Wichita State has its replacement for departed assistant coach Chris Jans as the Shockers have hired former UCF head coach Donnie Jones.
The 50-year-old Jones has previously been the head coach of both the Knights and Marshall while he was also an 11-year assistant coach under Billy Donovan at Florida–where Jones helped the Gators win two national championships.
Jones gives the Shockers some valuable perspective since he’s a former head coach in the American Athletic Conference, the league that Wichita State is joining from the Missouri Valley Conference. Since Jones has a good feel for the league’s coaches and some of the players, he gives the Shockers an immediate game-planning presence that should greatly help Marshall on the sidelines while Wichita State makes the conference transition.
Wichita State has relied greatly on assistant coaches like Jans, Steve Forbes (East Tennessee State) and Greg Haier (LSU assistant) over the last few years and Jones should be able to recruit and coach at a similar level.
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards: Can the Valley get two teams in?
The Missouri Valley Conference tournament — known by Valley fans as Arch Madness because of its St. Louis location — will be especially intriguing this season. As one of the only mid-major leagues with a legitimate chance to get two teams into the 2017 NCAA tournament the Missouri Valley Conference tournament will have a lot of eyeballs on it this week.
Casual college basketball fans are surely familiar with Wichita State after their recent successes but Illinois State was another important story during the conference season. The Redbirds enter this week as the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament as they tied the Shockers with a 17-1 mark in conference play (with Wichita State and Illinois State splitting the regular-season series).
Outside of Illinois State and Wichita State the rest of the Valley has seen a down year — which is part of the reason the Redbirds and Shockers are hovering near the bubble.
Can Illinois State and Wichita State both get in the field if they meet for the title?
The Shockers come in as the No. 2 seed but they are throttling opponents lately during a 12-game winning streak. Wichita State owns a scoring margin of 19.5 this season — second only to Gonzaga — and every win on the current streak has come by at least 15 points. One of the most balanced teams in the country, this year’s Shockers might not have future pros like Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet, but they go 10 deep and wear opponents down over the course of a game.
And if they lose?: Illinois State
Illinois State is the No. 1 seed in this tournament as they feature a tough and experienced roster that is also riding a six-game winning streak. Not nearly as dominant as Wichita State when it comes to margin of victory, the Redbirds had to sneak by to win some games the last few weeks as they’ve managed to stay 17-1 in conference play. Illinois State loves to slow down the tempo (308th in adjusted tempo on KenPom) and rely on its No. 10 overall defense (per KenPom) to do most of its damage. The Redbirds have a suffocating defense led by senior point guard Paris Lee and his Valley-leading 2.0 steals per game as they rank fourth in the country in field goal defense as opponents are only shooting 37.7 percent against them.
Northern Iowa: Just like last season, Northern Iowa is one of the most confusing teams in the country. The Panthers lost five straight to start conference play, rallied by winning nine of 10 and then lost the final three games to close out conference play. Northern Iowa is talented enough to make noise as the No. 3 seed but they’re wildly inconsistent.
Southern Illinois: The Salukis only finished .500 in conference play but they’re sitting at the No. 4 seed thanks to a weak year in the Valley. Southern Illinois might not be as competitive as a typical four seed in this event but they do have some steady seniors in guard Mike Rodriguez and forward Sean O’Brien. Talented sophomore guard Armon Fletcher is also showing signs of breaking out of a recent slump after netting the go-ahead three to beat Loyola last week.
Revenge will be on Loyola’s mind this week as they get a crack at Southern Illinois in the quarterfinals before potentially playing Illinois State in the semifinals. The significance of those two in-state games for the Ramblers? Loyola lost to both teams, on the road, by two points each, during the last two weekends of conference play.
In fact, Loyola has seen eight of its 13 losses get decided by four points or less this season. Loyola has to be tired of falling in close games and they get one more chance to make a run here.
The Bubble Dwellers: 2
Wichita State: If Wichita State wants to help its computer numbers then they should hope to play Bradley, Northern Iowa and then Illinois State to fully enhance their resume. The Shockers have a gaudy record but only six top-100 games all season (2-4 record), so a title-game rubber match against a top-50 team like Illinois State should help computer numbers — regardless of the outcome.
Illinois State: If Illinois State hopes to enhance its NCAA tournament profile in the best way possible they should hope for Evansville, Southern Illinois and Wichita State as opponents during Arch Madness. The Redbirds are slightly higher than Wichita State in current RPI but they’ve played even fewer top-100 opponents (2-3 record). As explained above, it likely helps Illinois State if they play Wichita State in the championship game — win or lose — because it gives both teams an additional top-50 opponent.
