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.

source: Getty Images

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.

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Louisville’s Mitchell declaring for draft, won’t hire an agent

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Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell is the latest to decide to see what the NBA might offer.

“I have decided to test the waters and not hire an agent!” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “I am excited to work out this summer for teams and hopefully participate in the NBA combine! I want it to be clear I have not decided to leave Louisville!”

Mitchell, who is expected to be joined by dozens of players, is taking advantage of new NCAA rules that allow him to work out for teams and attend the NBA draft combine before making a decision on whether to remain in the draft and return to school.

Players have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore, shooting 40.8 percent overall and 35.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

The 6-foot-3 guard is projected as a potential first-round pick, but should he return, the Cardinals would project as one of the top teams in the country with nearly the entire core returning from this year’s 25-9 squad.