Western Illinois, Year 25, 2031-2032


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.

Before we begin the new season, here’s a recap of everything that happened last year:

  • Western Illinois set out to win back-to-back national championships for the first time in school history after our Cinderella run to a title as a No. 13 seed in Year 23. We started the new year 5-5 in the non-conference schedule before again sweeping the Summit League and winning the Summit League tournament. We were given a No. 10 seed in the big dance.
  • We beat No. 7 Pitt, 100-93, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. We were beat by No. 2 seed South Florida, 80-72, in the second round.
  • We recruited for five scholarships, and landed three players: four-star shooting guard Neil Modrovich, and three-star centers Daron Coulter and C.J. Cesar.

Here’s a look at the roster heading into Year 25:

Former national championship heroes Jitim Dupree, Koko Reeves, and Edwin Wolfe have graduated. We’re now fully turning over the program to the highest-rated recruiting class in school history.

When Dick Copeland, J.J. Bracy, Alexis Willingham, and Skip Clemmons enrolled in Western Illinois together, they were rated as the No. 5 recruiting class in the country. Willingham and Clemmons now enter the starting lineup for the first time as juniors after both proved themselves as key bench pieces the last two years. They’re joined on the perimeter by the highest-rated recruit in program history — sophomore shooting guard Albert Jagla.

This team has tremendous pedigree and should see lots of internal improvement during the year, but there are still some potential shortcomings looming. Let’s meet the starting lineup:

  • PG Alexis Willingham, redshirt junior, 90 overall: Willingham proved himself immediately by dropping 15 points in the national championship game as a freshman. Now it’s finally time to see what he can do as a full-time starter as he enters his junior season. The 6’5 lead guard can do it all on the court: he’s a good outside shooter, uses his size to pass over the top of opposing defenders, and loves to play the passing lanes on defense. In terms of size, talent, and skill set, he has a chance to go down as a top-three point guard in program history by the time his career’s over. Projected first round pick. Former No. 68 overall recruit with C+ potential.
  • SG Albert Jagla, redshirt sophomore, 86 overall: The former No. 17 overall recruit, Jagla is the highest-rated high school prospect in Leathernecks history. The 6’4 shooting guard (he grew an inch over the summer) looked like a microwave scorer as a freshman off the bench last season, and he’s about to step into a featured role. Jagla has the highest quickness rating on the team, and is also one of our best shooters. Are we a bit worried about our defense with two scrawny guards starting in the backcourt? Sure. But Jagla has the potential to be one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers in program history. We can’t wait to watch him work. B+ potential.
  • SF Skip Clemmons, redshirt junior, 89 overall: Clemmons is massive for a natural shooting guard at 6’9, 252 pounds (he also grew an inch over the summer). He’s bigger than our starting center! Clemmons showed big game ability during our brief tournament run last year, hitting outside shots and being a terror on defense. We have high hopes for him. Former No. 38 overall recruit with C potential.
  • PF J.J. Bracy, redshirt junior, 91 overall: Bracy has a fascinating all-around skill set. He’s the highest-rated shot blocker in program history (95 rating), while also being a very good rebounder, an excellent passer, and a capable shooter. He’s also a little undersized for a four at 6’8, 222 pounds, and often hasn’t been aggressive looking for his own offense. No one is forgetting the goose egg he put up in our round of 32 loss to South Florida last year. As the second high-rated recruit in program history at No. 24 overall, we need to see the full scope of his talent this year. C+ potential.
  • C Dick Copeland, redshirt junior, 92 overall: Copeland is in a fascinating position for what’s likely to be his final season with the Leathernecks. He has the highest potential rating (A) in program history, and was also the highest-rated center recruit (No. 2 at the position) we’ve ever had at the time of his commitment. As a 6’8 high schooler, we were hoping he would grow once he got into the program like so many of our other players have. It didn’t happen. Now he’s a skilled but undersized big man who felt like a liability in our stream games last year. Can he finally live up to his potential this season? Former No. 114 overall recruit.

