Sweet 16, Louisville in the Elite Eight, Michigan State in the Final Four, and Boston College in the national championship game to win title No. 10 and tie John Wooden for the most championships in college basketball history.
- We recruited for three scholarships and landed three recruits: five-star international shooting guard James Haranga out of Cameroon, three-star center Dean Warner, and three-star small forward Jaycee Queen.
Here’s a first look at the roster for Year 39:
Our run with the Leathernecks is coming to a close. Coach Ricky Charisma started at Western Illinois as a 25-year-old trying to accomplish the impossible and win a national championship at one of the smallest and least successful programs in the country. Almost four decades later, the Leathernecks have won 10 titles, which ties us with John Wooden for the most by any coach in the history of DI men’s college basketball.
We enter this season coming off back-to-back national titles. We’ve never pulled a three-peat before.
It won’t be easy. We lost star wing Ketshner Evertsen and starting point guard Cam Kately early to the NBA coming off last season’s title run. On the plus side, we still have a team that’s talented enough to be ranked No. 10 in the preseason polls.
Let’s meet the starting lineup:
- PG Christano Ngounou, sophomore, 83 overall: Ngounou is getting forced into the starting lineup a year earlier than expected because Kately turned pro, but we’re optimistic he has what it takes to lead us on a deep tournament run. The 6’3 guard has improved to a 75-rated three-point shooter, and he’s a monster defender with A grades in on-ball defense and steals. We don’t need him to be a superstar in March, we just need a steady hand setting the table. Former five-star international recruit out of Cameroon with B potential.
- SG Bernie Doyle, redshirt junior, 88 overall: Doyle was a key bench scorer during our tournament run last season, and now steps into the spotlight as someone who could end up as our primary scoring option this season. A lanky 6’9 shooting guard, Doyle has terrific three-point shooting ability (87 rating), tight ball handling, and an A grade in steals. I’m giving him the Paul George comp and I want to see him turn into our biggest star this year. Former No. 36 overall recruit from Detroit with C potential. Projected second round pick.
- SF Floyd Keller, redshirt junior, 89 overall: Keller came off the bench last season to give us some good minutes, and now steps into the sizable shoes left by Shner. The 6’7 forward has a three-point rating in the mid-80s, and is an elite offensive rebounder for a wing with a rating in the low 90s. Keller is absolutely one of the most critical pieces on the team this year, and if he’s really good, our team should be really good, too. Former No. 101 overall recruit out of Dallas with C+ potential. Projected second round pick.
- PF Oscar Fray, redshirt junior, 86 overall: Fray is one of two returning starters from our national championship team last season. The 7-foot power forward is a great three-point shooter for his position with a 75 rating, but we’ve noticed he likes to take pull-up triples rather than just space in the floor in tournament games. Defensively, he has an 82 rating in shot blocking, which is tops on the team, and also does a pretty good job on the glass. Former No. 118 overall recruit out of Lynn, MA with C potential. Projected second round pick.
- C D.J. Foster, redshirt senior, 90 overall: Foster became a legend on our run to the national championship last season by being named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. The 7’2 center is simply a massive force at both ends of the floor. He’s one of the great rebounders in program history, as well as being a dependable scorer offensively and a major deterrent at the rim on defense. He went off for 20 points, 18 rebounds, and seven assists in the title game win over BC last year. Former No. 173 overall recruit out of Chicago with C potential. Projected top pick.
Our bench has been a strength the last two years, but that will not be the case this year at all. We will have an elite sixth man in redshirt junior center Brody Munoz (89 overall), who was a force for us in the tournament last year and is already a projected lottery pick. We also have 7-foot center Logan Polk, who we’re moving to power forward, junior guard Archie Howel (77 overall), true freshman small forward Jaycee Queen (76 overall), center Dean Warner (74 overall), and five-star international freshman shooting guard James Haranga (67 overall, A- potential).
With Munoz, Keller, and Doyle all projected as possible NBA draft picks as juniors, it’s going to be fascinating to see how this season plays out and if any of them return for my final season next year in Year 40.
This is our last recruiting class ever! We have three scholarships to recruit for, and needless to say, each of these players will get only one year on campus. We might as well swing for the fences. The top priority right now? Getting better on the wing.
