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Western Illinois, Year 38, 2044-2045

Western Illinois needs one title to tie John Wooden’s record with three seasons left in our College Hoops 2K8 sim.

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 38, here’s a recap of everything that happened last season:

  • Coming off a devastating loss in the Sweet 16, Western Illinois returned four starters to begin the year at No. 3 in the preseason polls. The regular season was a tough go, with six losses that included two dropped conference games. Fortunately, we were able to win the Summit League tournament and punch our ticket to the big dance as a No. 8 seed.
  • We beat Akron in the first round, defeated No. 1 seed Richmond in the round of 32, beat Rhode Island in the Sweet 16, took out Louisville in the Elite Eight, beat BYU in the Final Four, and defeated UCLA in the national title game. It’s our ninth national championship and puts us one away from tying John Wooden for the most ever.
  • We landed three players in recruiting: international point guard Christano Ngounou from Cameroon, three-star center Logan Polk, and five-star JUCO point guard Archie Howel.

Here’s a first look at the roster for Year 38:

When we started this series way back in April of 2020, we said our goal was to win the national championship with the worst college basketball program ever. As we near the conclusion of the series after Year 40, the goal has changed: now, we’re trying to see if the worst college basketball program ever can become the greatest college basketball program ever.

John Wooden at UCLA will always be the gold standard for men’s college basketball. Wooden won 10 national titles before retiring. After winning our ninth natty last year, we’re now one away from tying the legend with three years left.

We lost our top four players from last year’s national title team, including guard Augustine Bruthelieus, who became the 13th player in program history to leave early for the NBA. Despite all of the defections from last year, we still have a talented team led by the return of the reigning Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament as he enters his senior year. We begin the new year at No. 24 in the preseason polls.

We’ve only won back-to-back titles once in program history. Can we do it again this year to tie Wooden? Let’s meet the team:

  • PG Cam Kately, redshirt junior, 87 overall: We’ve yet to really see what Kately is capable of as he enters his junior season, but we’re excited to find out. The 6’6 point guard only earned spot minutes off the bench on last season’s title team, but his skill set is intriguing enough to make him a projected lottery pick entering the year. Kately has a wonderful 84 rating as a three-point shooter, an A- grade in ball handling, and a low 80s rating in passing. He’s also excellent defensively, with an A+ on-ball defense rating and the size to cover three positions. I like that we can slide him to the two or even the three when we go back to our patented ‘Elliott at point guard’ lineup that led us to the natty last year. Former No. 114 overall recruit out of Alexandria, VA with B- potential.
  • SG Jerald Elliott, redshirt senior, 93 overall: Elliott was our sixth man last year, but he became an absolute legend during our tournament run by being named Most Outstanding Player. We moved Elliott — a 6’6 natural shooting guard — to point guard for our tournament run, where he became a two-way terror who scored efficiently and wrecked havoc in the passing lanes. Elliott has an unreal 99 speed rating that makes him a one-man fastbreak, and he’s also one of our better three-point shooters (86 rating) despite a slow, awkward release. We’ve never had a player win MOP in back-to-back years, and it would be simply incredible if Elliott could do it. Former No. 35 overall recruit out of Sacramento, CA with B- potential.
  • SF Ketshner Evertsen, redshirt junior, 89 overall: Evertsen has been instant offense for us off the bench the last two seasons, and now steps into what should be a starring role. A 6’8 natural shooting guard, Evertsen has a sweet outside shooting stroke (88 three-point rating), impressive finishing ability, and A grades in both speed and quickness. He might need to be our primary scoring option in March. Former No. 96 overall recruit out of Chicago with B potential. Projected lottery pick.
  • PF Oscar Fray, redshirt sophomore, 80 overall: Fray is our lowest-rated starter in .... decades (?), but we’re still feeling pretty good about him. We love his size as a legit 7-footer, and he also has terrific three-point shooting ability (75 rating) for his position. While he’s not the strongest big man, he does have the top block rating on the team and can at least hold his own on the glass. We love the idea of Fray as a floor spacer for us, but for some reason he always seems to want to take pull-up threes in tournament games. This man does what he wants, and in a way, we respect it. Former No. 118 overall recruit out of Lynn, MA with C potential.
  • C D.J. Foster, redshirt junior, 86 overall: Foster is just a giant at 7’2 and a cheeseburger away from 280 pounds. Foster looked tremendous in his debut tournament run last year, anchoring our front court on both ends and even finishing with a 22-point, 12-rebound performance against Louisville in the Elite Eight. He has A- ratings in quickness, strength, and offensive and defensive awareness. While his rebounding ratings are pretty average, he totally cleans up in stream games. It’s just really comforting knowing we’re going into this season with a huge center like this who can control the glass and lock down the paint on defense. Former No. 173 overall recruit out of Chicago with C potential.