We’re going to have four players off the bench after making a last-minute decision to keep play a true freshman for the second year in a row. Our sixth man will be 7-foot center Cecil Sinville, a former No. 1 recruit at his position, who gives us some badly needed size and athleticism in the middle as a true sophomore. Nic Cummings, a 6’7 small forward, and Goran Kent, a 6’5 point guard, give us a pair of developing redshirt freshmen in the rotation. We think both should be solid contributors down the line, but they’re going to have to step up early in their careers because our bench is so thin this season. We’ve also decided to play Neil Modrovich, a four-star shooting guard out of Cleveland, as a redshirt freshmen. Modrovich is already one of the team’s best three-point shooters, and is unlikely to stay five years anyway since he has A- potential.

Here’s a full look at the three freshmen we’re bringing in this season, from last week’s post:

SG Neil Modrovich: 74 overall, A- potential. We’re thrilled to see Modrovich looks like he’s going to be awesome. I believe it’s the first time in program history we’ve had a guard with a potential rating this high. Former No. 62 overall recruit.

C Daron Coulter: 75 overall, C potential. Coulter has already grown an inch to 7’3, which means he’s the tallest player in program history before he’s ever played a game. He should be an excellent five-year big man for us. Landing him was a major addition for our future. Former No. 196 overall recruit.

C C.J. Cesar: 74 overall, B- potential. Cesar is moving to power forward, where he maintains as a 74 overall. He’s limited as an outside shooter (50 three-point rating), but he’s already an A- in strength, and looks like he’ll be a great offensive rebounder. Former No. 210 overall recruit.

Recruiting

We have two scholarships to recruit for this season, both of which are rolled over from last year’s misses. I think we need a wing and a point guard to eventually pair with Modrovich, Coulter, and Cesar down the road. After scanning the available options, I decide to offer these two players:

  • PG Junior Vasquez, ranked No. 18 overall and No. 8 at his position
  • SF Warren Schultz, ranked No. 107 overall and No. 25 at his position

Vasquez, a 6’2 point guard out of Mexico who is considered a domestic (read: not international) recruit, currently has no other suitors at the start of the recruiting process. He’d be our second-highest rated player ever if we can somehow land him. Schultz, a Jacksonville native, has a more modest ranking as a three-star recruit, but looks like he could be a major sleeper: in addition to being the year’s tallest small forward recruit at 6’8, he also put up tremendous numbers on the ABL circuit, averaging nearly 17 points per game on better than 44 percent three-point shooting.

We also have three recruits to create this year. Readers Aaron and Eric tied atop last year’s bracket contest, so we’ll give each a recruit. We’re also creating a player for the winner of the Leathernecks trivia contest we held on our fan-started Instagram account. Here’s what the winners sent me:

From reader Aaron:

Go ahead and create me in the likeness of the humble, quiet, consistent, do it all 5 time champ – Tim Duncan. Figure I’ve always wanted to be tall and Duncan’s on court demeanor and work ethics fits my personality.

– 6’11 Power Forward / Center

– Great defense and rim protection

– Awesome rebounder and finisher around the basket to mid range

– Minimal long range, basically no 3 point range and just ok from the line

Can make him a clean cut dude from Peoria, IL – no frills on accessories like arm bands or jewelry. We are focused on basketball and winning only!

From reader Eric:

As for my create-a-player, not sure if you could use his name, but Jimmer Fredette?!?!? Heck that is my username in the bracket challenge! If you don’t want to use his name, put mine in and use his psychical attributes, high scoring, great three point shooter and no defense!!!

From the trivia contest winner:

I was thinking about it a bit and would love to honor my favorite CBB player of all time, Drew Neitzel. So maybe his fictional son- Garret Neitzel, a 6’2 lefty combo guard from Michigan who can shoot the heck out of the ball as well as make plays off the dribble. Moderate athleticism and good potential. Most importantly, needs a sleeve on the left leg like the legend himself!

Done, done, and done. As always, we don’t go after created recruits at Western Illinois to preserve the integrity of the game.

We begin the year rated as a 97 overall and unranked in the polls. We streamed the regular season on Twitch on Sunday night. Click that link to rewatch it. There will be info below on how to join our next Twitch stream — we’re always welcoming new fans to join our fun community.

Let’s go!

