The development of Fred VanVleet and continued improvement of Cleanthony Early were two crucial elements of Wichita State’s record-setting season, but the driving component was arguably the emergence of Ron Baker. A redshirt sophomore, Baker’s shooting and torrid offensive showings propelled Wichita State to an top ten offensive efficiency rating, and the guard’s three-point touch was much needed for a squad that truly lacked consistent outside shooting in 2013. Jeff Goodman of ESPN reports that Baker will continue to develop in Wichita, and plans to return for his junior season.
That is not to say that Baker didn’t think about leaving college early: the guard requested a draft evaluation from the NBA. However, reports indicate that Baker would have likely been selected in the second round, and since that advice could have possibly been in his returned evaluation, he decided to return to the Missouri Valley program for another year.
Even without Early and Chadwick Lufile, the Shockers will be the cream of the conference. Though he isn’t recognized enough for his player development, Gregg Marshall is one of the best at building ex-juco players, and Darius Carter could be due for a senior year jump. VanVleet will likely be back for his junior season, as will Tekele Cotton (a guard who deserves much more credit for his shooting as well as defensive ferociousness) and Marshall will blend the returning Shockers with a deep recruiting class.
Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.
Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.
Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.
The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.
John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.
We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.
For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.
Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.