We also have a lot of talent on the bench. 6’11 center Brody Munoz (85 overall, B potential) is on his way to being a stud as a tough and physical big man. Sophomore shooting guard Bernie Doyle has outstanding size (6’9) and a three-point shooting rating in the low 80s. Fellow sophomore Floyd Keller is a 6’7 small forward who can shoot threes and has an elite offensive rebound rating. There are also three new freshmen who are all joining the rotation immediately because the series ends after Year 40 and we don’t have time to redshirt anymore. Meet the freshmen:

  • PG Christano Ngounou, 77 overall, B potential
  • C Logan Polk, 76 overall, C potential
  • PG Archie Howel, 71 overall, C- potential

Not our best class, but Ngounou looks like a big win as a five-start international recruit from Cameroon. I think he can give us decent minutes from day one.

Recruiting

We have three scholarships to recruit for this season and need instant impact guys: these players will only get two years on campus before the series ends. I think we need another big and two wings. After scanning the available options, we decide to offer the following prospects:

  • 6’3 PG Daniel Scheer out of Springfield, IL: No. 12 overall, No. 8 at his position
  • 6’8 SF Eze Coleman out of Riverside, CA: No. 26 overall, No. 5 at his position
  • 6’9 C Rickey Ager out of Indianapolis: No. 125 overall, and No. 5 at his position

We’re really swinging for the fences this year, but why not? We’re defending champs. Landing any of these dudes would be great, to be honest.

We have four new starters, but I still think this team is pretty damn good. It would so great to go back-to-back and tie Wooden this season. Let’s go!

How did the regular season go?

We started the year with a game against No. 22 Richmond (the same No. 1 seed we knocked out in the round of 32 last year), and took home a 70-55 win. Then we headed to the Maui Invitational, where we beat Penn, No. 22 Arizona State, and Nebraska to capture the championship. I’m partying like Tom Crean in Hawaii. That brings us up to No. 14 in the polls.

We beat No. 13 Vanderbilt in our next game, and then take out Providence. We’re rolling at 6-0 and we’re up to No. 9 in the polls now. Next up we have Duke, and damn, they beat us by three. We lose one more non-conference game to Northwestern, but otherwise take care of business. We’re going into conference season at 8-2 while ranked No. 21 in the polls.

Did we go undefeated in Summit League play?

We have somehow lost two games in conference play each of the last two seasons. Just unacceptable, and I’m happy to say that trash is over.

We pull off 18-0 against Summit League opponents this year, and then sweep through the conference tournament to punch our automatic ticket to the NCAA tournament. We end the year at 29-2 and ranked No. 9 in the polls.

How did recruiting go?

HORRIBLE. We didn’t just miss out on all of our primary options, we cycled through like eight different offers until we finally found a few guys we have a chance with, and none of them are ready to commit when the spring signing period opens up, either.

We currently have offers out to five-star international shooting guard James Haranga (6’5 out of Cameroon), small forward Lester Figueroa (No. 106 overall), and center Dean Warner (No. 245 overall, No. 18 center) out of Tampa Bay. It’s going to take some more work in the offseason to get any of them to commit.

2045 NCAA tournament

We open up March Madness as a No. 2 seed against No. 15 seed Weber State. We enter the game rated as a 98 overall, while Weber State is a 75 overall. Apologies to Damian Lillard, but this is about to be a beatdown.

Before we get into the tournament, let’s check out our updated roster.

It’s hard to believe this team was so dominant after losing Arvydas Hardy, Reece Mascoll, Al Reece, and Bru off our title team last year, but I can absolutely see the vision for how this team wins. Elliott has emerged into a legit star (95 overall) and we already know that he’s incredible at point guard in tournament games. Ketshner Evertsen — aka Shner — is a walking bucket even if he’s not quite as strong or powerful going to the basket as some of our best wings from recent years. We know what we have in Foster, and I’m waiting for Kately and Fray to step up. I also love our top three guys off with the bench, with Munoz in the front court and the wing combination of Keller and Doyle.

This team has been kicking ass all season, and I think we have the right pieces to potentially go all the way. That said, our leaders from last season’s title run are gone and there’s a reason why we’ve only gone back-to-back once: it’s really hard to do. I’m optimistic about this team and nervous about the stakes at the same time with Wooden only one title away.

Because this first round game is so lopsided in our favor, we decided to straight sim the game instead of watching it like we usually do. It’s always scary to do this, but ....