Missouri Valley Player of the Year: Paris Lee, Illinois State
The senior guard won a tight race over a handful of others as Lee separated himself from the group with another stellar defensive season. The NCAA’s active leader in career steals, Lee led the Valley in assists and steals per game this season as he averaged 13.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. Improving dramatically on the offensive end, Lee upped his shooting percentages across the board, including a staggering rise from 31 percent to 41 percent as a three-point shooter.
Missouri Valley Coach of the Year: Dan Muller, Illinois State
You could make a strong case for Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall but Muller gets the slight edge for this award. Illinois State captured its first Missouri Valley Conference regular season title since 1998 and the Redbirds were able to do so despite missing senior MiKyle McIntosh for five games in the middle of conference play. Muller is now hoping to break another drought started in 1998 by taking his alma mater back to the NCAA tournament.
First-Team All-Missouri Valley:
Paris Lee, Illinois State (POY)
Landry Shamet, Wichita State: Only the fourth Valley freshman to ever grab first-team all-conference honors, Shamet averaged 11.4 points, 3.4 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting very efficiently (49% FG, 45% 3PT, 81% FT).
Milton Doyle, Loyola: Motivated to finish strong after a disappointing junior season, the 6-foot-4 Doyle came through in a big way for the Ramblers as he put up 15.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
Jeremy Morgan, Northern Iowa: Although his junior season was more efficient shooting the ball, Morgan was asked to do it all for the Panthers this season as he led the team in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Alize Johnson, Missouri State: One of 20 Division I players averaging a double-double this season, Johnson put up 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from three-point range. The junior is starting to generate some pro buzz.
Second Team All-Missouri Valley:
Jaylon Brown, Evansville
Markis McDuffie, Wichita State
Deontae Hawkins, Illinois State
MiKyle McIntosh, Illinois State
Sean O’Brien, Southern Illinois
Defining moment of the season: When Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunked on Oklahoma’s Kristian Doolittle back in December, it signified that the Shockers would be just fine playing bigger opponents without Baker and Van Vleet. This is one of the better poster dunks of the year.
An Austin Tillotson half-court shot as time expired gave the Raiders a three-point win on Senior Day. Tillotson, who finished with 20 points, hit the game-winner just seconds after Loyola’s Andre Walker tied the game at 90 with a three-pointer of his own. Walker finished with 22 points and Eric Laster 26 for the Greyhounds, with Colgate also receiving solid performances from Alex Ramon, Sean O’Brien (18 points apiece) and Tom Rivard (17 points).
No. 6 Maryland 86, Michigan 82: The Terrapins had their struggles with turnovers and dealing with Michigan’s Mark Donnal in ball screen situations, but they were able to do enough to pull out the victory in College Park. Robert Carter Jr. scored 17 points and Jake Layman 16 to lead the way for the Terrapins, who ended a two-game losing streak in the process. Donnal scored 22 of his 25 in the second half for the Wolverines, who once again played without the injured Caris LeVert.
Utah 80, USC 69: The Runnin’ Utes handed USC its first home loss of the season, becoming the first Pac-12 team to pick up two road weekend sweeps in conference play this season (they also swept the Washington trip). Jakob Poeltl was too much for USC, as he accounted for 29 points on 11-for-13 shooting, 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Jordan McLaughlin scored 20 points and Julian Jacobs and Bennie Boatwright 17 apiece for USC, but they were unable to mount a charge similar to their comeback from a 15-point deficit to beat Colorado Wednesday night.
Seton Hall 62, St. John’s 61: It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Pirates managed to avoid a really bad loss as Isaiah Whitehead hit two free throws with 5.6 seconds remaining. Desi Rodriguez scored 24 points and Khadeen Carrington 12 as the Pirates navigated front court foul trouble (three big men fouled out) in the second half. Kassoum Yakwe led the Red Storm with 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Wichita State 84, Indiana State 51: The Shockers wrapped up the outright Missouri Valley regular season title with a blowout win over the Sycamores. Ron Baker scored 14 points and three other Wichita State players added 11 apiece, and on the other end the Shockers limited Indiana State to just 31 percent shooting. Wichita State closes out the regular season with games against Loyola (Chicago) and Illinois State.
Jakob Poeltl, Utah: 29 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals in Utah’s 80-69 win at USC.
Obi Enechionyia, Temple: 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting and seven rebounds in the Owls’ three-point win at Houston.
Alec Peters, Valparaiso: 32 points and 11 rebounds in the Crusaders’ 90-74 win over Detroit.
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: 20 points, 12 rebounds and six steals in the Badgers’ 69-60 win over Illinois.
Boston College: The Eagles’ season may have hit its nadir Sunday night, as they lost 74-48 at Wake Forest. At one point Jim Christian’s team trailed 37-4.
Khristian Smith, Indiana State: Two points on 1-for-9 shooting in the Sycamores’ 84-51 loss to Wichita State.
