Breaking Down the Evansville Purple Aces Roller Coaster of a Season

TERRE HAUTE, IN - JANUARY 15: Evansville Purple Aces forward John Hall (35) stretches out near mid-court before the start of the Missouri Valley Conference college basketball game between the Evansville Purple Aces and the Indiana State Sycamores on January 15, 2020, at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Evansville Purple Aces looked like they were going to be a surprise mid-major this season. Their upset of Kentucky when they were ranked number one made headlines. They were undefeated and getting national attention. Now, Evansville is trying to pick up the pieces after letting go of coach Walter McCarty.

Evansville Purple Aces Facing Roller Coaster Season

The Upset

The expectations for Evansville were low coming into the season. The Purple Aces finished last season at 11-21 in McCarty’s first season. The preseason polls slated the Purple Aces near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference. However, Evansville then strode into Lexington, Kentucky and shocked the Wildcats. The team started to receive votes in the AP Poll. Optimism began to spread about this team being ahead of schedule.

Back to Earth

As the hype began to fade, so did Evansville’s dream start. The Purple Aces lost three in a row to SMU, East Carolina and George Washington. They managed to salvage their appearance in the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase by beating Morgan State in three overtimes.

After suffering through the losing streak, Evansville managed to right the ship once again. Including the victory over Morgan State, the Purple Aces won six of seven heading into Christmas. That included a victory over current Ohio Valley leader Murray State. Then, the team dropped a bombshell.

Coaching Troubles

A few days after the Christmas holiday, the university announced it was placing head coach Walter McCarty on administrative leave. Reports surfaced of allegations of sexual misconduct and Title IX violations. This was a shock to the college basketball world. Assistant Coach Bennie Seltzer was chosen as the interim coach. He was the only coach on the staff with prior head coaching experience, spending some time at Samford.

Evansville has spiraled on the court ever since the announcement of the allegations. The Purple Aces have lost six straight games, all during conference play. The team is now 9-10 and has lost those conference games by an average margin of 17 points.

New Direction

The latest news out of Evansville came on January 21st with the announcement of McCarty’s firing. In a statement, the university said “additional reports of alleged misconduct” led to the decision. The university also revealed that they had warned McCarty last year about “inappropriate off-court behavior with members of the campus community.” The full investigation is still ongoing.

The school did not waste time in finding a replacement. A few hours after the announcement of McCarty’s firing, Todd Lickliter was hired as the new head coach. Lickliter has prior head coaching experience at Iowa and Butler. He led the Bulldogs to two Sweet 16 appearances. Lickliter was an assistant on McCarty’s staff last season before stepping away for health reasons.

Outlook

Evansville has gone from a potential Cinderella to a team looking to regroup. The Purple Aces looked like they had a chance to end their 21-year tournament drought. Now, the team is looking to salvage a winning record and respectable finish in their conference.

Evansville is a private university. The school is not required to respond to requests for information. This means that we may never hear the full story of what happened with McCarty. However, the firing of McCarty is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the university will help the victims as the investigation continues.

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