No. 19 Wichita State may very well be the hottest team in the country right now.
Heading into their Saturday afternoon date with Drake, the Shockers had lost just a single game in the 2012 calender year, a triple-overtime defeat to the Bulldogs on the road. I think its safe to say that Wichita State avenged that loss, and they manhandled Drake in Charles Koch Arena 81-58.
It completed what was a thoroughly dominating performance in a very good Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers went 16-2 in the league, winning 16 of the last 17 games and taking home the league title by two games.
What’s more impressive is that they have been playing their best basketball of late. They have won their last six games by an average of 20.7 ppg. The worst team they have beaten in that stretch is currently sitting at 8-9 in the Valley. Included in that stretch is a 21 point win at Creighton and a 17 point win at a good Davidson team in BracketBusters play.
The Shockers are balanced offensively, they are scoring the ball as well and as quickly as they have under Marshall and they are still playing an elite level of defense. Throw in the fact that they have plenty of size inside, a number of terrific three point shooters and the most experience of any team with a chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament, and you get an idea of why every analyst in the country is telling you to keep an eye on this team in the NCAA Tournament.
If they do make a run, don’t call them a cinderella.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.