James Ford, Quinnipiac: Four points on 1-for-7 shooting and three turnovers in the Bobcats’ 63-59 loss to Manhattan.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
No. 21 SMU rebounded from its loss at UConn with a 74-63 win over East Carolina. Nic Moore led the Mustangs with 22 points and seven assists, Markus Kennedy added 19 points and nine boards and Jordan Tolbert posted a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
Bucknell (12-4) maintained their one-game lead atop the Patriot League with an 80-59 win over Boston University. Chris Hass scored 21 points and Stephen Brown accounted for ten assists and six rebounds in the win for the Bison.
George Washington avoided what would have been a bad loss, as they blew out La Salle 90-50 in the nation’s capital. The Colonials won big despite committing 19 turnovers, with Tyler Cavanaugh scoring 22 points and Patricio Garino 19.
Monmouth rebounded from its loss to Iona with an 82-75 overtime win at Saint Peter’s. Micah Seaborn scored 26 points and Justin Robinson 22 for the Hawks (15-3), who lead Iona (13-4) by a game in the loss column atop the MAAC standings.
Valparaiso won for the eighth time in the last nine games, beating Detroit 90-74 on Senior Day. Alec Peters led the way with 32 points and 11 rebounds.
Hofstra (12-4) held off Northeastern, 65-60 in Hempstead to remain a game behind first-place UNCW (13-3) in the CAA. The Pride visit UNCW Thursday night in the teams’ penultimate game of the regular season.
San Diego State wrapped up at least a share of the Mountain West title with a 78-56 win over San José State. Winston Shepard accounted for 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Malik Pope added 17 points and 11 rebounds.
UAB retained sole possession of first place in Conference USA with a ten-point win (77-67) at Middle Tennessee. Dirk Williams scored 19 points for the Blazers, who lead Marshall by a game.
Temple remains alone atop the American, as they won 69-66 at Houston. Obi Enechionyia scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds, helping the Owls account for a 2-for-12 night from Quenton DeCosey.
Wisconsin turned their game around with a 15-0 second half run, as they beat Illinois 69-60 in Madison. Ethan Happ led the way with 20 points, 12 rebounds and six steals.
California won its fifth straight game, beating Washington State 80-62 in Pullman. Six players scored at least eight points for Cal, with Tyrone Wallace scoring 17 and Ivan Rabb 15.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Ron Baker and Shaq Morris had 11 points each and No. 25 Wichita State pounded Drake 74-48 on Tuesday night for its 13th win in 14 games.
Thirteen players scored for the Shockers (18-5, 12-1 Missouri Valley Conference), who moved within two victories of clinching at least a share of its third straight league title.
Wichita State had little trouble with the Valley’s worst team, rattling off a 27-5 run to close the first half in beating the Bulldogs for the ninth straight time.
Reed Timmer scored 20 points for Drake (6-19, 1-12), which lost for the 15th time in 17 games.
Wichita State was coming off just its second Valley loss in three seasons, as it fell at Illinois State 58-53.
The woeful Bulldogs didn’t stand a chance against a Shockers team seeking a measure of redemption.
Drake hung in for a few minutes, even closing within 17-16 at one point midway through the first half. But the Shockers tightened up their defense and spread the ball around, getting baskets from nine players in the first half to pull away from the overwhelmed Bulldogs.
Wichita State went 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening half, while Drake went 1 of 16 from the field and failed to score in the final 5:23 before halftime.
Fred VanVleet’s wide-open 3 with 17 minutes left made it 50-25.
The Shockers held Drake to 25 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers.
WICHITA STATE: The Shockers were the eighth team in this week’s Top 25 to play a road game in Iowa – and that doesn’t include the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes or 14th-ranked Iowa State. … Early in the second half, the 6-foot VanVleet was alone in the paint to defend a 3-on-1 break. VanVleet forced a jump ball.
DRAKE: Timmer twice tricked opponents into fouling him on a 3-point attempt. He converted all six free throws. … Dominik Olejniczak, a freshman from Poland, had nine points in his second career start.
Wichita State hosts Northern Iowa on Saturday.
Drake plays at Southern Illinois on Saturday.
LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 12 Miami, No. 18 Purdue win thrillers at home
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 18 Purdue 82, No. 8 Michigan State 81 (OT)
The Spartans and Boilermakers produced a highly entertaining game in West Lafayette, with Matt Painter’s team finding a way to pick up a critical one-point win. Rapheal Davis scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Boilermakers, and A.J. Hammons was excellent in the post. The senior center finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots. As Rob Dauster notes, this was a huge win for a team that was in danger of falling to seventh in the Big Ten standings.
Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double with 27 points, eight rebounds and ten assists, but he was made to work for those points (10-for-23 FG). But he needed more help from Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris, who combined to score ten points on 4-for-19 shooting.