After scanning the available options, we decide to offer the following players:
- 6’6 SG Urule Millar out of Phoenix: No. 32 overall recruit, No. 10 at his position
- 6’7 PF Kenny Butler out of Los Angeles: No. 58 overall recruit, No. 10 at his position
- 6’6 SF Jerald Obasohan out of Inglewood, CA: 5-star JUCO recruit
Obasohan is rated as the third best JUCO recruit in the country. Millar seems like the ideal two guard prospect for us, and as the Mr. Basketball in Arizona, he’s likely good enough to step into minutes from day one next season. Butler is a bit shorter than the power forwards we typically recruit, but we like the idea of having a highly rated prospect with a diverse skill set at that position.
Year 39! No. 10 in the preseason polls! Three-peat??? National title No. 11 to pass John Wooden for the most all-time??? We have intrigue heading into this season. Let’s go!
How did the regular season go?
We start off the year 3-0 with wins over Houston, Illinois, and UW-Milwaukee. That moves us up to No. 5 in the polls and sets up a showdown with Kansas. Bill Self is long gone, but the Jayhawks are still a top program in addition to one of our biggest rivals. They give us our first loss, 91-67, which drops us all the way down to No. 20 in the polls. Damn.
We rebound with wins in our two early conference games, and then head out West for a matchup with UCLA. Big, big game. Do I sound excited?
That moves us to 6-1 on the year. We play Syracuse next: it’s a win. Then we face Minnesota: win. Duke? Win. We close out the year with Grambling, which is another dub.
We’re 10-1 heading into the full conference slate.
Did we go undefeated in Summit League play?
Yes we did. We finished 18-0 against the Summit League slate during the regular season, and then won all three games in the conference tournament to punch our automatic ticket to the NCAA tournament.
After losing four conference games combined between Year 36 and Year 37, it feels great to see our team finish undefeated against the league slate two years in a row.
We will enter the NCAA tournament at 29-1 on the year. As Selection Sunday arrives, we’re up to No. 7 in the polls. I can’t wait to see what seed we get.
Before we find out, let’s take a look at the regular season stats:
Foster! Just an incredible year for the reigning MOP of the NCAA tournament. Our dude put up 24.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. I love that we also had three other players finish in double-figures in scoring. This team lacks the depth some of our best teams have had, but I’m feeling really good about the five starters.
How did recruiting go?
We didn’t land anyone at the early signing deadline, but we’re in good shape for the offseason. Kenny Butler, the top-60 power forward recruit, is at 100 percent interest, which means he will sign on the first day of the spring period. That’s going to be a nice addition to our front court.
We have the only offer out to Obasohan, but he suddenly has more interest in UCLA late in the process. The only guy we lost out on was Millar, but we’ve replaced him with Erwin Walls, a 6’4 shooting guard out of 6’4 shooting guard out of Houston who is ranked No. 47 overall. Walls is also considering LSU and Houston, but we have the only offer out to him so far.
2046 NCAA tournament
We earned a No. 4 seed to the NCAA tournament and a first round matchup with Ivy League champ No. 13 seed Brown. I’m a little offended, because I thought we should have earned a No. 2 seed given that we are No. 7 in the AP Poll entering the tournament. Even after 10 championships in 38 years, the Selection Committee is still disrespecting our ‘Necks.
We enter the game as a 98 overall, while Brown is rated as a 79 overall.
Before we get to the first round matchup, let’s check in our roster:
Our starters are looking great. Our bench is looking pretty weak. To win title No. 11, we’re going to need our top players to avoid having an off night so they can carry us to a three-peat.
I love that we have three elite bigs with Foster, Fray, and Munoz off the bench — who has to be the best sixth man in America. Our wing tandem of Bernie Doyle and Floyd Keller have the size, the speed, and the shooting necessary to be stars. The only thing we were missing when we recruited all these players was a point guard, and Ngounou are stepped up admirably to fill that role. It’s pretty incredible that he’s already rated as an 87 overall as a true sophomore.
Logan Polk, the sophomore 7-footer, is the guy I trust the most off the bench after Munoz. Howel will have to hit some shots off the bench, and I’m also interested to see what James Haranga can do. The true freshman shooting guard from Cameroon is up to a 71 overall and has a nice combination of size and shooting.
