Category Archives: Basketball

An early guess at 2014-15 for Wichita State

It’s hard to top perfect, so the Shockers will likely take a small step back next season. It won’t be much of a regression. They will be favored to win the Missouri Valley Conference and start the season ranked in the top 25. If they don’t return to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight season, it will be a big surprise.

Such is the confidence in returners Fred VanVleet, Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker. It’s just impossible to think of that trio presiding over an unsuccessful regular season. Add in coach Gregg Marshall’s track record (averaging 29.2 wins the past five seasons) and fans are free to make big plans for next March. Read More »

Day After: NCAA Tournament

Third round

Kentucky 78, Wichita State 76

Second round

Wichita State 64, Cal Poly 37

 Key statistics: WSU’s Cleanthony Early scored 54 points in the two games, making 21 of 32 shots and 7 of 14 three-pointers. The Shockers, after shooting 73 percent from the foul line in 34 games, made 24 of 39 in two NCAA games (61.5 percent). It didn’t matter against Cal Poly, but Sunday’s 12-of-18 performance hurt.

Record: WSU 35-1

Coverage from

  • The frustration with this history-making season will be that the Shockers didn’t get more opportunities to play other great teams. The non-conference schedule was not a problem, as Saint Louis and Tennessee proved to be worthy NCAA Tournament teams, and BYU, Davidson, Tulsa, Western Kentucky and North Carolina Central were solid opponents who either made the NCAAs or finished first or second in their conference. After watching the level of play that the Shockers and Wildcats produced from each other, it’s a shame the Shockers didn’t get a least another chance or two to play elite teams.
  • I’ve watched the final shot several times. Tekele Cotton, the in-bounder, made the only choice he had. A cross-court pass never reaches Early, who faded to opposite sideline. The Wildcats covered Ron Baker. VanVleet shooting over Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t ideal, but he was able to get a reasonably good look at the basket.
  • Kentucky made 8 of 18 three-pointers (44.4 percent) and seemed to make one every time the Shockers went to a zone. The Wildcats shot 31.9 percent from three-point range in SEC play and 32.7 percent for the season. They made 23 of 54 (42.6 percent) in four games entering the NCAA Tournament, which fits coach John Calipari’s story of how his team improved in recent weeks. Had the Wildcats missed a few of those threes, WSU stays in the zone and the pressure builds on Kentucky to make shots. Instead, WSU’s zone was never much of a factor.
  • In seven NCAA games, Early made 51 of 92 shots (55.4 percent) and 15 of 37 threes (40.5). Early’s arrival must be considered one of the key moments in coach Gregg Marshall’s tenure and his career one of the most significant in program history. Should his jersey be retired? He seems to check the boxes – All-American honors, All-MVC, 1,000-plus points, 2013 NCAA All-Tournament team, 2014 national player of the year candidate, NCAA Tournament success. He would be the first two-year player to join that list.
  • WSU made 55.1 percent of its shots and 10 of 21 threes, so offense wasn’t an issue. However, almost all that offense came from Baker and Early. The Shockers did not get their usual scoring contributions from VanVleet, Cotton or Darius Carter. Kentucky’s length and ability to switch screens on defense kept several Shockers from doing what they did most of the season.


No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Kentucky

Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is a finalist for the Oscar Robertson and Naismith national player of the year awards.

Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is a finalist for the Oscar Robertson and Naismith national player of the year awards.

