Wichita State Shockers

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Introducing Cinderella: The Wichita State Shockers Are Headed To The NCAA Tournament

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Conference: Missouri Valley

Coach: Gregg Marshall

Record: 30-4, 17-1 (T-1)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 11
RPI: 37
AP/USA Today: 21/22

Seeding: The title of this article invokes Cinderella, but given Wichita State’s track record and strength, they don’t exactly fit that role. The Shockers’ resume also makes for a difficult seeding proposition for the committee because predictive measures – KenPom and Sagarin – love them while the RPI is more lukewarm. Look for the committee to split the difference and put the Shockers somewhere in the 7-10 range.

Names you need to know: Markis McDuffie, Landry Shamet and Darral Willis all average double figures while Conner Frankamp, a Kansas transfer, is shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. The stalwarts of Wichita State’s rise from mid-major program to national relevance like Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet may be gone, but the talent – and coach – is still in place to make the Shockers a formidable threat this month.

Stats you need to know: Wichita State is shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range, which ranks sixth in the country. They’ve got four players shooting 38 percent or better on at least 65 3-point attempts this season. The Shockers are no slouches on defense either as they’re holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 44.2.

Big wins, bad losses: Here’s the problem for Wichita State. Most are pretty sure they’re pretty good, but looking solely at the W/L resume makes that murky. The Shockers will likely only have a win over an NCAA tournament participant if Illinois State, the team they beat in the MVC title game and split the regular season league championship with, gets an at-large bid. Wichita State’s losses have all been respectable, coming against Louisville, Michigan State, Oklahoma State and the Redbirds.

How’d they get here?: Unlike last year when the Shockers didn’t make the MVC tourney final, Wichita State had no problem earning the league’s autobid. They beat Bradley by 26, Missouri State by 15 and Illinois State by 20 in the title game.

Outlook: Wichita State is no Cinderella, even if they hail from a league that often produces them. This is a bona fide high-major program that plays in a mid-major league. The Shockers may have a difficult path, especially if they get slotted on that 8/9 line with a date against a top seed in Round 2, but they’ve got the talent and pedigree to make another multi-win appearance in the NCAA tournament.

How do I know you?: The Shockers have made the NCAA tournament every year since 2012, famously making the Final Four in 2013 and entering the Big Dance in 2014 undefeated, making them as recognizable a program outside the country’s biggest conferences as any.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: UT Arlington Mavericks

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The Mavericks entered the season as one of the mid-majors on every watch list, but they struggled early on.

They lost at Minnesota, at Arkansas and at FGCU in the first two weeks of the season, but for a team that spends the majority of their non-conference schedule on the road, it’s impressive to note that they haven’t lost since then.

They won at Fordham and North Texas. Then they won at Texas. Thursday, however, was their most impressive win of the season, and one of the most impressive that anyone has landed during non-conference play: The Mavericks went into Moraga and picked off then-No. 12 Saint Mary’s.

And they didn’t just win. They were up by double-figures for the last 25 minutes. They controlled the tempo and they totally flummoxed a really efficient and well-coached team, and they did it despite the fact that their best player, Kevin Hervey, is still feeling the effects of a torn ACL suffered last season.

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Things We Learned

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Wichita State: The Shockers lost Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker this offseason, but it looks like Gregg Marshall’s team hasn’t lost a beat. With wins over Saint Louis and Oklahoma this week, the latter of which came in Oklahoma City, Wichita State moved to 9-2 on the season and put themselves into a good position to get back to the NCAA tournament. Picking off Oklahoma State next week in the Koch Arena would be huge.
  • Middle Tennessee State: If UT Arlington has been one of the best mid-majors in college basketball this season, the Blue Raiders aren’t all that far behind. This week, they won at South Alabama and beat Vanderbilt by 23 points at home. This came two weeks after they mollywhopped Ole Miss in Oxford, winning by 15 in a game they led 48-19 at the half. Believe it or not, this team might be better than the one that beat Michigan State last year in the NCAA tournament.
  • BYU: The Cougars needed to get a couple of wins this week, and they got them, beating in-state rival and Big Sky favorite Weber State and following that up with a win over Colorado (who was fresh off upsetting Xavier) over the weekend.
  • Florida State: The Seminoles not only got a win over in-state rival No. 21 Florida, they also got Johnathan Isaac back from a hip flexor injury that had held him out of the lineup for two games.
  • Arizona: The Wildcats have had a rough go of things early on this season. They’re working through a rash of injuries and a suspension to the guy that would probably be the best guard on their roster in Allonzo Trier. The good news? It looks like Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons are starting to figure things out. They both had 19 points in a win at Missouri on Saturday.

