Western Illinois goes for national title No. 8 in 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 33, here’s a recap of everything that happened last season:

  • We returned four starters from a Sweet 16 team the year before, and began the new campaign ranked No. 10 in the preseason polls. We lost our first two games of the season to Florida and Indiana, and then won out through the conference tournament. We entered the NCAA tournament at 28-2 on the season.
  • We were given a No. 6 seed to the big dance. We beat George Washington in the first round, Stanford in the round of 32, Baylor in the Sweet 16, and Houston in the Elite Eight. We then faced No. 1 seed Ole Miss in the Final Four and lost, 90-84.
  • We recruited for four scholarships and landed four players: PG Arvydas Hardy, SF Reece Mascoll, PF Al Reece, C Felipe Hopes. It was ranked as the No. 5 recruiting class in the country.

Here’s a first look at our roster for Year 33:

When we won our seventh national championship at the end of Year 28, it capped a run of three natties in four years for our Leathernecks. We haven’t cut down the nets since. Last year’s Final Four run had us so close to our goal. While we did lose three players to graduation, the bulk of the lineup that we started during last season’s tournament run returns.

We begin the season No. 13 in the preseason polls. Let’s meet the starters:

  • Randolph Pompey, redshirt junior, 87 overall: Pompey flew under the radar as a recruit (No. 134 overall, No. 58 point guard), and came in with the worst potential rating (D grade) in program history. Why did we take him? We loved his size at 6’5 PG out of high school, and he’s grown three inches to 6’8 as he enters his redshirt junior year. Pompey is an excellent finisher, a solid three-point shooter (83 rating), and has great awareness on both ends. He’s only average as a ball handler and passer, and grades out as a C+ in quickness. After an excellent game in our Final Four loss to Ole Miss last season (23 points, 10 assists), we think he can take the next step and become a dominant point guard. We’re not going to complain if his low potential rating means the NBA doesn’t want him early. Native of Mesquite, TX.
  • Scott Doornekamp, redshirt junior, 91 overall: Doorekamp was another three-star recruit who looks poised to completely outplay his ranking. We moved him into the starting lineup for last season’s tournament run and he gave us a consistent scoring punch as a 6’6 wing who can shoot. Doornekamp is our highest-rated three-point shooter (88 rating), and grades out as an A in finishing, a B in dunking, a B in handling, and an A- in passing. He also has A speed and A- quickness. He should be our focal point this year as Dave French’s replacement in the lineup. Native of Erie, PA and projected first round pick.
  • Spanky Fanning, redshirt senior, 93 overall: Fanning started for us last season before we replaced him in the lineup with Doornekamp for the tournament run. The 6’6 wing has always been a shaky three-point shooter, but has worked to improve to a 75 rating in that area. He has a lot of great ‘glue guy’ style attributes: he grades out as an A- passer and ball handler, an A in on-ball defense, A- in strength and quickness, and solid awareness on both ends. Will he be able to hit enough shots to take us on a long tournament run? Former No. Former No. 92 overall recruit out of Davis, CA.
  • PF Ernesto Mack, redshirt junior, 88 overall: Mack is a super strong 6’8 power forward who can defend the rim and score inside. He has a 92 rating in shot blocking and a 90 rating in strength as he enters the starting lineup for the first time as a junior. He’s great on the block on either end of the floor, and is only average as a rebounder, but we find his A- passing and ball handling grades to be intriguing. Former No. 108 overall recruit and No. 8 power forward out of Columbus, Ohio.
  • Vinnie Harmon, redshirt senior, 93 overall: Harmon averaged 19 points per game last year as a first-time starter, and should be poised to take on an even greater offensive load as a senior. His scoring package is basically unstoppable: he grades out as an A- in finishing and midrange shooting, a B+ in three pointing, and an A+ in offensive rebounding. An explosive vertical athlete, Harmon has an ultra aggressive offensive mentality, kills it on the glass, and projects as about average as a defender. Former No. 122 overall recruit and No. 8 center out of Cincinnati.

Our bench will be made up of four redshirt sophomores: SF D.J. Stapleton (84 overall), C Stevie Strong (85 overall), SG Rob Borchardt (83 overall), and PF Kendric Morales (82 overall). Stapleton is another glue guy-style wing who struggles to shoot, Borchardt looks like a potentially really good 3-and-D wing, Morales is a natural center who can shoot, and Strong looks like a solid all-around big.

