Ron Baker

Andy Enfield
Associated Press

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.

PHOTOS: Wichita State unveils new black uniforms

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Wichita State unveiled new road uniforms on Friday afternoon, via the athletic department’s Facebook page.

The Shockers will officially unveil the new black uniforms on Nov. 17 during a non-conference contest at Tulsa.

Wichita State has won 30 games in each of the last three seasons. This rise to national prominence includes an appearance in the 2013 Final Four, followed by an undefeated regular season in 2013-14. The Shockers intends to build on that success this year behind the play of one of the nation’s premier back courts in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet.

Check out the uniforms Baker and VanVleet will wear in their final season with the Shockers:

Ron Baker

Fred VanVleet

Wichita State opens the 2015-16 season on Nov. 13 against Charleston Southern.

Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet to return to Wichita State

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Wichita State announced on Monday that Ron Baker will be returning to school for his senior season.

“I spent a lot of time talking it over with Coach, my teammates and my family,” Baker said. “The reality is, I felt like any decision I made was going to be a good one. I think I’ll eventually be successful at the next level, but with what we have coming in and the people we have returning, including Fred VanVleet, next season has the potential to be very special.”

MORE: Who has entered 2015 NBA Draft?

“It’s been an amazing ride here at WSU, and my family and I aren’t quite ready for it to end.”

There was some speculation that Baker would be heading to the NBA while head coach Gregg Marshall was in the process of deciding where he would be coaching next season. Baker will be a redshirt senior in 2015-2016, meaning that it’s unlikely his draft stock will change between now and the 2016 NBA Draft. He’ll probably end up being a second round pick. Professionally speaking, there wasn’t much to gain returning to Wichita State, particularly if he finished his degree in his four years on campus.

But with VanVleet back — which wasn’t official until this announcement — and Marshall still their head coach, the Shockers will once again have a chance to do something special next year. They will likely enter the season as a preseason top ten team.

No. 7 Wichita State outclasses No. 2 Kansas, earns second Sweet 16 appearance in three years

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The matchup between No. 7 Wichita State and No. 2 Kansas was one that folks in the Sunflower State have been looking to see for quite some time. With the two programs being the best in the state at this time, Sunday’s matchup in Omaha was seen as long overdue given the fact that the Shockers and Jayhawks hadn’t met since 1993.

Gregg Marshall’s team took full advantage of the opportunity, as they erased an eight-point first half deficit by the intermission and took over from there. Wichita State won by the final score of 78-65, earning a trip to Cleveland for next week’s Midwest Regional against No. 3 Notre Dame. The Shockers received contributions from stars and role players alike, and they were simply the tougher team on the court.

While the three-headed perimeter attack of Tekele Cotton (19 points, two rebounds, three assists), Fred Van Vleet (17 points, six rebounds, six assists) and Ron Baker (12 points, three rebounds, two assists) were all productive, the contributions of Evan Wessel and Zach Brown were important as well.

With Darius Carter (ten points, four rebounds) and Shaq Morris both saddled with early foul trouble the undersized Wessel provided Wichita State with both toughness and perimeter shooting. Despite playing against a bigger front line, Wessel accounted for 12 points (four three-pointers) and nine rebounds and his three-pointer with 4:15 remaining in the first half sparked the 13-2 run that gave Wichita State a three-point lead at the intermission.

Wessel (nine points on 3-for-5 3PT) and Brown (five of his seven points) combined to score 14 points in the second half, a period in which Wichita State carved up the Kansas defense. Van Vleet was able to make plays off the dribble against the Jayhawks’ man defense, and an ill-fated shift to zone simply resulted in the Shockers finding open perimeter shooters. Kansas had no answer from a strategic standpoint, but the bigger issue was that Bill Self’s team couldn’t answer the call from a toughness standpoint either.

Wayne Selden went scoreless, missing all five of his shots from the field, and Kelly Oubre wasn’t much better as he tallied nine points on 3-for-9 shooting. If not for Frank Mason III (16 points, six rebounds), Perry Ellis (17 points, eight rebounds) and Devonte’ Graham (17 points, three assists) the margin would have been much worse and Landen Lucas’ ten rebounds can’t be overlooked either.

But overall, Kansas didn’t have the same conviction to get to where they needed to go on the floor as Wichita State and that hurt them offensively.

The Jayhawks shot just 35.1 percent from the field, as Wichita State’s defense limited the number of quality looks Kansas could find. Add in the fact that Wichita State shot 59.3 percent in the second half, and the Shockers were able to eliminate any chance of a comeback down the stretch.

With this win the Shockers have now won 30 games or more in each of the last three seasons, with last year’s 35-1 campaign sandwiched in between a Final Four run in 2013 and this year’s Sweet 16 appearance. Their motto of “play angry” reveals Wichita State’s intention every time they step on the floor, and failing to match the Shockers in that regard will result in defeat. Kansas learned that the hard way in Omaha Sunday evening.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Jahlil Okafor continues to hold top spot

Jahlil Okafor, Tanner Plomb
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source: AP
Jahlil Okafor (AP Photo)

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Just another dominant performance from the nation’s best big man on Monday evening, as he went for 27 points and eight boards in a win over Toledo. There is no more dominant offensive weapon in college basketball.

2. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Frank The Tank put together arguably his best all-around game on the season on Sunday night, as he went for 25 points, 11 boards and six blocks against Buffalo while shutting down the Bulls star forward Justin Moss in the process.