The journey to a three-peat starts against Brown. Let’s go!
Win, 93-67. We starting off our Year 39 title run with a blowout victory.
We ran Brown off the floor in the first half, and were able to ‘sim to end’ early in the second half. Our size inside was just way too much for them to handle.
D.J. Foster looks primed to make a run at his second straight MOP award. The 7’2 center finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-17 shooting from the field in the win. Oscar Fray also dominated to finish with 21 points and seven rebounds.
Our starting wings Keller and Doyle combined to go 5-for-7 from three-point range in the win. That will get the job done. I also love the defense from Ngounou at point guard to finish with four steals.
We improve to 30-1 on the season with the dub.
The win sets up a game against No. 5 seed Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets have been a consistent NCAA tournament team in this sim with several deep runs to the Final Four.
Georgia Tech enters rated as a 94 overall. We’re a 98 overall. Needless to say, this is going to be a much stiffer test than Brown.
Win, 110-86. We’re onto the Sweet 16!
Our guys looked absolutely dialed in from the opening tip. In terms of ball movement, scoring efficiency, and generating turnovers, this was pretty much a perfect game from our ‘Necks. The first half was an absolute clinic: we shot 67 percent from the field, didn’t turn the ball over at all, and took a 27-point lead into the break. It was a wrap from there.
Oscar Fray played like a flat-out star. Fray was the most overlooked member of our final five-year recruiting class, but he has the size (7-foot) and the shooting that we look for in a power forward. He played perhaps the greatest game of his career, going off for 23 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-15 shooting in the win. This move was too nasty.
Every other starter also finished in double-figures in scoring. Foster (17 points, six rebounds) kept his potential repeat MOP bid alive, while Doyle and Keller stayed hot from three. How about four more steals from Christano? We love to see it.
The bench also looked dope in garbage time. My guy Haranga, up to a 71 overall, looked phenomenal, going 4-of-5 from the field to finish with 10 points. True freshman wing Jaycee Queen also added 13 points, six assists, and three steals. This crossover was filthy:
Just a great team game all around. That’s the formula for how this squad can win the whole thing.
The win sets up a Sweet 16 game with No. 8 seed Indiana
The Hoosiers upset No. 1 seed Nevada to crash the Sweet 16. Indiana may only be an 8-seed, but they have tons of young talent up-and-down the roster. IU starts five-star recruits at point guard, shooting guard, and small forward.
Indiana enters rated as a 95 overall. We’re a 98 overall. An Elite Eight bid is on the line. Can our dream of a three-peat live to see another day?
Win, 96-64. Another game, another beatdown. We’re rolling into the Elite Eight.
We opened up a 20-point lead midway through the first half, and the rout was on from there. Indiana closed the half strong to keep things competitive, but we cranked up the pressure again in the second half to lock in the blow out.
I thought Bernie Doyle was ridiculously good, scoring 19 of his 28 points in the second half to secure the win. Dude went 10-of-14 from the field and 6-of-10 from three in this game. Indiana had no answer for him. How are you supposed to stop a 6’9 shooting guard who can get buckets in any situation?
The front court was also dominant again. Foster continues to be unreal, going off for 15 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists. He’s now grabbed more boards in the NCAA tournament than any Leathernecks player ever, per our comprehensive database. It is so huge to a massive 7’2 center holding things down in the middle. Fray had 15 points and three steals in the win, as well.
It was another solid performance from Christano Ngounou, too. He had 11-6-5-1 on 5-of-7 shooting, including this sweet crossover.
We are playing fantastic team ball right now. Let’s keep it going.
The win sets up an Elite Eight game with No. 2 seed Florida
The Gators have a pretty odd mix of talent for a No. 2 seed. They are stacked in the front court with most of their best players as power forwards. They have a superstar 5’10 point guard, but don’t have many natural wings on the perimeter.
We enter at 32-1 rated as a 98 overall. Florida is 31-8 rated as a 95 overall.
One win away from the Final Four! Three-peat on the line! Let’s go!
Loss, 115-100. Oh my, we got shellacked. Our season is over just like that.
