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2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 17 Wichita State Shockers

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 30-9, 12-6 Missouri Valley (2nd); Lost in the Final Four to Louisville

Head Coach: Gregg Marshall (7th season at Wichita State: 139-70 overall, 66-42 MVC)

Key Losses: Carl Hall, Malcolm Armstead, Demetric Williams, Jake White, Ehimen Orukpe

Newcomers: Kadeem Coleby, Darius Carter, Ria’n Holland, Shaquille Morris, Zach Bush, Derail Green

Projected Lineup

G: Fred VanVleet, So.
G: Ron Baker, So.
F: Cleanthony Early, Sr.
F: Darius Carter, Jr.
C: Kadeem Coleby, Sr.
Bench: Evan Wessel, So.; Tekele Cotton, Jr.; Nick Wiggins, Sr.; Chadrick Lufile, Sr.

They’ll be good because …: Gregg Marshall is going to have a deep and talented back court at his disposal. It starts with Cleanthony Early, an athletic, 6-foot-8 small forward that is one of the more explosive scorers in the country. Most will remember Early’s NCAA tournament performance, but he also had some monster games (39 points in a win over Southern Illinois, for instance) during the regular season. Consistency, especially from deep, will be the key factor for early. He only averaged 13.9 points despite those big games, and outside of a 14-23 stretch from three in January, he shot 24% from deep.

But there’s so much more to like about this group. Fred VanVleet is a former top 100 recruit that should be able to take over for Malcolm Armstead at the point. NCAA tournament hero Ron Baker and Evan Wessel are both healthy after battling injuries all through last season. Tekele Cotton and Nick Wiggins, Andrew’s brother, are back in the mix as well. That’s a tough group of kids, all of whom have seen what it takes to make it to the Final Four.

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But they might disappoint because …: The Shockers lose the physical presence of Carl Hall around the bucket. Hall wasn’t exactly the second coming of Shaq, but he was a guy that could rebound the ball and score with his back to the basket. That’ll hurt, but they do add Kadeem Coleby, who averaged 9.6 points and 4.9 boards in 2011-2012 at Louisiana-Lafayette before transferring, and Marshall also brought in the No. 8 JuCo recruit in the country in Darius Carter.

There isn’t much experienced depth in the front court, either. Marshall has some big bodies that are either new to college basketball or have been ineffective in their time in Wichita. There are ways around this, like playing Early more minutes at the four to get more shooters and scorers on the floor on the perimeter, but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially if Coleby or Carter get into foul trouble early in games.

Outlook: On paper, the Shockers are the class of the Missouri Valley, talented and experienced enough that a season that ends in anything other than a league title and a trip to the NCAA tournament would be a major disappointment. On paper, this is a group that deserves the preseason top 25 ranking that they will get. On paper, another trip to the Sweet 16 shouldn’t be all that surprising.

But for that to happen, a couple of things need to occur. For starters, VanVleet needs to be able to embrace the leadership, decision-making and playmaking role that’s been vacated by Armstead. The Shockers also need to stay healthy, something that was easier said than done for Marshall’s team last season. Hall missed some time with a broken thumb, and Wessel and Baker combined for 26 games between them. Most importantly, however, Wichita State needs to avoid complacency. They can’t buy into the hype. They can’t allow some preseason accolades following last year’s surprising run to Atlanta to keep them from the ‘Play Angry’ mantra.

The Missouri Valley is always going to be a wild conference. Those road games are never going to be easy to win. Expecting to win simply by walking on the court could cost the Shockers dearly.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.