Tekele Cotton

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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.

#POSTERIZED: Wichita State’s Tekele Cotton soars for alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Tekele Cotton does not like Illinois State.

Last season, he did this to the Redbirds. On Sunday, he did this:

Play nice, Tekele.

The 22 best dunks from college basketball in 2014

Deonte Burton
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1. Nevada’s Deonte Burton dunks on Boise State — March 6

Deonte Burton spoiled college basketball fans over the years, and this one from March 6 might have been his best. Seriously, look where he takes off from.

2. James Young, Kentucky vs. UConn in the 2014 national championship game — Apr. 7

The national championship game ended with UConn winning its second title in four years, but James Young left his mark midway through the second half. Amida Brimah gets a lot of his arm, and the 6-foot-7 Young was still able to finish.

3. Michael Qualls’ buzzer-beating dunk in Arkansas’ overtime win over Kentucky — Jan. 14

The Razorbacks has two wins over ranked opponents during the 2013-14 season, both of which came against Kentucky. Arkansas left Michael Qualls alone on the baseline with time winding down in overtime. When you don’t box out one of the best dunkers in the country, this is what happens.

4. Buffalo’s Justin Moss slams over 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein — Nov. 16

Apologies, Big Blue Nation. Kentucky is one the wrong end of another memorable dunk. Willie Cauley-Stein is arguably the best defensive player in the country. Buffalo’s Justin Moss didn’t care. The Bulls gave the Wildcats a scare before top-ranked Kentucky ran away with a 19-point win.

5. Demetrius Jackson dunks over Purdue big man a foot taller than him — Dec. 20

Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson is 6-foot-1. Purdue freshman center Isaac Haas is 7-feet tall. David prevailed over Goliath with a one-handed jam in a blowout win for the Fighting Irish.

6. High Point’s John Brown throws down reverse alley-oop with ease — Jan. 26

If you are unfamiliar with John Brown, go ahead and look him up on the site. He’s been a stable part of our “Posterization” series. What makes this dunk so impressive is how easy it looks for Brown.

7. Tekele Cotton’s perfect posterization in Wichita State’s perfect regular season — Jan. 22

Wichita State’s big three was Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet during last season’s 34-0 regular season. Tekele Cotton could not be forgotten, especially with plays like this.

8. Aaron Gordon defies gravity with a baseline out-of-bounds dunk — Feb. 24

For second there, I really thought Aaron Gordon wasn’t going to come down.

9. Bernard Thompson proves why it’s called Dunk City — March 9

Florida Gulf Coast was branded “Dunk City” during its Sweet 16 run in 2013. That carried over to the following season thanks to Bernard Thompson. This was one of two dunks in a week-span for the star shooting guard. He had this tip slam against Northern Kentucky earlier that week.

10. Dunk Champ Marcus Lewis slams on Kansas in NCAA tournament — March 22

What’s a list of 2014 dunks without college basketball dunk champ Marcus Lewis? Also, this is a pretty good list if this barely cracks the top 10.

A dozen more of the best dunks from 2014:

New Year’s Resolutions: Wichita State Shockers

Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)
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source: AP
(AP)

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.

#POSTERIZED: Tekele Cotton takes flight on Shaq Goodwin (VIDEO)

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Shaq Goodwin plays terrible positional defense, gets beaten off the dribble by Tekele Cotton and, at the end, tries to make up ground by jumping with one of college basketball’s best athletes.

All in all, not a good look for Goodwin:

One quick note about getting posterized: if you’ve never been dunked on, you were never any good at basketball. Because when you play at a high level, you play against guys capable of doing just that. I only played Division III ball in college, and I’ve been dunked on three times in my life bad enough that it would have made it on Sportscenter’s Top Ten.

(h/t Eye on CBB)

Top 25 Countdown: No. 12 Wichita State

Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)
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The Shockers (AP Photo)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 12 Wichita State.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

Head Coach: Gregg Marshall

Last Season: 35-1, 18-0 Missouri Valley (1st), lost in the Round of 32 to Kentucky

Key Losses: Cleanthony Early, Kadeem Coleby, Nick Wiggins

Newcomers: Rashard Kelly, Bush Wamukota, Zach Brown, Tevin Glass, Corey Henderson, Rauno Nurger

Projected Lineup

G: Fred Van Vleet, Jr.
G: Ron Baker, Jr.
G: Tekele Cotton, Sr.
F: Rashard Kelly, Fr.
F: Darius Carter, Sr.
Bench: Ria’n Holland, Fr.; Evan Wessel, Jr.; Shaq Morris, Fr.; Tevin Glass, Jr.; Bush Wamukota, Jr.

MORE: How does Wichita State build on the two best seasons in school history?

They’ll be good because … : The Shockers return the starting perimeter, including a pair of all-americans, from a team that went undefeated throughout the regular season in 2013-2014. Say what you will about how good Wichita State was last season, the bottom-line is that Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton can match up with any perimeter attack in the country in terms of talent and experience. Remember, all three played significant roles in Wichita State’s run to the 2013 Final Four as well.

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Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)

To be honest, I don’t know if the NBA is in the future for any of those three kids. I do know, however, that there isn’t a point guard in college basketball that is better at running a team than Van Vleet is. Baker is probably the best NBA prospect on Wichita State’s roster right now, a 6-foot-3 combo-guard that can shoot, defend and run the point like a natural. Throw in Tekele Cotton — a senior off-guard that is one of the best defenders in the country, a scintillating athlete and a 37.1% three-point shooter — and Gregg Marshall has himself an ideal three-guard lineup.

With those three on the floor, the Shockers are going to win a lot of games.

But they might disappoint because … : Wichita State’s front court is as inexperienced as their back court is talented. The only big man on the Shockers that saw action last season was Darius Carter, a 6-foot-7 senior that averaged 7.9 points and 4.5 boards in a complimentary role. He’ll be the x-factor to the Shocker season, as Marshall is going to need him to be a presence inside, as a rebounder, rim-protector and a low-post scoring threat. He was great at times last year. Can he build on that?

Beyond Carter, there are a ton of question marks for the Shockers. But there are also plenty of options as well. The favorite to start at the four spot seems to be freshman Rashard Kelly, a Virginia native that spent last season at prep school. He’s a tough kid and a good athlete, and while he’s a bit undersized at the four, he is physical while being mobile enough to play some on the perimeter. He’ll likely split minutes with JuCo transfer Tevin Glass and freshman Zach Brown. Backing up Carter in the middle will be Bush Wamukota, a raw, seven-foot JuCo kid with a ton of potential, and freshman Rauno Nurger.

Outlook: Don’t expect Wichita State to make another run at an undefeated season, and it’s not just because they will be trying to replace the go-to scoring ability of Cleanthony Early. The biggest knock on the Shockers last season was that their record was built on the fact that their schedule was bad, a fair critique that was built up to unfair levels. This year, that should not be the case, as Wichita State plays New Mexico State, Memphis, Tulsa, Utah, Saint Louis, Seton Hall and Alabama while also traveling to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.

They’ll be tested, and they’ll lose some games.

But that won’t change the fact that the Shockers should be considered a favorite to earn a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament and make a trip to the Sweet 16 this year. There are two reasons for that: 1. You can bet against that back court at your own risk, and 2. if there is anything that we’ve learned about Gregg Marshall over the years it’s that his teams are going to defend hard and they’re going to execute offensively, and when you do that, you’re going to win a lot of games.