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Get To Know A Marquette Basketball Opponent: Western Carolina

At least they’re not pretending to be a place that doesn’t exist, like their cousins in the east.

NCAA Basketball: Southern Conference Tournament-Wofford vs Western Carolina
Western Carolina’s mascot is kind of awesome.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Western Carolina University

Location: Cullowhee, North Carolina

That wasn’t exactly helpful. Cullowhee is about an hour’s drive southwest through the Smoky Mountains from Asheville. Well, it’s an hour if you take I-40, it’s two hours if you take the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Ok, where’s Asheville, smart guy? As Andrew Rowsey will tell you, it’s the western most major city in North Carolina. You know how North Carolina kind of looks like a parallelogram? Asheville is in the bottom left corner, and Cullowhee is even further southwest into the corner.

Established: 1889

The Chancellor probably doesn’t know a good burger joint: WCU’s chancellor is David O. Belcher. Because he’s presumably a real person and not a cartoon, I have to presume he’s of no relation to Bob Belcher, who runs a burger restaurant in .... actually, the town on Bob’s Burgers doesn’t appear to have a name. This bit was funnier when I didn’t have to explain this.

Enrollment: 8,787 undergraduates, 1,595 postgraduate students.

Nickname: Catamounts

Why “Catamounts?” Via CatamountSports.com, the official WCU athletics page:

The nickname evolved from a contest that was held on the Cullowhee campus in 1933. At the time, the school was called "Western Carolina Teachers College" and its teams were known as "the Teachers."

Everyone on campus was invited to participate in the naming of the teams. The usual names were suggested -- Bears, Indians, Panthers. However, the college wanted an unusual name, a name that few others had and that everyone would not copy.

The contest came down to Mountain Boomers, a small ground squirrel that scampers about the woods and is extremely difficult to catch, and Catamounts. The latter was the favorite of Head Football Coach C.C. Poindexter and was the nickname chosen. Poindexter wanted his players to be Catamounts with "fierce spirit, savage attacks, and lightning quick moves."

Typical football, thinking they get to boss everyone else around. Pretty much.

Mountain Boomers would be pretty awesome, wouldn’t it? Oh yeah.

Do you like three point baskets? Then you like Western Carolina. WCU’s Ronnie Carr became the first NCAA player to ever make a three point basket when he drained a jumper with 16:09 left in the first half against Middle Tennessee State on November 29, 1980. It was only an experimental concept at the time, and only the Southern Conference was allowed to use the three pointer that season. The ball that Carr shot for that historic basket is on display at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Notable Alumni: comedian Rich Hall; Paul Johnson, head football coach at Georgia Tech; Henry Logan, who broke the North Carolina collegiate racial barrier in 1964; NBA player Kevin Martin; Three time Super Bowl champion David Patten; and humorist and author David Sedaris.

Last Season: 16-18, but only 13-18 against Division 1 teams. WCU went 10-8 in the SoCon, and earned a bid to the CBI. They lost on the road in the first round to Vermont in a battle of the only two schools in the country with Catamounts as their nickname.

This Season: 2-4, but only 1-4 against Division 1 opponents.

Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #195

Current KenPom Ranking: #317

Stat Leaders

Points: Haboubacar Mutombo, 10.8 ppg
Rebounds: Haboubacar Mutombo, 7.8 rpg
Assists: Devin Peterson, 2.3 apg

Big Man? Mutombo is 6’5, 195 lb., so Marquette should be able to keep him from hitting his average in rebounding. They do have 6’9” Charlendez Brooks, 6’8” Yalim Olcay, and 6’8” Adam Sledd, but only Olcay plays more than 10 minutes per game.

Head Coach: Larry Hunter, in his 12th season at WCU and 24th season overall. He has a 173-192 record at Western Carolina, and a 379-340 record overall.

All Time Series: Marquette holds a 4-0 advantage over the Catamounts. The most recent meeting came in the 2008-09 season, with Marquette prevailing, 97-77.