Ron Baker

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No. 25 Wichita State pounds Drake 74-48

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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.

TIP-INS

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.

UP NEXT

Wichita State hosts Northern Iowa on Saturday.

Drake plays at Southern Illinois on Saturday.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

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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.

Wichita State returns to form with 67-50 win over No. 25 Utah

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All-Americans Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker combined for just 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting on Saturday afternoon. Connor Frankamp, the Kansas transfer eligible for his second game, finally hit his first shot as a Shocker … with less than a minute left in the game. Anton Grady and Landry Shamet did not play.

And Wichita State still smacked around No. 25 Utah in the Koch Center, winning 67-50 in a game that the Shockers controlled basically from the tip.

They’re back, guys.

Zach Brown and Markus McDuffie led the way for the Shockers. Brown finished with 14 points while McDuffie added 13, hitting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. Perhaps more promising is that, for the second straight game, the Shockers held a likely NCAA tournament team to just 50 points in 40 minutes. On Saturday, their game-plan was pretty simple: pressure Utah’s guards in the half court, make it difficult for them to run offense and double Jakob Poeltl on the catch, forcing someone else to beat them.

Poeltl finished with just five field goal attempts and six free throws. Utah committed 19 turnovers. Not a bad effort.

The Shockers entered the season as a preseason top 15 team, but a hamstring injury to VanVleet was a major reason that they lost four of their first six games. There had been concern that this group had managed to play their way out of at-large contention in the first three weeks of the season, but those doubts have been assuaged. With their point guard back in the lineup, the Shockers landed wins over UNLV and Utah in Wichita this week, and while that certainly does not lock anything up, it does show us just how good this team can be when they’re at full strength.

For Utah, a team that looked like they might be the best in the Pac-12 prior to Saturday, this loss is really concerning. They’ve now played two top 25 caliber teams this season — Wichita State and Miami — and been beaten fairly easily in both games. Jakob Poeltl is a beast, one of the nation’s most improved players, but there’s only so much he can do if he can get the ball in the post or a play run for him.

We knew losing Delon Wright was going to hurt this group.

We saw just how much is hurt today.

Ranking the best off-guards in college basketball

Buddy Hield (AP)
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The off-guard spot is the weakest position in college basketball this season. For comparison’s sake, the No. 20 lead guard in the list we released yesterday was UConn’s Sterling Gibbs, who ranked 59th in our top 100 players list.

For off-guards, only 18 were ranked in our top 100, meaning the final two in this list didn’t crack that list. Why is this the case? Is it because the best scoring guards in basketball are trying to mold themselves after the likes of Russell Westbrook, John Wall and Derrick Rose as opposed to, say, Kobe? Is it because the emphasis on court spacing has turned the off-guard spot into a spot-up shooters role? Or is this just a random year where the two-guards just aren’t all that good?

As interesting as that discussion would be, it’s a different conversation for a different day. Here are the top 20 off-guards in college basketball:

[MORE: Top backcourts | Top frontcourts]

1. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

It feels like Hield has been around forever. Initially considered to be not much more than a lockdown perimeter defender, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year has developed into one of the nation’s most potent wing scorers, averaging 17.4 points last season. His shooting percentages dipped a bit last year, which will be something to keep an eye on this year. Does being the focus of every team’s defense throw him off?

2. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

I’m beating this quote to death, I know, but the ACC coaches that I’ve spoken too rave about Brogdon. One of them told me that “he’s a MFer, man. In every way.” That’s just about the highest compliment that can be given to a basketball player from a coach. What he means is that Brogdon is tough, he’s physical, he’s skilled and he’s got the mental fortitude to execute in big moments. He’s a perfect fit for Tony Bennett’s system.

3. Ron Baker, Wichita State

It’s really difficult to argue with Ron Baker’s results. He made the Final Four as a freshman. He was a star on a team that won their first 35 games as a sophomore. He was an all-american on a team that went to the Sweet 16 and beat in-state rival Kansas — who refuses to play the Shockers — in the tournament. What does he have left to do?

The NBA hype on Baker has subsided a bit, but I still think he’ll find a role somewhere at that level. He can shoot, he can defend, he can handle the ball and he can operate in ball-screen actions.

4. Caris LeVert, Michigan

Ability is not going to be the issue with LeVert. We know how good he can be. The question is going to be his health. He’s broken his left foot twice in the last 18 months, with both injuries requiring surgery. How long does it take him to shake off the roster? And, more importantly, can he remain healthy for an entire season? If he does, Michigan has enough talent to make a run to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament and LeVert is good enough to finish his final season as an all-american.

5. Wayne Selden, Kansas

I see all the buzz surrounding Wayne Selden after his performance in the World University Games this summer. I understand why people are so high on him entering the year. The dude has never lacked for ability. Consistency and a left hand? That’s where he’s struggled. He got a slight bump in these rankings because of his play in Korea, but until he proves it night-in and night-out in the Big 12, I’ll have my reservations.

