The dust has settled, now it's time to get back to work.

Western Kentucky returned to the hardwood Thursday after a day off Wednesday, grateful to still be playing after a majority of the nation's teams have closed their lockers for the offseason.

"That's always the goal, to play when it's March and they're giving away trophies," WKU coach Ray Harper said. "You want to be playing your best basketball. This whole season, and it was difficult at times, we knew why it was difficult and there was very little we could do about it.

"I'm proud of the way they hung in there and stayed mentally tough and once we got guys healthy, I think you got a glimpse of what we were capable of."

The Hilltoppers (20-15), fresh off a second straight Sun Belt Conference tournament championship, have five days between their last win and when they find out their next opponent.

So until then, WKU must focus on itself and what it can do to improve.

"Just our normal routine," senior point guard Jamal Crook said. "Working on defensive principles, running over some plays, just all that type of drill stuff – ball-handling, getting some shots up and stuff like that.

"There's always room for improvement, especially on the offensive end, definitely on the defensive end, just going back and watching film. We had a few defensive breakdowns."

Western Kentucky may have had some defensive breakdowns, but defense was the reason for the season last weekend in Hot Springs, Ark.

The only team to play four games at the tourney, WKU held opponents to 59.5 ppg, a 38.2 percent shooting mark from the floor, 27.6 percent from 3-point range, blocked 15 shots and stole the ball 26 times.

And this tournament will long be remembered for Crook's miraculous steal in the final moments against South Alabama in the quarterfinals and T.J. Price's game-changing steal in the final minutes against Arkansas State in the semifinals.

Harper believes his team is playing its best defense of the season, he said.

"We're definitely starting to buy into it," Crook said. "Coach Harper and the thing he harps about a lot is defense and we've been doing a lot of that since we've been on this stretch. I think it was after the Arkansas State game (Feb. 9). We've just been locking in and just going over our defensive principles a lot."

The Hilltoppers will practice twice today, practice again Saturday, then gather Sunday with friends and fans to learn where, who and when they'll play next week.

Selection show watch party Sunday

Western Kentucky will host an NCAA tournament selection show watch party Sunday as the Hilltoppers find out their seed, opponent and destination for the upcoming NCAA tournament. The event is free and open to the public.

Doors open at 4 p.m. and concessions will be served. An introduction of the team starts at about 4:40 p.m. and the show will air on the arena's video boards on CBS beginning at 5 p.m.

Big Red and the cheerleaders will be in attendance and coaches and players will be available for autographs and pictures after the show.

NCAA tournament ticket reservations

The WKU ticket office is now accepting reservations for NCAA tournament tickets. Leading up to the announcement of the pairings on Sunday, fans can place a $10 reservation and list the number of tickets they anticipate using.

Upon the announcement, fans who placed a deposit will be contacted by a member of the WKU athletic department to determine if they are still interested in tickets. If so, the $10 deposit will be credited to the price of the tickets. If not, the $10 deposit will be refunded completely.

First priority on ticket allocation will be based on Hilltopper Athletic Foundation Priority Rank, however, the ticket office encourages fans to place a deposit to have the potential to purchase tickets.

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