First game: @ Illinois

There’s no better way to open a season than against our in-state rivals from Champaign. The Illini had a slow start during this simulation, but have been consistently competing for a tournament spot in more recent years. This is going to be a real test on opening night.

Loss, 101-59. Oh my goodness, we got smoked. Just a disaster of a performance all around — terrible shooting, too many fouls, and we got crushed on the glass. I can’t remember such a big ass whooping in our season-opener before. Let’s hope that’s not a sign of things to come.

Next up we have another local school: Loyola (IL). Real life has been more successful than our simulation for Loyola — they have zero Final Four appearances in our dynasty so far — so this is a game we need to win against a (then-) Horizon League team.

Win, 98-73. Lots of great individual performances in this one, with Bracy scoring 19 points, and Copeland and Willingham each scoring 18. How about Goran Kent with 11 points in 11 minutes? Really didn’t expect that out of the lowest-rated player on the team (74 overall) so early in the season. We have three games next week.

Now we have Tennessee. Vols basketball has been reignited by breakout sophomore wing Luke Gloeckner Jr. For the uninformed, Luke is a long-time Twitch commenter who was inspired by our series to start his own project playing NCAA Football ‘14 with Akron. Sign up for his newsletter here. ‘Coach Luke’ as he’s known on the streams is such a beloved figure in the community that he was created by a former bracket contest winner. We streamed this game on Twitch:

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Loss, 97-87. Ugh. Our ‘Necks are supposed to be a second half team, but we fell apart out of halftime in this one. Twitch commenter 808s and Milkshakes wrote a great breakdown over at our subreddit (sign up!), so I’ll let him recap this one:

5 Good Things vs. Tennessee

  • Skip Clemmons at the 3: SKIP THE RIP dominated in his wing minutes. His size advantage allows him to rise up and get a clean look at any time, and he smothered his opposing SF
  • Big minutes for Sin City: Cecil was clearly the Necks most effective Center. Provided strong rim protection and took advantage any time he was fed with a size mismatch. Displayed some range with the jumper as well
  • Albert Jagla in the passing lane: Jagla was an absolute thief with 4 deflections and a coupla steals
  • Bracy with the 2nd Unit: The initial sub unit (Kent, MODGOD, Cummings, Bracy, and Sinville) required JJ to provide more offense. All 6 of his points came with this first half lineup, including a pretty pump fake and drive to finish at the cup from the left wing.
  • Neil Modrovich from deep: the MODGOD knocked down three treys with a high release – he’s clearly a weapon off the bench

3 Not-so-good Things

  • Goran Kent: dribbled the ball off his foot, 2 Turnovers, 1 missed layup. He’ll contribute eventually. He shouldn’t see the floor in the tournament
  • Point Guard Depth: There’s no clear backup at the 1. Albert Jagla will likely need to give the Necks 5 good minutes per game. Does Alexis Willingham need to play 40 minutes?
  • Modrovich’s defense: the MODGOD is just too skinny to handle opposing 2-guards right now. God help him if he gets switched on a big

Read the full post on Reddit here, but it will include spoilers on the end of our regular season. Excellent observations all around.

Next we face SMU. This is a game we have to win while sitting at 1-2 overall.

Win, 90-70. All five starters in double-figures! Great to see Willingham pop off for 20 points, and Jagla hang 19 points. We have so much firepower on our perimeter, and that’s what really excites me if we can again make it into the NCAA tournament field.

We close out the week with Kansas State. I have nothing exciting to say about the Wildcats, and haven’t really noticed them much during our sim. We scheduled this game to try to get an easy win against the power-five conference team on the road to help boost our RPI. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.

Win, 54-44! How many times do you win a game when you shoot 15-of-50 from the field and 1-for-14 from three-point range? Sheesh. It certainly wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it. I am never looking at that box score again.

Now it’s signing week. We remain the only offer for Vasquez, but he’s much more interested in Florida State and Miami. We’re just going to have to hope they don’t have an available offer for him. Meanwhile, it looks like we *should* land Schultz but you never know.

