For a second straight season, Wichita State is 18-4. Before we proceed, Shocker fans should celebrate that a little. WSU will enjoy back-to-back 20-win season for the fifth time. While 20 wins doesn’t mean as much as it did when teams played fewer games, it’s not a landmark Shocker fans take for granted.
Last season, WSU went 4-4 in February to ruin its MVC title run and NCAA at-large chances. It started February with a No. 48 RPI and hurt its cause with upset losses at Bradley and Evansville. It missed chances at top-30 RPI wins at Northern Iowa and Utah State.
This season, WSU starts February with a No. 49 RPI. To finish strong, it must win on the road, winning at least two of three at Indiana State, Northern Iowa and Missouri State. We find out the BracketBusters opponent on Monday, and that’s another big game.
I may regret writing this by Tuesday evening, but there’s a sense WSU has found a rotation that works. The starting lineup, with seniors J.T. Durley, Gabe Blair and Graham Hatch and juniors Toure Murry and David Kyles, makes sense. Durley and Blair are playing the best basketball of their careers. Hatch, Murry and Kyles are the most experienced perimeter players. Ben Smith will probably continue to push Hatch, so we’ll see how that plays out. For now, things seem to work with Hatch starting and Smith in relief. Coach Gregg Marshall has tightened his rotation in recent games, with the reserves playing fewer minutes. Turnovers late in the game against Indiana State dropped Demetric Williams from the starting lineup, and after not playing Saturday it appears he has a lot of work to do to regain trust.
This is the time of year the experienced players should take charge. The Shockers regrouped against SIU and Bradley. The schedule gets tougher again starting Tuesday at Indiana State.
“We’ve hit our stride again in the conference,” Durley said. “Right now, confidence is high and we’re playing good basketball.”
Around the Valley
- Creighton handle Indiana State and can look forward to beating up on the MVC weaklings for two weeks.
- Kenny Lawson gave the Bluejays a lift off the bench, which isn’t where we expected him to be.
- The Sycamores dropped to fourth place, blaming defense and turnovers for their slide.
- Missouri State can take another step toward the MVC title against Northern Iowa tonight.
- SIU lost its third straight game and Evansville’s surprising ascent continues.