In the aftermath of their run to the 2013 Final Four, many wondered what Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State Shockers would do for an encore. While they lost guard Malcolm Armstead from last season’s group many of the other key contributors returned, and to this point in the season those returnees have strung together 21 consecutive victories with their 78-61 win at Drake being the most recent.
Cleanthony Early led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds and as a team the Shockers shot 52.7% from the field, their best offensive performance since shooting 60% in a win over Southern Illinois in their Missouri Valley opener. Why were they able to shoot so well? The Shockers attacked the paint, scoring 32 of their 78 points in the painted area while also shooting 13-for-15 from the foul line.
Wichita State won comfortably in spite of a quiet night from point guard Fred Van Vleet, who shot 2-for-6 from the field and scored nine points to go along with five assists. However given the number of options at Marshall’s disposal, not to mention a stingy defense that ranks among the nation’s best, Wichita State can endure a quiet night from one of its best players. Wichita State scored 24 points off of 13 Drake turnovers, and when they’re allowed to convert those opportunities at that rate it’s incredibly difficult to beat the Shockers.
For some the news that Wichita State keeps on winning won’t move the meter, with the “reason” being that their conference isn’t as widely acclaimed as some other leagues that receive incredible amounts of attention. But to immediately dismiss Wichita State for that reason would be a mistake, as the Shockers are undoubtedly worthy of their lofty ranking.
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.