The Wizard of Wichita
Watch out, college basketball. The Wichita State Shockers are back and might be better than ever after defeating the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 80-53. While the Shocker big men led the way, this game reminded us what an elite coach Gregg Marshall is.
After Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, and Evan Wessel said goodbye to the Shocker basketball program in the spring, no one knew what to expect from this team this season. Sure, the Shockers returned some familiar faces, but there were definitely more questions than answers. After pulverizing Tulsa and starting the season 3-0, few questions remain. These Shockers are good. Really good.
For the past two seasons, the Shockers were led by two elite players, Baker and VanVleet. When a play needed to be made, they often stepped up and made the play. When those two were playing well, the Shockers looked like one of college basketball’s best. However, when one or both of them had an off game (or were injured), the Shockers often struggled, especially on the offensive end.
This year’s Wichita State team is completely different. It’s balanced, deep, and extremely athletic. If a couple key players struggle, others step up and make the plays. For example, starting guards Conner Frankamp and Landry Shamet shot a combined 0-9 from the field against Tulsa, and yet, the Shockers still won by 27.
While the Shocker guards not named Austin Reaves struggled offensively, Wichita State’s big men stepped up huge. WSU’s top 5 scorers were Markis McDuffie (18), Darral Willis Jr. (16), Zach Brown (15), Rauno Nurger (9), and Shaq Morris (8). All five are forwards and centers. All five are 6’6” and taller. These giants absolutely dominated, making the Golden Hurricane look more like a Golden Tropical Storm.
This year’s Shocker team is deeper and more balanced than any Wichita State team in recent history. One man is responsible for that: the Wizard of Wichita, Gregg Marshall. Each year Marshall one-ups himself and shows the basketball world why he’s one of the best coaches in America. Wichita State lost two of its all time greatest players last season, and yet, the Shockers are now 3-0 and dominating at an almost unbelievable level. Although the players obviously deserve credit for playing well, this team’s early success starts at the top with Marshall.
A few key stats and moments from the Tulsa game reveal why Marshall is such an elite coach. Not only did the Shockers out-rebound the Hurricane 52-30, but they also had more assists with a margin of 20-9. That’s good coaching. That’s Gregg Marshall.
With under 3 minutes left in the game, Reaves and Shamet had back-to-back offensive rebounds on the same possession, and with under 2 minutes to play, C.J. Keyser dove on the ground for a loose ball. The game was almost over with the Shockers up big, but Marshall’s players kept fighting for every ball and possession. Not only is that impressive, but it shows the winning culture Marshall has established at Wichita State.
With the recent beat-down of Tulsa, Wichita State has now outscored its three opponents by a margin of 257-147. While the Shockers haven’t faced a great team yet, they have undeniably dominated. Also, this team is young and will keep improving under Gregg Marshall. If you are a team that will play the Shockers this season, you should be scared. Nay, you should be terrified. These Shockers are the real deal, and the Wizard of Wichita deserves all the credit.
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