Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.
Gotta have it list-topper: A return to full strength
There aren’t many teams in the country that have lost three starters to injuries to this point in the season, but the Shockers are one of them. Carl Hall, one of the Missouri Valley’s best players, is out with a broken thumb while Ron Baker was recently ruled out due to a stress fracture in his foot and Evan Wessel has a broken pinky. For a team that’s 10-1 on the season and has won its games by an average margin of 12.2 points, the best thing to ask for is that Gregg Marshall’s charges are at full strength when MVC play begins.
Stocking stuffer: Malcolm Armstead gets going
The Oregon transfer hasn’t shot the ball particularly well in his first season playing for the Shockers, as he’s making just 38.2% of his shots from the field. Over the last five games he’s shooting 37.1%, and with the three starters mentioned above out of the lineup Wichita State will need Armstead to improve his offensive output. With one game remaining (Southern Miss) before the beginning of conference play, there would be no better time for Armstead to get going than Saturday night.
Planning on re-gifting: Long-range marksmanship
Shooting from beyond the arc has been a struggled for Wichita State thus far, as the Shockers are making just 31.9% of their three-pointers. Of the players currently healthy the majority of the shot attempts from deep will come from Armstead (31.6%), Cleanthony Early (21.9%) and Demetric Williams (42.3%). With Baker (team-best 16 three-pointers) and Wessel (45.8%) out the Shockers will need Armstead and early to improve their success rate. If that happens, Wichita State will be more than ready to contend in the Missouri Valley once their injured starters return to the lineup.
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.