Win, 97-76. Never in doubt.

Even in a sim game, Elliott went off for 27 points on 3-of-4 shooting from three, and 12-of-14 shooting from the foul line. Keller also hit 3-of-4 triples off the bench, which is great to see. It was a cold shooting night for Shner (1-of-8), Fray (0-for-4), and Foster (1-of-10), but we’re not too worried yet.

It’s nice to bank a quick win at the start of our tournament run, and now I’m mad again about all the times the Selection Committee disrespected us with a low seed in the past. Anyway.

The win sets up a game with No. 10 Oklahoma State in the round of 32

Oklahoma State was in the Final Four with us last year, and has been a formidable program throughout this sim. They enter the game rated as a 96 overall, while we’re a 98 overall.

We’re watching the games from here on out. As a reminder, I’m not controlling the Leathernecks, we’re watching a simulated game.

Sweet 16 on the line. Let’s go!

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Win, 86-79. Oh my, that one got close at the end but we held on to advance to the Sweet 16.

First of all, why was that game played on Oklahoma State’s home court!?!? I will never get over that, but somehow we won anyway.

We opened up a double-digit lead toward the end of the first half, and maintained it throughout most of the second half. Then Oklahoma State decidedly to simply stop missing shots. They got it down to a one-point game with under one minute left, and I was officially sweating.

Thankfully, Ketshner Evertsen came through with the clutch bucket, and we held on to win.

Shner had 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and very much looked like the go-to scorer we need in this tournament. Bernie Doyle also had nine points off the bench of 4-of-6 shooting. It’s just a huge luxury to have two 6’8+ wings who can hit shots from deep in March. Jerald Elliott was also solid again, even if his numbers — 10 points, six assists, five turnovers — were unspectacular.

Foster was absolutely great: 15 points and 15 rebounds with three blocks. More of that, please. Damn, it feels great to have a 7’2 center in the middle.

Solid all-around team effort even if it got way too close for comfort there. We’re just trying to survive and advance.

The win sets up a Sweet 16 game with No. 11 Illinois

WOW, WE’VE GOT THE ILLINI IN THE SWEET 16.

We’ve played our in-state rivals countless times throughout this dynasty, but never in the NCAA tournament. We’re trying to do them like Loyola did IRL.

We enter the game as a 98 overall. The Illini are rated as a 90. Let’s go!

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Win, 99-78. We’re onto the Elite Eight.

I’m almost disappointed in Illinois, because that game was a little too easy. We opened up a double-digit lead midway through the first half, and pushed it to a 20-point lead midway through the second half. That’s officially ‘sim to end’ territory and we were able to do that with about seven minutes left.

Our friends from Champaign had absolutely no answer for Jerald Elliott in this one. Elliott went absolutely wild to finish with 30 points, five assists, and three steals on typically efficient 11-of-16 shooting from the floor and 4-of-8 shooting from three. Our dude won MOP for our title team last year, and this was still easily the best game of his life.

Look at that 99 speed in action:

Some other positives:

  • Shner made an impact on winning even on a night when he finished with more field goal attempts than points. He still ended the night with 16 points, six assists, and four steals. It feels like our offense has a solid foundation with Shner + Elliott + Foster.
  • Speaking of Foster: he had another double-digit rebound game with 12 boards. It’s also pretty comforting that we can still beat a good-ish team by 20 when he shoots 3-for-12 from the field.
  • Our bench really came to play. The reserves combined for 28 points. Doyle (12 points on 3-of-6 shooting) is going to be star, I just know it. The same can probably be same for our young center Brody Munoz, who finished with nine points and five boards. I even liked what I saw from the true frosh Christano Ngounou, who had five points.

The win sets up a game with No. 1 seed Louisville in the Elite Eight

Oh man. We played Louisville in the Elite Eight last year, and I hyped up that game to no end because the Cards had the one of the best rosters I had ever seen in this sim. We ended up winning that game by 18 points, but I’m not exactly excited about a rematch.

Louisville enters the game as a 100 overall. We’re a 98 overall. The Cards have six guys on the roster rated in the 90s. Just ridiculous.

This is going to be such a big test, but hey: we proved we could take them last year. This could be our biggest test standing between us and back-to-back titles. One time, ‘Necks.

Let’s go!

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Win, 91-87! WE ARE BACK IN THE FINAL FOUR.

Just an unbelieveable effort from our guys. Honestly, it looked like it was going off the rails early as Louisville ripped off a 17-0 run a few minuets into the game. Their press was forcing us into turnovers, and we couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively. It looked we might be headed for the wrong side of a ‘sim to end’ game, but then the offense started to wake up. We chipped the deficit to single-digits, and then took a one-point lead going into the break on a Cam Kately corner three in the final minute of the first half.