RELATED: Top 100 players | Top Lead Guards | Top Wings | Top Bigs

Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (AP Photo)
Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. (AP Photo)

6. James Blackmon, Indiana

Blackmon is such a dangerous scorer and he’s such a perfect fit for this Indiana offense. He’s a lethal three-point shooter when he gets into a rhythm, which is often, and that ability to shoot is what helps Indiana keep the floor spread offensively, creating acres of space for Yogi Ferrell to penetrate. I’d be surprised if his scoring numbers — he averaged 15.7 points as a freshman — didn’t improve this year. That said, the reason he’s sixth on this list is because he was a sieve defensively last year.

7. Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky

Briscoe was another guy that was tough to place in these rankings. For starters, he’s probably more of a natural lead guard than he is an off-guard, but playing in a back court with Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis is an easy way to get pushed off the ball. How does he react to that? Will he be willing to fill a role for UK? Is he a good enough shooter to dominate minutes over guys like Charles Matthews and Mychal Mulder? The ability is there, but it remains to be seen how he will be utilized by John Calipari.

8. Danuel House, Texas A&M

House was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and last season, his first with the Aggies after transferring in from Houston, he looked like it. House averaged 14.8 points, 2.1 assists and shot 40.0 percent from three. The Aggies were one of the last teams left out of the NCAA tournament in March. With House leading the way, and a talented freshman class coming in, the Aggies should be an SEC contender this season.

9. E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island

Matthews, a junior, is probably the best player in the Atlantic 10, having averaged 16.9 points last season. He’s an explosive, albeit at times inefficient, scorer that is a major reason the Rams will enter this season as the favorite to win the Atlantic 10.

10. Eron Harris, Michigan State

As a sophomore at West Virginia in 2013-14, Harris averaged 17.0 points. He’s a big-time wing scorer that can light it up from three when he gets on a role. Like Briscoe, it’s going to be interesting to see how Tom Izzo divvies up minutes on his perimeter. Will Harris start over Bryn Forbes? Will they be on the floor together with Denzel Valentine handling playmaking duties? Who will be the guy whose number gets called in crunch-time?

  • 11. Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen was terrific in the Final Four last season, helping to spark Duke’s come-from-behind title game victory. Does his development continue this season? And how does Coach K divide up minutes on Duke’s loaded perimeter?
  • 12. Kellen Dunham, Butler: It feels like Dunham is perennially underrated. He averaged 16.5 points and shot 41.0 percent from three last season on a top 25 team.
  • 13. Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma: Cousins doesn’t get quite as much attention as he should, which is a by-product of sharing a back court with Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard. NBA scouts know how good he is.
  • 14. Zak Irvin, Michigan: Irvin had a nice sophomore season individually, but with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton getting injured, Michigan missed the NCAA tournament. Irvin is a lights-out spot-up shooter when he gets in a rhythm.
  • 15. A.J. English, Iona: English was the only player in college basketball last season to average 20 points, five boards and five assists.
  • 16. Antonio Blakeney, LSU: Blakeney is a big-time talent that can score in bunches and throw down some thunderous dunks. But he’s also streaky and playing for a coach that doesn’t always maximize his talent. I expect that he’s going to have an up-and-down season.
  • 17. Sheldon McClellan, Miami: McClellan was the steadying force on a Miami team that won 25 games a season ago. While Angel Rodriguez was up and down, McClellan averaged a cool 14.5 points with 48.4/35.8/82.4 shooting splits.
  • 18. Stefan Moody, Ole Miss: Moody is the SEC’s leading returning scorer. At 5-foot-9 with a 45 inch vert and a penchant for hitting three or four 25-footers in a row, Moody is as entertaining as anyone in the country.
  • 19. Anthony Drmic, Boise State: Drmic missed the second half of last season with an injury. With Derrick Marks gone, Drmic will have to carry a heavier load this season.
  • 20. Juice Woodard, Tulsa: Woodard is the leading scorer on a Tulsa team that is going to contend for the AAC regular season title.

Missouri Valley Preview: Wichita State once again in the driver’s seat

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Missouri Valley Conference became a multi-bid league last season as Wichita State was joined by Northern Iowa as winners of at least one NCAA tournament game in 2015. While it’s hard to say if that will be the case again this season, Wichita State certainly looks dangerous once again, as the Shockers return potential all-americans Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker from a team that made the Sweet 16. That duo, which has reached the 2013 Final Four and led the 20113-14 version of the Shockers to a 35-0 record, is as good as any back court in the country.

Head coach Gregg Marshall has to replace two very good players in former starters Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter, but the transfers of former Kansas guard Connor Frankamp, who will be eligible in December, and former Cleveland State forward Anton Grady should alleviate that burden. The Shockers don’t make mistakes and harass you on the defensive end, two traits they hope help lead them to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for the third time in the last four years.