No. 6 Kansas 75, No. 10 West Virginia 65: Kansas got some revenge on the Mountaineers, who won the first meeting between the two teams in Morgantown last month. Perry Ellis scored 21 points and Landen Lucas added nine points, 16 rebounds and four blocks to lead the way for the Jayhawks, who forced a three-way tie atop the Big 12 with the win. The front court play and Kansas’ offensive execution and balance are what won the game for Bill Self’s bunch.
No. 12 Miami 65, Pittsburgh 63: The Panthers, in need of another quality win, fell short as a result of their inability to box out Miami’s Angel Rodriguez on the game’s decisive play. Rodriguez managed to work his way in between three Panthers to tip in a missed shot with 1.4 seconds remaining to give the Hurricanes the win. Rodriguez finished the game with 17 points, eight assists and just one turnover.
Creighton 70, No. 5 Xavier 56: The Bluejays picked up a huge win for their NCAA tournament hopes while also dropping the Musketeers two games behind No. 1 Villanova in the Big East standings. Maurice Watson Jr. was outstanding at the point for Greg McDermott’s team, finishing with 32 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Xavier’s biggest issue was making shots: they shot 1-for-21 from beyond the arc and 30 percent from the field on the night. And that may have cost them a shot at the Big East title.
A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Hammons finished Purdue’s overtime win over No. 8 Michigan State two blocks shy of a triple-double, finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks.
Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton: 32 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in the Bluejays’ win over No. 5 Xavier.
Angel Rodriguez, Miami: 17 points, eight assists, one turnover and the game-winning tip-in with 1.4 seconds remaining as the Hurricanes beat Pittsburgh.
Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris, Michigan State: Forbes and Harris scored ten points combined, shooting 4-for-19 from the field, in a one-point overtime loss at No. 18 Purdue.
Xavier from the perimeter: The Musketeers shot a stunning 1-for-21 from three in their loss at Creighton.
Kale Abrahamson and Ore Arogundade, Drake: They combined to score six points on 2-for-14 shooting in a blowout home loss to No. 25 Wichita State.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
Playing their first-ever game as the nation’s top-ranked team, No. 1 Villanova took control from the start of their 86-59 win at DePaul. Josh Hart led five Wildcats in double figures with 18 points, and Villanova forced 18 DePaul turnovers on the other end.
No. 2 Maryland stepped outside of Big Ten (and Division I) play, and they did what was expected in taking care of Division II program Bowie State 93-62. Rasheed Sulaimon scored 16 points in 20 minutes of action, as Mark Turgeon was able to get his key guys some rest ahead of the stretch run.
No. 7 Virginia has now won seven straight games, as they beat Virginia Tech 67-49 in Charlottesville. Anthony Gill scored 16 points and Isaiah Wilkins 14 for the Cavaliers, who limited the Hokies to 35.6 percent shooting on the night.
No. 19 Dayton erased a ten-point second half deficit, closing the game on a 19-5 run as they beat Duquesne 76-74. Charles Cooke led the way with 22 points and eight rebounds for the Flyers, who won despite Duquesne getting 48 points from Micah Mason (27) and Derrick Colter.
No. 22 Kentucky rolled to an 84-48 win over Georgia, as the Bulldogs struggled mightily offensively. Mark Fox’s team shot 22.4 percent from the field and at one point went more than 13 minutes without a field goal. As for Kentucky, Jamal Murray scored 24 points and Tyler Ulis added 14 and eight assists as they won their second straight.
No. 25 Wichita State rebounded from its loss at Illinois State over the weekend with a 74-48 win at Drake. Gregg Marshall’s team used a familiar formula: offensive balance (eight players scored six points or more) and stifling defense (Drake shot 25 percent from the field).
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
Cincinnati rebounded from its loss at Memphis with a 69-51 win at UCF. Kevin Johnson scored 13 points as the Bearcats blew the game open in the second half after leading by a point at the break.
Akron has now won seven straight, as they beat Bowling Green 83-68 to move to 9-2 in MAC play (20-4 overall). Antino Jackson scored 20 points and Reggie McAdams and Isaiah Johnson added 15 apiece for the Zips.
Monmouth retained its one-game lead atop the MAAC with an 87-61 win at Marist. Justin Robinson and Micah Seaborn scored 16 apiece for the Hawks, who have won their last six games.
Ohio State snapped its two-game losing streak with a 71-63 win over Northwestern, which has lost six of its last seven games. Five Buckeyes scored in double figures, led by freshman guard JaQuan Lyle (16 points, six rebounds).
Two Galal Cancer free throws with 7.5 seconds remaining gave Kent State a 75-74 win over Northern Illinois. The Golden Flashes remain two games behind Akron in the MAC East standings as a result of the win.
Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak
Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.
In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.
And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.
Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.
And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.
This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.