The Missouri Valley Conference has been the source of so much excitement come tourney time. Looking at the list of teams and you immediately begin imagining a last second game winner from Missouri State or a Cinderella season by Drake or Creighton. Southern Illinois and Bradley have both made deep tournament runs in recent years as well. Wichita State has a very proud program but they have fallen on hard times recently. A few years back, they were a top-25 preseason team but never could harness all their talent into a winning effort and that season has snowballed into a couple tough years in Wichita. The road gets no easier this season as they open the Old Spice Classic against Georgetown. It's not likely that Gonzaga will cross paths with WSU but they are an MVC team...so you never know.
Last Season's Results: Wichita State fell victim to the difficult Missouri Valley conference last year. The Shockers won four out of their 18 games in MVC play. Overall, Wichita State went a disappointing 11-20. They had virtually no quality wins outside of their conference except for a victory against Louisiana State. Nearly every game they played was relatively close but WSU rarely pulled out the victory.
New Faces: Wichita State and coach Gregg Marshall will have to replace their top 4 scorers from a season ago. P.J. Couisinard, Matt Braeuer, and Philip Thomasson all graduated and Gal Mekel decided to forgo college basketball and sign with a team in Israel. The Shockers will be counting on five newcomers to make up for the lost production. Heading the class is Toure' Murray, Garrett Stutz, and David Kyles. Kyles and Murray are both athletic shooting guards who drew high-major recruiting interest. Stutz, a 7 foot freshman, took an official visit to Kentucky but decided to become a Shocker. These three should have an instant impact for coach Gregg Marshall. The Shockers also picked up two junior college players in Clevin Hannah and Reggie Chamberlain. Reggie Britton will also be joining the squad as a walk on and he has quite the text messaging obsession.
Players to Watch: It's going to be an uphill battle for Wichita State. They lost their top four leading scorers from a season ago and only one returning player started more than five games for WSU. Ramon Clemente is a name to remember for the Shockers. The 6'6'' senior will undoubtedly be the focal point for the young team this season. Clemente started all but one game last season and averaged 7 points a game but he is a force on the boards and pulled down 8 rebounds a game. He should be a double-double machine for Wichita State this season and they don't really have any other player with great experience. J.T. Durley never started a game last year but he had a solid impact off the bench scoring 7 points a game as well. Durley, a 6'7'' forward, joins Clemente in the front court. Their next leading scorer was also forward...starting to notice a trend here? The Shockers are extremely young at the guard spot this season and will have to rely heavily on freshman and inexperienced players.
TKR's Concern-O-Meter: Slim to None. There's probably zero chance that Gonzaga will see Wichita State in this tournament unless the Zags fall to Oklahoma State. The Shockers open up with Georgetown and if they were to win that game they would face Tennessee or Siena. They will be strong up front as they are loaded with 6'7''-6'9'' power forwards but the rest of the team is a pretty big question mark. I never discount the Missouri Valley as it is a personal favorite but the Wichita State-Gonzaga match up will probably just not happen.
What We are Watching for: You have to imagine that Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, and Steven Gray would be licking their chops if this game was to happen. Gregg Marshall will be getting a lot of minutes out of his freshmen guards this season and this would really be tough matchup for the young Shockers. Pargo and Bouldin are very smart and savvy guards and this should be a breakout year for Steven Gray. Ramon Clemente should be a tough matchup for the Zags. He is an extremely athletic forward and is a very gutty player. I think we would see a lot of Ira Brown on Clemente. The guard play will be too much for the Shockers to happen and the game should never be close.