Three ways for the Shockers to advance

  1. Wichita State must play the Wildcats even (or close) on the backboards. Kentucky is huge and generates lots of points through offensive rebounds (It leads the SEC by grabbing 42.2 percent of available offensive rebounds) and by breaking after grabbing rebounds and turnovers. “They’re the biggest team I’ve ever coached against,” an SEC assistant coach said. “That’s a huge key, being able to control your defensive glass. Bad shots are just like live-ball turnovers. They get it and go.” Freshman Julius Randle is Kentucky’s most imposing figure at 6-foot-9, 250 pounds. “He’s an alpha beast,” the assistant coach said. “He’s hard to deal with. You have to make him work so hard that maybe he’s a little worn down at the end.” On Friday, Kentucky grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, but scored only eight points off them against Kansas State. Kentucky out-rebounded Kansas State 40-28.
  2. Take advantage, or hope to take advantage, of Kentucky’s inconsistency. Are the Wildcats the team that won played well in the SEC Tournament, or the team that lost to South Carolina on March 1? “I saw a more electric and excited team in the SEC Tournament than I did throughout the year,” the assistant coach said. “They’re so young. You never know what you’re going to get. They do, at times, get a little lackadaisical. You can pressure them and force some turnovers.” Center Willie Cauley-Stein is a key figure in Kentucky’s presence. When he plays well, the Wildcats can switch all screens because he is athletic enough to contain point guards. That can disrupt many of the ball screens that Shocker guard Fred VanVleet uses so effectively to create mismatches. “When Cauley-Stein is in and he’s playing well, they’re a lot better defensive team,” the assistant coach said. “The hardest thing to guard is a ball screen. They don’t have to worry about that. Switch it and the ball screen almost become irrelevant.”
  3. WSU must embrace its Florida-ness. Our helpful assistant compares the Shockers and Gators and believes that game plan can be successful. Florida is 3-0 against Kentucky this season. Can WSU duplicate that success? Both teams are unselfish and careful with the basketball. The assistant coach sees VanVleet as similar to Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin. “They’re really, really good and really, really solid,” the assistant said. “That’s the reason Florida beats Kentucky. That’s exactly how Wichita State plays. Physical. Toughness. They don’t take bad shots.”

No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 16 Cal Poly

Cle autographs

Three ways for the Shockers to advance

  1. WSU must be prepared to play defense late into the shot clock against a patient team. “If Wichita State can’t turn them over, they’ll run that clock and get a great shot with seven seconds left,” says an assistant coach from the Big West. “They’re very disciplined offensively. They don’t take bad shots.”
  2. Don’t be surprised if Cal Poly coach Joe Callero empties his defensive playbook. He has played match-up zone in his past, although not much this season. “I think he’s going to throw the kitchen sink at them, make them have to do something against things they haven’t seen,” the assistant coach said. “Some type of trickery. They know individually they can’t match up.” The Mustangs are normally a man-to-man team that wants to make the Shockers shoot contest shots. They’re not much for pressing or causing turnovers. “They don’ t play soft at all,” the assistant said. “They’re a physical team.”
  3. Senior forward Chris Eversley is the key scorer for Cal Poly. He averages 13.7 points, although his shooting percentage is low (40.9). The Shockers must be prepared to stop him on pick and pops and he will shoot the three, although not particularly accurately. “You’ve got to limit his post touches and make him shoot contested shots,” the assistant said. Guard Kyle Odister is Cal Poly’s top three-point shooter (36.5). Dave Nwaba drives the ball and gets to the line, where he makes 69.6 percent of his shots.

Our helpful assistant coach calls Cal Poly a team that is much better than its record, toughened by a difficult non-conference schedule. As the margins of victory in the Big West Tournament indicate, the Mustangs are peaking. He expects WSU to win, but he does not believe a Cal Poly upset is out of the question.

“They’ll try to slow the game down as much as possible,” he said. “They’ll give them a good game.”

Coverage from

Marshall’s attitude pushes WSU’s athletic department to bold statement.

WSU’s Ron Baker deals with all the attention. And there is a lot of it.

Mustangs are careful with the basketball.

Shocker big men make their NCAA debuts.


Before they were Shockers II

Last year at the Final Four, I put together a blog post that gave us a glimpse into the careers of Wichita State players, pre-WSU: Before they were Shockers.

And like anything even sort-of popular, it deserves a sequel.

