#6 Wichita State Shockers
Last Year: 31-5 (17-1 MVC) NCAA Tournament Second Round
Since Gregg Marshall took over the Wichita State program they have become a consistent national powerhouse. Despite playing in the Missouri Valley Conference up until this year, the shockers have not missed an NCAA tournament since 2011 when they won the NIT. They also reached their first Final Four in almost fifty years in 2013 before going on to have an undefeated regular season the year after.
However this year poses a new challenge in the form of conference change. The Shockers find themselves in a new home known as the American Athletic Conference. In past years it was almost expected that this team would dominate the MVC. They were basically the Gonzaga of the midwest. It has been fives years since Wichita St. did not win the regular season title.
But that is more likely to change this year as the AAC provides much stiffer competition. The Cincinnati Bearcats coached by Mick Cronin are ranked twelfth in the Pre-season AP Poll and just missed out on making my top ten as well. The SMU Mustangs are also battling for the conference title after several years of consistent success at the top. Throw in some middle of the table teams like UCF, UConn and even Houston and the top of the league is looking like a bloodbath. Far from what the Shockers were used to in their old home.
Luckily for Wichita, this team did not lose too many important pieces from last season. The only departing player that averaged more than ten minutes of playing time per game was Daishon Smith at 14.9. None of the players averaged more than 5 PPG or 2.2 RPG. The only area where there will be a noticeable change is in assists and steals per game where Smith was third and second on the roster respectively. The rest of the departures barely played in more than half of the games last season. The point is, there is no real loss for the team going into this year.
Unfortunately, there are no real noteworthy additions to the squad either. There are only two recruits in their 2017 class: one three-star G/F Rodgerick Brown and Center Asbjorn Midtgaard from Denmark. Neither are expected to get much playing time this year but with Gregg Marshall’s reputation of turning unknown prospects into key players, don’t be surprised to hear more from them down the road.
This Wichita State team seems to be the same as last year but more mature. The key player for this team is going to be Landry Shamet who will control the floor while Markis McDuffie holds it down in the frontcourt. Shamet did suffer a stress fracture in the offseason but is looking to return in time for the start of the season. Him and McDuffie combined led the team in points per game last season and are likely to do it again. Shaq Morris at center is another crucial part of this squad leading the team in blocks and second in rebounds. The three of them on the floor together will be a deadly offensive combination.
Though the Shockers do find themselves in a significantly more dangerous league this year, they are expected to finish first. As long as Shamet continues to thrive as a PG, you can easily expect this team to make a deep run in the tournament. But joining the AAC will definitely make for a much more entertaining season.