We also have four true freshmen from the No. 5 recruiting class in America. Each player will redshirt. They are:

  • PG Arvydas Hardy, 79 overall, C- potential: 6’3 point guard from Mesa, AZ was rated as the No. 12 overall prospect and No. 6 point guard. He’s our second highest-rated recruit ever, and the fourth highest-rated true freshman we’ve ever had.
  • SF Reece Mascoll, 80 overall, C potential: 6’8 small forward from Riverside, CA looks great but he’s only rated as a 70 in three-point shooting which is a little disappointing. No. 40 overall recruit, No. 4 at his position. He’s tied for the second-highest rated true freshman we’ve ever had.
  • PF Al Reece, 75 overall, C- potential: 6’11 power forward from Glendale, AZ was rated No. 138 overall, No. 19 at his position.
  • C Felipe Hopes, 74 overall, B+ potential: 6’11 center from Federal Way, WA was rated No. 139 overall and No. 8 at his position.

Recruiting

We have two available scholarships and want a high-impact shooting guard to pair with last year’s class. We decide to offer the following players:

  • 6’2 PG Cecil Wilkins, No. 9 overall player and No. 4 at his position, out of Cincinnati
  • 6’6 SG Jerald Elliott, No. 35 overall player and No. 9 at his position, out of Sacramento

Wilkins would be our highest-rated recruit ever if we can land him. Elliott looks like he has an ideal mix of size and shooting for an off-guard. There are some solid backup options if we miss out, but it seems worth it to swing for the fences in this situation.

We have high expectations as the No. 13 in the preseason polls. Let’s do this.

Regular season

Here’s what our non-conference schedule looked like:

@ Michigan, Great Alaskan Shootout, vs. St. John’s, @ Ole Miss, @ Florida, @ Stanford, vs. South Florida, @ San Francisco, Gossner Foods Holiday Class, vs. Illinois State.

Who did we do? Well ….

WE BEAT EVERYONE*

*except

Ole Miss.

Yeah, the team that knocked us out in the Final Four last year beat us again to ruin our perfect start. If we draw them again in the tournament I’m probably going to freak out a little bit.

You will notice that Harmon went ham scoring the ball in the loss to Ole Miss. That was also a theme of the non-con slate. Dude was going off for 30+ points every week. He wasn’t just our most consistent scorer by a mile, he dragged us to victories offensively every night. It felt like that man had 20 points by the time he tied his shoes.

We got up to as high as No. 2 in the polls during our non-conference run, and hovered within the top 10 even after it. Now we had to lock down our tourney bid during conference season.

Can we run the table in Summit League play?

Yes we can. We run the table 18-0 in the regular season and then sweep through the Summit League tournament to lock down the automatic bid.

We’re entering the tournament at 33-1 overall.

In terms of how the conference games went, our win over Southern Utah paints a pretty good picture:

Fifty two damn points. Vinnie Harmon dropped 52. Yes, that’s a program record. No, that wasn’t the only time he broke 40 — he also did it on several other occasions. I can’t remember another player who put up big scoring numbers as consistently as he did.

The end of season stats confirm what I suspected: this is the greatest scoring season in Western Illinois history:

Harmon averaged 27.5 points per game — just amazing. That’s the greatest scoring season I’ve ever seen from a ‘Neck. He finished third in the NCAA in points per game only because of some weird glitch that had two players with overall ratings in the 50s averaging close to 40 per game.

I noticed that Harmon has more than 2,200 points for his career. That’s a program record too, surprising the great Roberto ‘Jorts’ Djordjevic who played for us many years ago. He’s only going to add to that total during our tournament run.

Harmon basically took 3x as many shots as everyone else on the team, but shout-out to Doornekamp for still averaging double-figures and hitting 50 percent of his threes. We’re going to need him as much as Harmon for this tournament run.

We’re 33-1! What kind of seed are we going to get??

2040 NCAA tournament

We’re given a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. I thought we had a case for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, but we’ll take it. That’s our highest seed in many years.

Our opponent in the first round is No. 14 seed Hartford. Hartford is rated as a 77 overall. We’re rated as a 100 overall.

Here’s a look at our roster heading into the tournament:

It’s a roster that’s almost perfect. We have a dominant center in Harmon, a sweet-shooting two guard in Doornekamp, a 6’8 point guard in Pompey. I’m just worried Spanky Fanning, who is tied for our highest-rated player, won’t give us enough three-point shooting to ensure a long run. Having a knockdown shooter at the small forward position has been so critical during some of our earlier runs that I decide to make a change: sophomore Rob Borchardt, who projects as a straight 3-and-D guy, is moving into the starting lineup. Spanky will lead the bench.

Does it feel weird to bench your highest rated player on a team that’s 33-1? Well, yeah. But let’s see how it goes.

