Lady Tops: Lady Toppers Rolling Through Conference USA, 4 of 5 Conference Games by Double Digits
Western Kentucky is 12-4 and 5-0 in C-USA with a full game lead on everyone else.
The Western Kentucky Lady Toppers are stomping through Conference USA on a mission. Meral Abdelgawad’s preseason press conference about this roster wanting to “kick some ess” has proven to be incredibly true.
The Lady Tops are marching straight through Conference USA looking like—Dare I say it?—a Conference USA title contender. Out of nowhere, WKU has gone from a 7-16 wreck of a team full of drama to a dominant force, seemingly with no warning.
Meral and Hope Sivori talked in that same presser about how different this team was going to be, and it was nice to hear. And you think, “Maybe they’ll have a winning record and maybe win a game or two in March.” But this is a different level of what seemed possible.
Meral Abdelgawad has blossomed into this amazing Conference Player of the Year candidate. And without question, Greg Collins should be the frontrunner for C-USA Coach of the Year and it shouldn’t be close at this point. And Mya Meredith will almost certainly be the Freshman of the Year in Conference USA.
So WKU is all of a sudden loaded with talent and chemistry with a seven game winning streak. Western hasn’t lost since a December 5 loss at home to Tennessee Tech. More impressively, these wins are not against bottom feeders. Five of the seven wins came against teams with a .500 record or better. The two teams that are not are a combined three games under .500. That makes this streak all the more impressive.
So WKU has not beaten a traditional C-USA power other than if we want to count Southern Miss, who currently sits in second place in the West. But what this start has done is allow everyone else to lose (besides Charlotte who has only played two conference games against UTSA and UTEP). UAB, for example, sits at 3-1 but has a loss to 1-4 UTSA. Middle is 4-2 with a recent loss to FIU and an early loss to UTEP, both of which have losing records in conference play. Marshall seems most dangerous to WKU at 4-1, but they also lost to North Texas in its only conference win. Charlotte needs three wins against three decent teams to even match WKU’s start. So how good is everyone else? It’s at minimum a fair question to ask at this point.
So could the case be made that WKU is now the most proven team in the league thus far this season? That’s really hard to fathom, given where this team came from, but frankly the case can be made. Of course, Middle probably has the best non-conference resume, with a 4-2 record against the top 50. However, their 26th ranked RPI is about to take a massive hit when the numbers populate after a 1-1 record this week against #323 and #273 in the country FAU and FIU. Middle, Charlotte, and Old Dominion were the preseason favorites to run C-USA and they all sit in good enough position to do exactly what they were supposed to do.
But in conference, WKU remains unblemished with decent wins, four of which were by double digits and a fifth that they controlled throughout on the road against the highest ranked C-USA opponent thus far (North Texas).
So has WKU proven it is the team to beat? Absolutely not. But something is going on in Bowling Green, and once again, the Lady Toppers are the best basketball team in WKU red thus far. The Lady Toppers are back and deserve some attention for their steamroll job through C-USA.
WKU should notch two more victories at home against FIU and FAU, but then the schedule gets significantly harder with only two more games against sub-200 RPI teams after this week.
The back half of the schedule is loaded, but if WKU can get by this week unscathed, they will have given themselves at least a one game cushion and a 7-0 start before things get really serious. Check out the Lady Toppers in matinee style Thursday morning at 11 for Education Day against FAU. Then they welcome FIU Saturday at noon.