No. 24 Michigan State avoids collapse against Wichita State

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Miles Bridges scored 21 points to lead four players in double-figures and Tum Tum Nairn chipped in with 12 assists as No. 24 Michigan State picked up their best win of the season over Wichita State, 77-72.

The Shockers are in something of a rebuilding mode right now, as Gregg Marshall works through how he’s going to replace the duo of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, but they are still a good, well-coached basketball team.

And the Spartans had this game firmly in had for a good 35 minutes.

A late first-half run – that came when Bridges was on the bench in foul trouble – gave the Spartans a 10-point halftime lead which they pushed to as much as 15 in the second half. But the Shockers made their run, cutting the lead to a single point. If it wasn’t for a couple of hasty jumpers from the Shockers on their last two possessions, Wichita State just might have completed the comeback.

RELATED: Michigan State’s growing pains | Tom Izzo apologizes to team

There are a ways to look at this. On the one hand, it certainly isn’t a good sign that the Spartans blew a big lead, regardless of the opponent. Michigan State committed turnovers, missed open looks and, for the most part, looked like a young team that got nervous trying to close out a win.

But they didn’t give the game away.

They made just enough plays to win the game. Miles Bridges hit a couple of massive jumpers. Cassius Winston hit a critical free throw. Tum Tum had a pair of assists late that helped clinch the win.

Learning how to win, how to close out close games, is a process. It’s a skill. It’s something that freshmen typically have to develop at this level, and if anything, this win feels like a step in that direction.

Whatever the case may be, the Spartans are leaving the Bahamas with a third-place finish, two wins in three games and a record over .500 as they get ready to pay a visit to Duke next week.

It could be much, much worse.

For the Shockers, this was not a great trip. They leave the Bahamas at just 1-2 overall with losses to both Louisville and Michigan State, and for a team from the Missouri Valley with only two more potential quality wins left on their schedule – Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – this puts the Shockers somewhat behind the eight-ball when it comes to getting an at-large bid.

Looking Forward: Which programs are set to step backwards as we head into 2016-17?

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some programs on the decline heading into next season.

Wichita State: It’s hard to see the Shockers take too much of a tumble given how good a coach Gregg Marshall is and their superiority to the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference, but the graduations of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker mean the end of an era. Those two were the constants of a Final Four team, then a 35-0 squad, followed by a Sweet 16 and finishing last March in the second round. There’s still talent in Wichita and they are still going to be the heavyweights of the Valley, but the dominance and national prestige that came with VanVleet and Baker may have also left with them.

UNLV: Things haven’t exactly been at a highwater mark in Las Vegas in awhile, but the Running Rebels appear to continue to sink. First, they fired coach Dave Rice in the middle of the season, which is never received well in coaching circles, exactly the place you need to go to, you know, hire another coach. The Rick Pitino pipedream never materialized, and then Mick Cronin couldn’t pull the trigger despite giving life in the desert a serious look. That left UNLV with Little Rock’s first-year coach Chris Beard, until an ugly debate regent debate to approve his contract preempted an exit to Texas Tech just a week after taking the job. New head coach Marvin Menzies was hired with just two scholarship players left in the program. All of that messiness is a terrible sign for the current health of a once-mighty program.

Iowa State: The news for the Cyclones this spring has been almost universally positive, starting with point guard Monte’ Morris deciding to not even test the NBA draft process and return for a senior season in which he’ll be the Cyclones’ focal point. ISU also will be getting Naz Mitrou-Long back after the sharpshooter was granted a medical hardship waiver. But the reality remains that the Cyclones lost one of the best players in program history in Georges Niang and have been enjoying the most successful run in program history. Some sort of slide is likely — and has been expected — as a result. But coach Steve Prohm and ISU may have enough talent to return to the NCAA tournament for a school-record sixth time and forestall any setback.