We got out to a strong start in the second half — this is a second half team, remember? — and held an 11-point lead with under four minutes left. Louisville would get the deficit down to four points only two minutes later, and it was officially go-time. That’s when Shner stepped up with a critical three to essentially ice the game.

Evertsen was brilliant, finishing with 19 points, three steals, and three blocks. We knew he could torch the nets, but I had no idea he had that type of defensive performance in him. I love having this dude on the team so much.

For as good was Shner was, D.J. Foster was even better. All our 7’2 redshirt junior center was put up one of the great performances in the history of the program given the stakes. Foster finished with 20 points, 18 rebounds, and four assists on 8-of-14 shooting. The Cards couldn’t stop him to save their tournament lives:

Let’s hit on some bonus shout-outs on the way out:

  • Elliott: 13 points, six assists, four steals on another efficient shooting night. The man is just a machine.
  • Brody Munoz: 15 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-6 shooting from the field. I’m already preparing to lose him after his junior season in Year 39 and be really bummed about not having him for my final year. He’s just too good.
  • Bernie Doyle: 11 points with 2-of-3 shooting from deep. Future stud.

The win sets up a game with No. 2 seed Michigan State in the Final Four

We have had a solid little rivalry with the Spartans over the years, though I can’t remember playing them much recently. Sparty famously ended our undefeated season in the Final Four in Year 11, and I’ve been holding a grudge against them ever since.

Tom Izzo is long gone, but MSU remains real good. Both teams enter the game as a 98 overall. As I check out Michigan State’s roster, I see that they are led by one of our former recruiting targets, senior small forward Sergio Hicks. Him vs. Evertsen should be the matchup of the game.

Two wins away from going back-to-back. Two wins away from title No. 10. LET’S GO.

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Win! 83-72! We are one win away from a national championship!

MSU kept it close, but credit our guys for never letting them take the lead. It is kind of amazing we were able to win this game despite shooting 3-of-22 (13.6 percent) from three.

This was once again a really solid all-around team performance despite the rough shooting night. Our top six guys in our rotation all reached double-figures in scoring. As is becoming the norm on this run, Ketshner Evertsen was leading the charge.

Shner finished with 25 points, seven assists, and four steals despite shooting 1-of-11 from three. It is unreal to have that type of impact on such a poor shooting night for a guy who is considered a pure shooter. This coast-to-coast layup helped us ice the win late in the second half:

We haven’t mentioned Kately’s name much during this tournament run, but it was nice to see him put together a good game with 11 points, four assists, and two steals on 6-of-10 shooting.

He even had one of our famous alley-oop layups.

Speaking of players we haven’t mentioned much: Floyd Keller. The 6’7 redshirt sophomore wing can really play even if he hasn’t gotten the opportunity to show it much on this run as we’ve largely went with Doyle in the rotation over him. On a night when Doyle couldn’t hit a shot, Floyd got in and made a few things happen.

This dunk was beautiful.

The win sets up a game with No. 7 seed Boston College in the national title game

Boston College?

Like, BC BC???

And they’re a No. 7 seed????

I can’t remember playing the Eagles during this sim before. I also can’t remember playing too many teams this small, especially this late in the tournament. BC has basically no size on the roster, with their biggest player being 6’9 small forward Irving Danley.

We are one win away from tying John Wooden’s record of 10 national championships. We just have to beat a Cinderella to do it.

Please, ‘Necks. Let’s go!

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Win, 96-78! THE LEATHERNECKS ARE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS FOR THE 10TH TIME IN PROGRAM HISTORY!

What a way to tie Wooden — with an absolute beatdown. BC simply had no chance of keeping up with us. We crushed them on the glass and did a good job defending the rim. Offensively, our starters caught fire from the field and turned this game into a blowout well before the final buzzer.

First shout-out goes to D.J. Foster, who was comically dominant. All he did was have his second 20-point, 18-rebound game of the tournament, and this time he came three assists shy of a triple-double. He was named Most Outstanding Player for his efforts.

This man is 7’2, 280 pounds and can do this!

How about some Foster defense?

Best of all, he’s expected to be back for his senior year next season.

Evertsen was also great again, too. He popped off for 18 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in the win while shooting 3-of-5 from deep. Like Foster, the dude has been an essential contributor on back-to-back title teams, and is basically a legend now. We love to see it.

Jerald Elliott had an extremely Jerald Elliott game in his final time in a ‘Necks uniform: 15 points and seven assists on 6-of-8 shooting. It was an honor to coach him.