3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: It will be interesting to see where Jerian Grant goes from here this season. Notre Dame has looked like an offensive juggernaut through the season’s first month and a half, but they’ve done it against one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country. Will Grant still be a Player of the Year candidate when the Irish are squaring off with the likes of Louisville and Duke? Also worth noting here: take away the 6-for-8 that Grant shot from three in a 48 point win over Chicago State, and he’s shooting just 30 percent from beyond the arc on the season.

source:
Georges Niang, Bobby Portis

4. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein actually had a relatively forgettable game as Kentucky beat Louisville in the Yum! Center over the weekend. He finished with just five points, six boards and three steals, but his impact on the defensive end of the floor is hard to quantify simply with stats.

5. Georges Niang, Iowa State: Iowa State will kick off Big 12 play this weekend, which means that Niang will finally get some tougher tests. Niang has been up-and-down against high-major opponents this year. He was dominant in wins against Alabama and Arkansas, he struggled in a loss to Maryland and he had one good half in the win over Iowa. The Cyclones also blew out Georgia State, but Niang was just 3-for-12 from the floor in that game.

6. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell came back from his one-game suspension against CSUN against Kentucky, but he wasn’t all that effective in a loss to the Wildcats, finishing with just nine points and eight boards. He was visibly frustrated with Chris Jones’ inability to run offense by the end of that game. You’d think, instead of taking challenged, fadeaway 23-footers, getting the ball to your future lottery pick would be a good idea, right?

7. Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson has been terrific this season, but my one issue with having him this high is that he’s not a go-to guy for Virginia this season. He’s a complimentary player, a spot-up shooter and a defender, and while he may be the best player in that role in the country, it’s still a role. Is that deserving of being an All-American? If you’re shooting 60.0 percent from, I’d say yes.

8. Delon Wright, Utah: Wright had his most efficient game of the season against South Dakota State: 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting, 10 assists and one turnover. Not bad.

9. Ty Wallace, Cal: Wallace is still putting up terrific numbers, but the Bears have come back to earth a bit after a torrid start to the season. They got beaten pretty handily by Wisconsin at home before Christmas and they wound up losing to Cal-St. Bakersfield on Sunday night. Individual brilliance is only going to get Cal so far this season.

10. Ron Baker, Wichita State: Playing with fire finally caught up with Wichita State, as they lost to George Washington after struggling to wins over Alabama and Hawaii. Baker had his worst game of the season against the Colonials and was not good in Hawaii. He finished with 9-for-31 in his last two games on the islands, averaging just 13 points and shooting 2-for-17 from three.

OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Ryan Boatright (UConn), Tyler Haws (BYU), D’angelo Harrison (St. John’s), LaDontae Henton (Providence), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Jonathan Holmes (Texas), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), Wesley Saunders (Harvard), Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington), Joseph Young (Oregon)

New Year’s Resolutions: Wichita State Shockers

Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)
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source: AP
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Conference play is right around the corner, so 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 should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

WICHITA STATE PROMISES TO: Get Fred Van Vleet and Tekele Cotton going on offense

  • It will happen because: Van Vleet, in particular, is not shooting very efficiently this season while Cotton, a senior guard, is shooting below last season’s marks as well. Based on their career averages, both guards will improve as the season rolls along. In his junior season, Van Vleet has really struggled, as he’s shot 37 percent from the field, 30 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line after much better splits as a sophomore (48% FG, 41% 3PT, 83% FT). Those numbers should go up after a few particularly bad games made those splits look worse. As Wichita State also gets senior forward Darius Carter more involved in the offense, it should put less pressure on Van Vleet and Cotton to create shots for themselves, which isn’t a strength.
  • But it might not because: Without Cleanthony Early, Wichita State has had to move Van Vleet and Cotton up the scoring ladder as the No. 2 and No. 3 options behind Ron Baker and it hasn’t gone well for either player. Van Vleet is a steady floor leader and intelligent big-game player, but he can’t create his own shot very easily and Cotton is best served turning defense into offense and not being relied on for shots in half-court sets. Darius Carter has looked like a potential No. 2 option to alleviate those concerns, but as one of the Shockers’ only productive forwards, he’s susceptible to occasional foul problems. It just might be that Wichita State is asking too much offensively of Van Vleet and Cotton and they’re not capable of putting up efficient shooting numbers when defenses focus more time trying to stop them.

WICHITA STATE ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Forget about the free-throw line

  • It will happen because: This isn’t the same Wichita State offense we saw last season, especially without Early. In 2013-14, the Shockers were getting to the free-throw line an average of 25.8 times per game in the regular season (43rd nationally) and made 73 percent (61st nationally). This season has seen fewer trips to the line and a far worse percentage. Wichita State is only getting to the free-throw line 21.7 times per game (131st nationally) and struggling to 65.8 percent shooting (252nd nationally). That means the Shockers are losing 4.5 points per game at the free-throw line per game compared to last season. Without Cleanthony Early to consistently get to the free-throw line, the Shockers just can’t get it done. They only attempted two free throws in the loss to George Washington and settled for a lot of jumpers.
  • But it might not because: Wichita State still needs time to gel and figure out its rotation and players on the floor at the end of games who can make free throws. It doesn’t help that Baker, Cotton and Van Vleet are all shooting uncharacteristically low percentages compared to last season and those numbers should ideally improve as the season continues. Also, Wichita State has a lot of young players coming off of the bench this season. Those players could find a better understanding of attacking defenses, drawing fouls and making free throws and the Shockers could really use a slasher who can consistently get to the basket.