2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 17 Wichita State Shockers

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 30-9, 12-6 Missouri Valley (2nd); Lost in the Final Four to Louisville

Head Coach: Gregg Marshall (7th season at Wichita State: 139-70 overall, 66-42 MVC)

Key Losses: Carl Hall, Malcolm Armstead, Demetric Williams, Jake White, Ehimen Orukpe

Newcomers: Kadeem Coleby, Darius Carter, Ria’n Holland, Shaquille Morris, Zach Bush, Derail Green

Projected Lineup

G: Fred VanVleet, So.
G: Ron Baker, So.
F: Cleanthony Early, Sr.
F: Darius Carter, Jr.
C: Kadeem Coleby, Sr.
Bench: Evan Wessel, So.; Tekele Cotton, Jr.; Nick Wiggins, Sr.; Chadrick Lufile, Sr.

They’ll be good because …: Gregg Marshall is going to have a deep and talented back court at his disposal. It starts with Cleanthony Early, an athletic, 6-foot-8 small forward that is one of the more explosive scorers in the country. Most will remember Early’s NCAA tournament performance, but he also had some monster games (39 points in a win over Southern Illinois, for instance) during the regular season. Consistency, especially from deep, will be the key factor for early. He only averaged 13.9 points despite those big games, and outside of a 14-23 stretch from three in January, he shot 24% from deep.

But there’s so much more to like about this group. Fred VanVleet is a former top 100 recruit that should be able to take over for Malcolm Armstead at the point. NCAA tournament hero Ron Baker and Evan Wessel are both healthy after battling injuries all through last season. Tekele Cotton and Nick Wiggins, Andrew’s brother, are back in the mix as well. That’s a tough group of kids, all of whom have seen what it takes to make it to the Final Four.

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But they might disappoint because …: The Shockers lose the physical presence of Carl Hall around the bucket. Hall wasn’t exactly the second coming of Shaq, but he was a guy that could rebound the ball and score with his back to the basket. That’ll hurt, but they do add Kadeem Coleby, who averaged 9.6 points and 4.9 boards in 2011-2012 at Louisiana-Lafayette before transferring, and Marshall also brought in the No. 8 JuCo recruit in the country in Darius Carter.

There isn’t much experienced depth in the front court, either. Marshall has some big bodies that are either new to college basketball or have been ineffective in their time in Wichita. There are ways around this, like playing Early more minutes at the four to get more shooters and scorers on the floor on the perimeter, but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially if Coleby or Carter get into foul trouble early in games.

Outlook: On paper, the Shockers are the class of the Missouri Valley, talented and experienced enough that a season that ends in anything other than a league title and a trip to the NCAA tournament would be a major disappointment. On paper, this is a group that deserves the preseason top 25 ranking that they will get. On paper, another trip to the Sweet 16 shouldn’t be all that surprising.

But for that to happen, a couple of things need to occur. For starters, VanVleet needs to be able to embrace the leadership, decision-making and playmaking role that’s been vacated by Armstead. The Shockers also need to stay healthy, something that was easier said than done for Marshall’s team last season. Hall missed some time with a broken thumb, and Wessel and Baker combined for 26 games between them. Most importantly, however, Wichita State needs to avoid complacency. They can’t buy into the hype. They can’t allow some preseason accolades following last year’s surprising run to Atlanta to keep them from the ‘Play Angry’ mantra.

The Missouri Valley is always going to be a wild conference. Those road games are never going to be easy to win. Expecting to win simply by walking on the court could cost the Shockers dearly.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.