I honestly can’t believe it. We were playing such great ball all year, and especially in the tournament. After seeing our guys win the national title the last two years, I thought this was another team of destiny. Florida proved that idea wrong by running us off the floor.
Florida started to pull away at the end of the first half, but I thought our second half team would have enough juice to pull-off the comeback. It wasn’t meant to be. We simply could not get a stop or enough turnovers to slow down Florida’s high-powered attack. I can’t remember an opposing offense cutting us up like that too many times before.
It was a rough game for our starters, and we simply don’t have enough talent on the bench to find supplemental scoring when they went cold. Doyle finished with 20 points but went 2-for-12 from three-point range. Keller went 1-of-7 from three. Fray shot 1-of-6 from the field. At least Foster — 14 points, 12 rebounds — had another good game in his final appearance in a ‘Necks uniform.
There isn’t much else to say. This is an incredibly disappointing loss. I wanted to break Wooden’s record and I wanted to three-peat for the first time ever. It wasn’t meant to be.
We’re onto our last offseason ever, featuring our last recruiting class ever. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it. It will be fascinating to see who of Munoz, Keller, and Doyle return for Year 40.
- North Carolina wins the national championship.
- D.J. Foster wins conference player of the year for the second straight season. We also take home four of the five spots on the All-Summit Team.
- WOW, EVERYONE IS COMING BACK. Our lone senior, Foster, graduates as a lottery pick. I’m shocked that Munoz is returning as a potential first rounder, and it’s great to see Doyle and Keller back too. We are going to be loaded next year. Could we be preseason No. 1?
- My record stands at 1,142-209 with 10 national titles at 64 years old.
We have three open scholarships as we enter the spring recruiting period for our final class ever. We know we have one player locked down, and he commits on the first day of the signing period:
Kenny Butler, a 6’7 power forward out of LA, rated as the No. 57 overall recruit and No. 10 power forward prospect. He’s a little shorter than we like, but his shooting projection looks great, and he’ll be the only natural four on our roster. We like him.
We have two other offers out to five-star JUCO wing Jerald Obasohan and four-star shooting guard Erwin Walls. They both commit soon after.
Obasohan is the No. 3 rated JUCO prospect. Walls seems like he’s going to be terrific — look at those AAU stats!
I’m excited these guys. Our recruiting class ranks No. 19 in the country.
Now let’s set the schedule for our final season.
Bradley, NIT Tip-off, Southern Illinois, @ Florida, Illinois, @ DePaul, Kansas, @ Duke, UIC, Golden Bear Classic.
As we sim to Year 40, we are greeted by an unwelcome message:
Here’s a first look at our roster in Year 40:
If the game is forcing me into mandatory retirement at age-65, at least we’re going out with a veteran team that’s talented enough to win the national championship. We only lost Foster from last year’s Elite Eight squad, and we should have some real depth this season.
Here’s a look at the freshmen:
- SF Jerald Obasohan, 79 overall, C potential: Unfortunately only a 70 rating in three-point shooting, but this is a terrific starting rating. He should be playable for us this year.
- SG Erwin Walls, 74 overall, B potential: Walls has an impressive 79 rating in three-point shooting. He’ll be a deep bench option for us.
- PF Kenny Butler, 74 overall, C+ potential: He grew an inch to 6’8 and will be another deep bench option.
With one season to go, we are tied with John Wooden for the most national championships in history with 10 titles. Can we get No. 11 in our final year?
We’re going to be streaming Year 40 on Sunday, May 16 at 8 p.m. ET on my Twitch channel. We’ll be watching a few regular season games, and then going into the tournament. If we have a long tournament run and can’t complete the season in one night, we’ll likely finish out the tournament run on Sunday, May 23 at 8 p.m. ET on my Twitch.
Subscribe to my Twitch channel for email notifications on if the date for the final NCAA tournament stream changes. You can also join our Discord channel for updates on when I’ll be streaming and continued discussion around the ‘Necks.
Watch The Last Dance with Western Illinois in Year 40
What: Western Illinois Year 40 season
When: Sunday, May 16 at 8 p.m. ET. If necessary: continued on Wednesday, May 23 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: My Twitch stream