(photo courtesy of WKU News)
I am not sure how long the Rick Stansbury tenure is going to last at Western Kentucky, and as an alum, my red flags have been going up over the last couple years following the debacle that was Mitchell Robinson and the recent commit of a Top 10 player into this year’s class. There is nothing me, as a fan, can do about it but ride this new wave of elite players and hope for the best. But I am worried what will be at the end of this road. Nonetheless, Stansbury has begun to make WKU relevant again on the college basketball scene in this state and he is doing so with some brashness. With Pitino gone at Louisville, this state needs another “hold nothing back” coach and Stansbury might fill that void.
Now, this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer has Stansbury advocating for something of an interesting idea: a Kentucky-only college basketball tournament:
“I wish we could come up with some kind of tournament,” he said Monday night. “… How we could get Kentucky and Louisville, ourself and another school in a tournament somewhere. It’d be great for everybody.”
Now, currently there are 7 Division-1 basketball programs in the state: UK, UL, WKU, EKU, Murray, Morehead, Northern. So how would you choose the 4th school would be an interesting decision but I would assume Murray would be considered the 4th best program in the state right now with NKU close behind. But either way, games against in-state competition is something I have always craved and wish happened more often. UK hasn’t played WKU in a non-tournament setting since 2002. They have only played Morehead State 4 times since 2000. They have NEVER played Murray State. So forcing some kind of event would be great.
I think what you would need to see is something like they do with the Crossroads Classic in Indiana. Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, and Indiana play a rotating series every year in Indianapolis. Since Purdue and Indiana are already conference opponents, they don’t play but instead rotate between playing the Irish and Bulldogs every other year. You could do that for this Kentucky series as well. Kentucky and Louisville don’t play as part of the series but rather rotate playing WKU and the other chosen school every year. Maybe you rotate who the 4th school is every 2 years?
Either way, having the big boys play the smaller schools in the state is a wonderful idea. Replace Siena and Marist on the schedule and put a Murray State. The quality of opponent doesn’t change, thus no RPI damage. And the fans around the state are far more invested. Win-Win.
I hope Rick Stansbury doesn’t let this go and the schools he suggested can work together to make this happen. History shows us that probably won’t happen but I like the brashness of the coach in Bowling Green to say so.