RELATED: Eight programs that are on the rise as we head into next season

Steve Prohm and Monte Morris (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Steve Prohm and Monte Morris (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

North Carolina State: It really looked like Mark Gottfried was going to get things rolling in a big way following the 2014-15 season in which the Wolfpack went 22-14, had a good core returning and recruiting booming. But Trevor Lacey turned pro (only to go undrafted), Kyle Washington transferred and NC State stumbled to a 16-17 record last season. Now, Cat Barber is leaving to go pro and Abdul-Malik Abu may do the same or follow the Martin twins into the transfer, and suddenly the forecast in Raleigh isn’t so sunny even with Dennis Smith Jr. in the fold.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers traded a coach who won two Big East titles, went to the Sweet 16 twice, the Elite Eight once and only missed the NCAA tournament twice in 13 years for a guy that Vanderbilt was pushing out the door. Not great. Even if things had gotten stale for Pitt fans with Jamie Dixon, the results he achieved are hard to argue. Few believe that Kevin Stallings is the answer to jumpstart the program back to where Dixon had it during the first years of his tenure, especially as the ACC continues to be a monster to navigate.

Kansas State: The Bruce Weber era in Manhattan started out with a bang, as he tied for a Big 12 title in his first year taking over for Frank Martin, but it’s been backsliding since, capped with a 17-16 (5-13 Big 12) campaign this past season. He couldn’t make it work with the most talented player (Marcus Foster) he’s had there, and there hasn’t exactly been a line of high-level recruits making their way to Manhattan. And if that wasn’t bad enough, KSU fans had to watch Oklahoma State hire former Wildcat assistant Brad Underwood while their administration gave Weber a stay of execution.

Ohio State: This is probably the trickiest inclusion, as Thad Matta’s track record would suggest that last year’s NIT appearance was merely a slip on the path to a return to the top of the Big Ten. The trouble, though, is that seeing four members of a heralded five-man 2015 recruiting class all decide to transfer is a major red flag. The Buckeyes do welcome another strong class to Columbus this fall, headlined by Derek Funderburk, but there are some visible cracks in the facade.

Report: Wichita State approaches Mountain West

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A year ago, Wichita State president John Bardo called for the school to study the feasibility of bringing football back to the athletic program.

Apparently the Shockers administration has even grander designs.

Wichita State has approached the Mountain West Conference about membership, according to a report from CBSSports.com.

The Missouri Valley Conference, which has been the Shockers’ home since 1946, is aware of Wichita State’s interest in switching conference affiliation, the report states. The Mountain West would makes sense for the Shockers as the conference currently has an odd-number hoops membership of 11 and would provide them with higher-profile opponents than the Valley. Just twice in conference history has the MWC been a one-bid NCAA tournament team, with last year being the first since 2001 for it to occur. The Shockers are also reportedly eyeing other leagues, like the AAC and Conference USA.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson told CBS Sports that if Wichita State were to leave the Valley, “it ain’t going to be to us.”

Wichita State, which dropped football in 1986, has seen its basketball profile skyrocket in recent years under Gregg Marshall, who led the Shockers to a Final Four and a 35-0 start to the season in back-to-back years before reaching the Sweet 16 in 2015 and the Round of 32 last year. Marshall now makes more than $3 million per season.

Losing Wichita State would be a considerable blow to the Valley, which already lost perennial power Creighton to the Big East in the last round of realignment. Loyola Chicago, formerly of the Horizon League, filled the Bluejays’ spot.

Wichita State guard Frankamp eligible to play tonight

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Hit hard by injuries at this early point in the season, Wichita State received some very good news regarding a mid-season transfer just hours before their game against UNLV.

The school announced that redshirt sophomore guard Conner Frankamp has been cleared to begin playing for the Shockers tonight, giving Gregg Marshall another guard to call upon alongside mainstays Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. When Frankamp would be available to play in games depended upon when fall semester grades were posted, be it Wednesday night against the Runnin’ Rebels or Saturday against No. 25 Utah.

Given the depth that UNLV has in its perimeter rotation, led by sophomore Patrick McCaw, the addition of Frankamp is an important boost for Wichita State.

VanVleet, who missed five games due to hamstring and ankle injuries, returned to action last weekend in the Shockers’ win at Saint Louis. Freshman Landry Shamet remains sidelined after undergoing foot surgery, and the same goes for senior power forward Anton Grady (neck).

The 6-foot-1 Frankamp can play either on or off the ball, which is key when considering the fact that sophomore Ty Taylor II (who has struggled recently) and walk-on John Robert Simon have been the players asked to spell VanVleet at the point.