Next up we have South Florida. The Bulls knocked us out of the NCAA tournament in the round of 32 last season, and made it all the way to the national title game before losing to Maryland. Can we get some revenge for what they did to us last March?

Loss, 61-60. Woof. USF really has our number, apparently. Jagla getting into early foul trouble certainly didn’t help. We also need to rebound better. Our defense was really good — 16 combined blocks and steals! — but our offense needs to be better. We also have an early conference game this week against UMKC, which we win easily.

Some news from signing day: Warren Schultz is a Leatherneck!

The size, the shooting, the scoring numbers: it’s all excellent. We really think he’ll out-perform his ranking as the No. 107 overall recruit and the No. 25 player at his position. I’m really excited about this one — I’ll predict right now that Schultz is a big piece of our future.

Unfortunately, Junior Vasquez will not be a Leatherneck. He gets an offer from Florida State that he likes much our than ours. We drop him and offer Duncan Martinez, a 6’2 point guard out of Chicago who is ranked as the No. 69 overall player and the No. 28 overall player at his position in his class. Rebounding from a missed big swing with a top-70 kid would be extremely good for us.

Next up we have Boston College. This game was scheduled with the intent of another good-looking win for the RPI, but I think we forgot that BC has been pretty solid in this sim. I’m already regretting this.

Loss, 70-63. Bummer. Willingham fouls out in just 18 minutes — we simply don’t have the backcourt depth to win a game against a good team when that happens. I would have liked to see more from Jagla. Would have been a nice night for Clemmons to go supernova, too. Didn’t happen. Oh well.

Next up we face CSU Bakersfield in an in-season tournament.

Loss, 84-76. Oh no. That’s our worst defeat of the season, and has me scared we could come up short in the conference tournament. This was another game where we battled serious foul trouble, with Clemmons and Copeland fouling out. What’s up with Bracy shooting 1-of-9 from the field? At least he had 11 rebounds and five blocks, I guess. He is such a unique player. Willingham and Sinville were excellent, but this is a game we just can’t lose. Terrible.

Now we’re onto the loser’s bracket. We face Chattanooga. OK, this has to be a win.

Win, 72-53. Clemmons killing it with 20 points, and Copeland adding 18 points and 13 rebounds. Nice bounce-back win. Let’s keep going.

Our final game of the regular season is against Virginia Tech. Any ACC opponent is going to be tough, so I really want to win this one before heading into conference play.

Win, 85-71. Great to see us jump out to a big lead and deny their comeback attempt in the second half. Five scorers reached double-figures in the win, including our true freshman Neil Modrovich, who went off for 10 points and hit a couple threes. We love to see it.

Non-conference play is over; it’s time to face the Summit League schedule. We’ve finished a perfect 18-0 in conference play for …. many seasons in a row at this point (someone want to do the research for me?). Can we do it again?

Yes we can. We finish undefeated in conference play and will enter the Summit League tournament at 23-5 overall. Before we get to the conference tournament, let’s check our end-of-season stats:

Our center leads us in scoring almost every year (no idea why this happens when my offense is set to ‘all plays’), and Copeland has done it again this year. Very solid numbers for the big man, but he’ll have to prove it in March to avoid going down as a pseudo-bust at WIU. Good to see Skip Clemmons put up big scoring numbers, too. I feel like he has a chance to be an all-time great stream team player because of his size and shooting touch.

On the recruiting front, Duncan Martinez is all set to commit on the first day of the spring signing period. That means both of our available scholarships will be filled. I’m really excited about both players in next year’s incoming class.

It would be super fun to watch this team in March, but we need to win the conference tournament to get in first.

2032 Summit League tournament

Our first game is against North Dakota State.

Win, 123-67. Clemmons scored 30 (!), Jagla finished two assists shy of the triple-double, and seven players total finished in double-figures. Even Nic Cummings had 13 points! He’s been quietly developing into a good looking player on our bench all season. We face IUPUI in the semfinals.

Win, 78-65. Another balanced scoring effort, with Copeland and Clemmons each scoring 14, and Jagla and Bracy each scoring 13. We face Southern Utah in the championship game:

Win, 91-62. We’re going to the NCAA tournament!