There isn’t a second team in the Valley as strong as the Panthers last season, but Illinois State is riding some nice momentum after ending last season strong with an Arch Madness win over Wichita State before pushing Northern Iowa to the limit. Former starters Daishon Knight and Reggie Lynch (transfer to Minnesota) will be tough to replace but versatile wing DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell returns along with junior guard and defensive dynamo Paris Lee and forward Deontae Hawkins. If New Mexico transfer Nick Banyard can help replace Lynch, the Redbirds should be tough.

Evansville brings the Valley’s most potent one-two punch in high-scoring senior guard D.J. Balentine and center Egidijus Mockevicius and the Purple Aces return all five starters from a 24-win team that won the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Head coach Marty Simmons is hoping that his roster — which returns 91 percent of the scoring and 94 percent of the rebounding — can make an additional leap this season.

It’s not likely that Northern Iowa wins another 31 games now that Valley Player of the Year Seth Tuttle has exhausted his eligibility, but you can’t count out this new-look Panther team. Starters Matt Bohannon and Jeremy Morgan return and Northern Iowa also has some key reserves like wing Paul Jesperson and guards Wes Washpun and Wyatt Lohaus returning.

One of the league’s most intriguing teams will be Loyola, who won 24 games and the CBI last season despite 11 missed conference games from star guard Milton Doyle. When healthy, Doyle is a potential first-team All-Valley player and he’s flanked by a talented and productive group that returns four starters. Indiana State boasts one of the league’s best backcourts as starters Devonte Brown, Brenton Scott and Khristian Smith return, but the frontcourt is a very big question mark. The Citadel transfer Matt Van Scyoc should help up front after sitting out a redshirt season.

Drake is beginning to put together a talented roster after back-to-back solid recruiting classes. Sophomore guard Reed Timmer looks like a future all-league candidate and the Bulldogs brought in a lot of size this recruiting class to bolster their overall depth. Missouri State returns a decent amount of experience, but they finished last season losing 14 of their final 17 games and need to make a major leap this season. Among the returnees, seniors Camryn Boone and Austin Ruder are the most productive players.

It was a tough offseason for Southern Illinois as the program lost five transfers, including some promising younger players. But the Salukis will move on with senior guard Anthony Beane, who should put up big numbers like he did last season. Head coach Barry Hinson needs junior forward Sean O’Brien to be consistent while he’s hoping a recruiting class of some junior college players and late signees can get up to speed quickly. New head coach Brian Wardle is essentially starting from scratch at Bradley as the Braves return one starter from a team that was 3-15 in the conference last season. It will be a year of seeing which newcomers can be important pieces for the future, but Wardle was successful at Green Bay and is hoping to turn it around in Peoria.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “As long as VanVleet and Baker are roaming the backcourt, you can write the Shockers as the favorites with a pen. They rarely make mistakes and they always step up in the clutch.
  • Sleeper: “You look at Loyola winning eight conference games last season without [Milton] Doyle [for some of that time] and that’s an impressive feat. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them have another nice season.”
  • Star to watch: “Just sit back and enjoy the ride when it comes to Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker. That’s one of finest backcourts that this game has seen in the last few years and, while I won’t miss playing them, I will miss what they brought to this league.”

PRESEASON MVC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State

It’s a toss-up for this award between Baker and Van Vleet, but Van Vleet gets the slight edge for the way he stepped up at the end of last season. One of the country’s most experienced floor leaders, Van Vleet has already earned 95 wins during his career and he’s coming off of a balanced season. The 6-foot-0 senior averaged 13.6 points, 5.2 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game and he’s a player that isn’t afraid to play in big games and take big shots.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-MVC TEAM:

  • Ron Baker, Wichita State: The better long-term prospect of the Shocker senior duo, Baker is a versatile guard who also brings an absurd amount of big-game experience. Baker has shot 38 percent from 3-point range the last two seasons and he cut his turnovers significantly last season despite playing more minutes.
  • D.J. Balentine, Evansville: One of the best scorers in the country, the senior is coming off back-to-back 20-point seasons and figures to put up big numbers. If Balentine can continue to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio he’ll be tough to stop.
  • DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Illinois State: The versatile forward was Illinois State’s leading rebounder last year while being named the Valley’s Newcomer of the Year. The Redbirds are hoping for even more production in extended minutes.
  • Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville: The interior running mate to Balentine, Mockevicius finished top 20 in the nation in both field-goal percentage (59%; 16th) and rebounding (9.9 rpg; 19th) as a junior.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW:

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Wichita State
2. Illinois State
3. Evansville
4. Northern Iowa
5. Loyola
6. Indiana State
7. Drake
8. Missouri State
9. Southern Illinois
10. Bradley