Hartford looks completely overmatched in this game. This better be an easy dub:

Win, 100-65. We’re onto the round of 32.

Hartford played valiantly in the first half, and we only led by four points at halftime. Fortunately, we blew the game open coming out of the break and went on to a blowout victory.

The Doornekamp-Harmon inside/outside combo was doing work. Scotty D. went 4-of-7 from three-point range and finished with 25 points. Harmon popped off for 23 points and 14 rebounds on 9-of-20 shooting. Randolph Pompey, our 6’8 point guard, just missed a double-double with eight points and 10 assists. I’m already giving him a Tyrese Haliburton comp.

As for replacing Spanky with Borchardt in the lineup …. we just didn’t look right in the first half. I’m starting to regret that move.

The win sets up a game with No. 6 seed Texas A&M in the round of 32

We draw the Aggies in the second round. They’re significantly better than Hartford, of course, but we’ll still have a noticeable talent advantage against them.

Before the game begins, we’re making a change to the starting lineup: Fanning is back, Borch is going to the bench. I think that was a galaxy brain substitution by coach in his old age. We looked better with Fanning on the floor against Hartford, so we’re hoping that continues.

Sweet 16 on the line. Let’s go!

Win, 96-77! For once, we didn’t have to rely on being a second half team. We crushed them right out of the gates.

This was just a really complete performance from our guys. Everyone contributed. All five starters finished in double-figures, led by another double-double from Vinnie Harmon (19 points, 13 rebounds). Doornekamp was able to hit shots and get to the line, while Pompey (13 points, seven assists, three steals) played another heady two-way game at point guard.

I also thought Fanning played a great all-around game, and really looks like the connective tissue of this team. He finished with 13 points, five assists, three rebounds, and two steals on 4-of-8 shooting.

Great team win. Let’s keep it rolling.

The win sets up a game vs. No. 2 seed Pepperdine in the Sweet 16

Pepperdine has built a great program in this sim and have been consistently getting top seeds in the tournament. They are basically what Gonzaga is IRL.

This will be our biggest challenge of the tournament so far. Can we punch our ticket to the Elite Eight? Let’s go!

Win, 103-95! It started to get a little scary in the second half, but we held on for the win.

The starters really carried us in this one. Harmon was amazing again in what was probably his best game of the tournament so far: 24 points, 13 rebonds, six assists, and five blocks on 10-of-16 shooting. He’s already the program’s all-time leading scorer and keeps adding to his reputation. If he carries us to a championship, does he have a GOAT case?

Harmon also did this in the game and I can’t stop thinking about it:

Absolute legend.

I love our backcourt so much, too. Randy P. popped off for 20 points and 13 assists with two steals and two blocks. Felt like one of the best point guard performances we’ve ever had. Doornekamp is just the picture of consistency. He finished with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Another great game for Spanky (15 points, four assists), and Ernesto Mack played well too. How about eight points and a couple of threes from D.J. Stapleton off the bench!?! I’m loving the way we’re coming together right now.

The win sets up a game with No. 4 seed West Virginia in the Elite Eight

The Mountaineers are loaded. They enter the game as a 98 overall. We’re a 100 overall.

West Virginia has a pretty sick roster. They are led by a pair of senior guards rated in the 90s, but it’s their front court that has us shook. WVU has a 7-foot power forward, a 7’1 center, and another 6’11 big man off the bench. Typically we have a huge size advantage in the front court, but that won’t be the case in this one.

I’m nervous. Final Four on the line. One time, ‘Neck Nation. One time. Let’s go!

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Win, 126-79! Holy hell, we dominated that game. It was such a blow out that we decided to sim to end in the second half.

Just look at our shooting numbers as a team: We hit 44-of-70 shots from the field (63 percent) and 17-of-23 shots from three-point range (74 percent). Did I mention we went 21-of-22 from the line, as well? We really couldn’t miss.

Everyone was so good that it feels foolish to call out individual performances, but let’s do a few shout-outs. RANDY. Our 6’8 lead guard went off for his second straight double-double with 15 points and 10 assists. He’s so good. Scotty D. hung 22 points on an absolutely effortless 5-of-6 shooting from three.

The two hooked up for this alley-oop early in the game:

Harmon couldn’t make a layup, but did go 11-for-11 from the foul line. All four members of our bench kicked ass too, with each of them finishing in double-figures in scoring.

That was such a killer performance. We’re onto the Final Four!

The win sets up a game with Baylor in the Final Four

Baylor enters as a 98 overall. We’re a 100 overall.