So here’s one from St. Louis – Before they were Shockers II: Electric Bugaloo

Read More »

Greg Shaheen answers your geography question

Greg Shaheen played a major role in running the NCAA Tournament for 12 years before leaving the NCAA. He is on Twitter and apparently took many questions from people who, like myself, found it odd that top-seeded Wichita State could potentially be placed at a geographic disadvantage (primarily by playing games closer to Kentucky than Kansas) against lower-seeded teams.

Shaheen, on Twitter, explains that the committee only geographically protects the top seed in its first game.


All the Cleanthony you could want

The Wichita Eagle’s Tony Adame spent much of last week in New York for his story on Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early.

Words. Photo. Video. It’s all there.

“You want to talk about playing angry?” Pine Bush High principal Aaron Hopmayer asks. “That’s hilarious to me. I tell Cle I’ve never seen him angry in his whole life! Seriously, though, I’m so proud of the man he’s become. Of the leader he’s become. He’s a tremendous success story. You’re talking to a kid about going to college and they’re on the fence, you point to Cle.”


Wichita State and the Midwest Region

The Shockers and friends watched the bracket unfold on Sunday.

The Shockers and friends watched the bracket unfold on Sunday.

The upside of Sunday’s NCAA selection show is that the Shockers gained a bunch of fans. Almost everybody with a Twitter account and/or a microphone jumped to their defense.



WSU coach Gregg Marshall took the calm approach, rightly pointing out that upsets happen and there is no point getting worked up about what game might come up. That is absolutely the message he needs to send his players.

In a private moment, however, I expect him to acknowledge that the committee didn’t pay much respect to his team’s No. 1 seed. Playing in the same region with Kentucky, Louisville, Duke and Michigan is tough. Add in Kansas State, because if anybody is sick of hearing about the Shockers, it’s got to be the Wildcats.

That’s a tough road, even if some of those teams are not quite as good as their name indicates. The Shockers can’t even count on a noise edge. Lexington and Manhattan are closer to St. Louis than Wichita. The real issue is if WSU must play Louisville in Indianapolis.

The seeding of those teams is up for debate. Wishing for an easier path is no way to prepare. This is the NCAA Tournament and it’s going to be tough, even for a No. 1 seed, after the first game. The mileage figures, however, are fact and it does not seem fair that WSU may be put at a disadvantage so early in the tournament.

Coverage from

Bob Lutz: Committee tells WSU to prove it after 34-0 record.

ESPN’s Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg help with your bracket.

Sports Illustrated calls it the Midwest Group of Death.

Gary Parrish of picks WSU to win it all.

Wichita State’s Sunday morning brackets

Jerry Palm - in St. Louis with a possible date with Dana Altman in the third round. Tennessee and BYU sneak in. Wisconsin is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest.

Joe Lunardi – in St. Louis vs. Cal Poly or Texas Southern and Altman or Kansas State on deck. Duke is the No. 2 seed in the region.

Yahoo - Tennessee, BYU in. Kansas a No. 3 seed.

USA Today – in St. Louis vs. Cal Poly or Texas Southern. Oregon or Saint Joseph’s up next. Villanova is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest.

Patrick Stevens of – vs. Cal Poly or Texas Southern. Memphis or Kansas State, should the Shockers survive the first game. Wisconsin is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest.

Every Day is March – in St. Louis vs. Cal Poly or Albany. Oregon and Pitt in the 8-9 game. Virginia the No. 2 seed.



Wichita State and the No. 1 seed

Wichita State appears to have a No. 1 seed locked up. Palm, Lunardi, USA Today and almost everybody else projects the Shockers on that top spot. At The Bracket Project, all but two of the 100-plus brackets surveyed place WSU as No. 1, giving it a 1.03 overall seeding.

WSU’s 34-0 record appears to be an unbeatable resume chip. The Shockers aren’t going to lose between now and Sunday and perfect is perfect. WSU’s schedule isn’t as strong as many of the contenders (you may have heard). To place the Shockers No. 1, a committee member must believe in the power of perfect, a non-conference schedule that featured road wins and not many cupcakes and the (believe or not) eye test. Read More »