I’ll throw in this Cam Kately clip too, since this might be the last game he plays at WIU as a projected lottery pick:

I can’t believe we actually tied Wooden with 10 national championships. We went through an eight year stretch where we only won one title between Year 29 and Year 36, but just when it seemed like our goal was out of reach, we went out and won back-to-back natties.

It’s only the second time we’ve ever won back-to-back championships, and the first time since Year 25 and Year 26 in the golden days of the Albert Jagla/Skip Clemmons era. I really wasn’t sure if we had it in us, but this is clearly a special group of players.

RUN THAT NEWSPAPER:

We have two seasons left in this dynasty and we’ve already tied John Wooden. Everything from here on out is gravy.

Let’s get to the offseason.

Offseason

  • Western Illinois are national champs. Feels great to say, back-2-back baby.
  • D.J. Foster wins conference player of the year.
  • Nooooooooooo. Ketshner Evertsen turns pro early. Cam Kately turns pro early. Elliott graduates as a projected top pick. Wow, I really did not expect to lose both Evertsen and Kately. The loss of Shner really, really hurts our chances at competing for a title next year, but of course we love him and support him on his way to his NBA dreams. Dude made 73 threes at a 45 percent clip this year. What a season. Ugh.
  • My current record: 1,110-207 with 10 titles. Not bad for a 63-year-old. Only two seasons left.
  • We lose an assistant coach and replace him with someone who has an A rating in teaching. That should be a nice boost for our internal development.

Recruiting

Praise be that we won the natty, because recruiting has been a disaster this year — and it wasn’t very good last year either outside of Ngounou. We still have three open scholarships after whiffing on a ton of guys during the in-season recruiting period. No one is ready to commit when spring signing month begins.

After two weeks of recruiting, we get our first commitment: Dean Warner, a 7-foot center out of Tampa:

Warner is ranked No. 245 overall and No. 18 at his position, which is definitely a little lower than our typical center recruit. With that said, this class was full of 6’9 centers and we wanted to prioritize someone with real size. His AAU stats were also pretty impressive, so I’m happy about this get as a way to infuse some size in our front court.

We’re also closing in on James Haranga, a five-star international recruiting guard out of Cameroon, just like Ngounou. He commits the next week:

International recruits are tricky because they tend to have more variance in their rating and potential than domestic recruits, but Ngounou worked out well so we’re willing to roll the dice again. Haranga is rated as the third best international recruit. We need a two guard and like his size. After striking out on so many other two guard options, this seemed like our best bet.

We have one scholarship left after Figueroa commits elsewhere. We decide to offer it to Jaycee Queen, a 6’6 small forward out of Virginia Beach, VA. Queen is only rated No. 166 overall and No. 31 at his position, but his AAU stats are incredible: 19.1 points per game on 52 percent three-point shooting. He commits to Western Illinois the next week to finish off our recruiting class.

Now it’s time to set the schedule for next year. We go with:

@ Houston, @ Illinois, vs. UW-Milwaukee, vs. Kansas, @ UCLA, vs. Syracuse, @ Minnesota, @ Duke, vs. Grambling

Year 39

Here’s a first look at our roster for Year 39:

Only two seasons left! While the loss of Evertsen and Kately definitely sting, I still think we have a pretty good team. It’s going to be up to Bernie Doyle and Floyd Keller to carry our offense on the wings, and I think they’re both up for the challenge. We already know we can count on Foster to be a monster in the middle.

A few notes:

  • We move Howel to shooting guard, where he goes up one point to a 77 overall.
  • Queen looks solid with a 76 overall rating and C potential, but somehow he’s only a 66-rated three-point shooter. THE AAU STATS WERE A LIE.
  • Warner comes in at 74 overall with C potential. He’s our insurance in case Munoz leaves early (he starts the year as a projected lotto pick).
  • Haranga: 67 overall with A- potential. He’s already grown an inch to 6’6. Damn, he would have been so, so good if we had the time to redshirt and develop him for five years. Instead he’s going to have to grown A LOT to be a factor at all in the last two seasons.
  • Doyle and Keller both begin the year as projected second round picks as juniors. Will they return for Year 40? That’s one of the big storylines going into the end of this dynasty.
  • Our bench is going to be a weak spot on this team.

We’re going for a three-peat for the time in program history.

We’re going to be streaming Year 39 on Sunday, May 9 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 12 at 8 p.m. ET on my Twitch.

Watch Western Illinois in Year 39

What: Western Illinois Year 39 season

When: Sunday, May 9 at 8 p.m. ET. If necessary: continued on Wednesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: My Twitch stream

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