I’d like to think this team is peaking at the right time. I’m really hoping we get a manageable path through March.

2032 NCAA tournament

We’re a No. 12 seed in the NCAA tournament, facing No. 5 seed Seton Hall in the first round.

Here’s a look at our roster heading into March Madness:

We’re entering with five players rated in the 90s, and with a terrific sixth man in Sinville. Yes, our starting front line is a little undersized. No, we don’t have much depth. But I love the Willingham-Jagla-Clemmons perimeter trio. They feel as talented as any perimeter attack we’ve ever had. All three have size, shooting, and ability to get into the passing lanes on defense. We’ll go as far as they take us.

Seton Hall looks really good. You can see the Pirates’ roster here. While they only have one player rated in the 90s, they have nine players rated in the 80s. That makes SHU much deeper than us, while we have the edge in top-end talent. It’s also worth noting they don’t have much size up front. Hall enters the game as a 97 overall. We enter as a 99 overall.

The winner would face whoever comes out of the No. 4 seed Wisconsin vs. No. 13 seed Niagara matchup. Kansas, Tennessee, and No. 1 seed Stanford could all potentially be waiting in the Sweet 16, if we can make it that far.

I think this the region of death, though that’s probably mostly because it’s the region with an NBA factory that has four national titles in it as a No. 12 seed. Even still, this feels like a super difficult draw.

You can watch the Leathernecks in the 2032 NCAA tournament on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Twitch. But first, let’s do another bracket contest.

Join our bracket contest!

We’ve been running a bracket contest for the last few seasons, and it’s been a ton of fun. We’re opening it up to anyone who wants to enter as long as you turn in your bracket before we stream our first NCAA tournament game on Monday, Oct. 12 at 8:30 p.m. on Twitch.

Here’s a look at the full 2032 NCAA tournament bracket:

How does scoring work?

We use a standard scoring format. You get one point for correctly guessing the winner in a first round game, two points for correctly a winner in a round of 32 game, four points for correctly guessing a winner in a Sweet 16 game, eight points for correctly guessing a winner in an Elite Eight game, 16 points for correctly guessing a winner in the Final Four, and 32 points for correctly guessing the national champion.

Can I see the rosters for the other teams?

Yes. You can scroll through the rosters on the left side of the bracket here. The rosters for the right side of the bracket are here. Just click on one of them and arrow through each.

How do I enter?

1. Click this link to open the interactive bracket.

2. After opening, in the top left select File > Make a Copy

3. Make your picks

4. In the top left, select File and either “Share” and share with sean@hoopsinsight.com or “Email as attachment” and email as an Excel file (not PDF please!) to sean@hoopsinsight.com

Once your picks are entered, you can track scoring with Sean’s Blog Team app that works on desktop and mobile.

What does the winner get?

The winner gets to create themselves or a character as a five-star recruit ahead of next season. We won’t go after the created recruits at Western Illinois to preserve the integrity of the game, but we’ll follow the career of your character throughout our series.

Also sign-up for Sean’s new Hoops Hindsight newsletter!

The bracket contests we run wouldn’t be possible without Sean’s help. He just launched a great newsletter looking back at some of the most iconic college basketball teams of the recent past. His first post is on perhaps the greatest team ever to not win a national championship: 2015 Kentucky. Subscribe now.

Please enter the bracket contest and join us on Thursday, because it’s going to be really fun. Here’s how you can watch Western Illinois vs. Seton Hall in the NCAA tournament on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 8:30 p.m. on Twitch.

No. 12 seed Western Illinois vs. No. 5 seed Seton Hall, first round, 2032 NCAA tournament

Game: No. 12 seed Western Illinois vs. No. 5 seed Seton Hall, first round, 2032 NCAA tournament

How to watch: My Twitch channel. You don’t need to sign up for anything to watch, but you do need to register for an account to comment. Do it, it’s fun.

Date: Thursday, Oct. 22 at 8:30 p.m. on Twitch

Tip-off time: 8:30 p.m. ET

If we win: We’ll face the winner of No. 4 seed Wisconsin vs. No. 13 seed Niagara in the round of 32 immediately following the first round game.

For email alerts on this series, sign up here.





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