We lost in the Final Four last year and we can’t fathom getting so close only to fall short yet again. Baylor was a team we beat in the Sweet 16 last year, so I’m sure they have revenge on their mind.

We are so close to getting national title No. 8. Don’t stop now, boys. Let’s go!

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Win, 82-71! WE’RE IN THE NATIONAL TITLE GAME.

It wasn’t super pretty, but we got the job done. Scotty did it again. Doornekamp went off for 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting to carry us again offensively. We needed him in this one because Harmon had his first weak game of the tournament, finishing with only seven points but still adding 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Pompey and Fanning were great too. Randy went off for 15 points and six assists, while Spanky had 14 points and five assists on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor. Spanky is the king of the pump fake, apparently:

We could keep going, but why? We’re about to play for a national title. Let’s get it.

The win sets up a game with Louisville in the national championship

It’s been five years since we last won a national title. That’s a long time for this program.

If we want to catch John Wooden’s 10 national championships before the series ends after Year 40, we need to win this game to get No. 8 for us. We’re playing for all the ‘Necks who fell just short before us.

Only Louisville is standing between us and a title. Let’s go!

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Win, 82-73! Western Illinois are national champs!

Say it with me: second half team! Louisville looked great in the first half, rattling our guards with a full court press to take a four-point lead going into halftime. I was nervous, but I should have known our guys are always better in the final 20 minutes.

Scott Doornekamp put a bow on an amazing tournament run by dropping 21 points even when he was cold from three-point range (1-of-6). Pompey had his third double-double of the tournament run with 16 points and 11 assists. He also had four steals and a block. Gosh, I love having a 6’8 point guard.

Louisville made a run late to make it interesting in the final minutes. It was a connection from Randy P. to Scotty D. that sealed the win for us.

We haven’t even talked about Harmon yet. Another monster stat line of 18 points, 22 rebounds, but he needed 24 field goal attempts to get there. While this wasn’t his best game, Harmon was obviously incredible throughout this run. He was already the program’s all-time leading scorer. Now he has a national championship for his GOAT argument, too.

Did I mention he was named tournament Most Outstanding Player? If the Macomb Daily says it, it must be true.

Harmon ends his career with 2,452 total points. I’d like to imagine a 40-something Roberto Djordjevic was in the stands to see the torch get passed.

National title No. 8! We’ll have seven seasons left before the series ends after Year 40. We need two more national titles to tie John Wooden, and three to surpass him. Harmon and Fanning are graduating, but everyone else could be back. Scotty is projected as a first rounder, so we’ll see what does. If he returns, we’ll be thinking about going back-to-back next year.

Holy cow, we just had a 39-1 season. Maybe our best ever??? Let’s raise the banner!

Please clap for my photo editing skills.

Now it’s time to move onto the offseason.

Offseason

Recruiting

We have been recruiting for two scholarships all year. While we didn’t land anyone at the early signing period, we do have a player ready to commit on the first day of the spring signing period. Jerald Elliot, a 6’6 shooting guard out of Sacramento, is a ‘Neck.

I’m super excited about this one. Elliott is ranked as the No. 35 overall player in the class and the No. 9 player at his position. He averaged 14 points per game and hit 40.9 percent of his threes on the AAU circuit while also posting nice defensive stats. We needed a two-guard to go along with last year’s four-man class and we think Elliott is perfect for the job.

We lost out on Cecil Wilkins, the top-10 overall point guard prospect we offered, early in the season. We offered his scholarship to another shooting guard, Augustine Bruthelieus, as insurance in case we didn’t get Elliott. While we considered ditching our offer to Bruthelieus to search for a big man, he’s ready to commit and is the highest-rated player available.

Bruthelieus commits to Western Illinois a couple weeks later.

Bruthelieus is rated as the No. 42 overall player and No. 10 shooting guard. The San Diego native looks like he has some intriguing playmaking skills and may eventually end up getting moved to point guard.

I’m feeling good about this class! Now it’s time to make our schedule for next year:

Cyclone Challenge, @ Washington State, vs. Indiana, @ UConn, vs. Illinois, @ Michigan State, @ Colorado State, @ Purdue, vs. Ohio State, @ Arizona

Year 34

Here’s a first look at our roster for Year 34:

We start the year No. 4 in the polls.

Bruthelieus is rated as a 79 overall with C+ potential. Hell yeah. Elliott is a 76 overall with B- potential. Also very good. Both players will redshirt. We also have our sick freshman class from last year joining the rotation after redshirting. I’m super excited for them.

The next stream is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, March 8 at 8:30 p.m. on Twitch. Follow my channel for updates. Go ‘Necks.

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