How much better would the Hilltoppers be this season if Mitchell Robinson had avoided the year's weirdest recruiting saga?
One of the most convoluted recruitments in recent memory drew to a close in September when Mitchell Robinson said he would leave Western Kentucky and begin preparing for the draft. The No. 8 prospect in the class of 2017 Recruiting Services Consensus Index, a composite that incorporates data from multiple services, Robinson originally committed to the Hilltoppers in June 2016, the same month the program hired his godfather Shammond Williams as an assistant coach. About a year later, after Williams reportedly resigned from head coach Rick Stansbury’s staff, Robinson left campus and took visits to several schools before returning to Western Kentucky. He ultimately decided to bypass college in order to focus on getting ready for his professional career.
Had he honored his pledge to the Hilltoppers, Robinson would have wreaked havoc on Conference USA opponents. He’s a big-time shot-blocker and rebounder with the capacity to drastically elevate Western Kentucky’s defense and offense. SI projects he would have put up 17.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
His presence would have turned the Hilltoppers into one of the 50 best teams in Division I, according to our projections. Without Robinson, our model pegs them as CUSA’s No. 2 team, behind Middle Tennessee, and has them ranked 100th in the country. This is still a quality mid-major team, fortified with high-major talent like Virginia transfer Darius Thompson and Kansas transfer Dwight Coleby, plus Buffalo import Lamonte Bearden, who ranked second in the MAC in assist rate and first in steal rate during conference play in 2015–16 before sitting out last season.
It’s important to note that we’re operating under the assumption that potential eligibility issues involving two of Western Kentucky’s projected rotation players will be resolved: Josh Anderson, a 6' 6" guard from Baton Rouge, La., rated No. 62 in the class of 2017 RSCI, and Moustapha Diagne, a 6' 9" redshirt sophomore who initially committed to Syracuse as a member of the class of 2015 and spent a year at junior college (Northwest Florida State) before making his way to Bowling Green, Ky. If either Anderson or Diagne is unavailable, the Hilltoppers’ projected ranking would fall further.