by Alex Chiles, who you can find slowly recovering from Thanksgiving, where I ate my feelings after the tough Shocker loss, on Twitter @axchiles
Photo credit: The Sunflower
Welcome back to Shock Thoughts, my weekly-ish column to keep you up to date on Wichita State men’s hoops. Now that the Maui Invitational has come to a close, we’ll get back to the normal format here. As you know, I’ll recap the week that was, preview the week that will be, grade my last prediction, and make some new ones. Let’s do this.
The Week That Was: Notre Dame at the Maui Invitational
Not going to lie here- this was a rough one. Although WSU was in control much of the game, a few uncharacteristic mistakes by the Shockers and very opportunistic plays by the Irish flipped the script in the final seconds. In the first half, Conner Frankamp led a balanced scoring effort and the Shockers established an early double digit lead. Zach Brown was good throughout (5/6 on the night plus solid defense). The Shockers went into the locker room at halftime with a 14 point margin. All told, they shot 46% from the field and 80% from the free throw stripe. Multiple Shockers finished in double digits.
That all sounds pretty good. So what exactly went wrong? Let me count the ways…
- The Shocker bigs simply didn’t make enough of an impression and foul trouble didn’t help (Shaq had very silly second and fourth fouls, but a crazy smart fifth one kept the game alive for a few more seconds).
- Foul shot attempts: ND attempted 17, WSU 5. FIVE. For the whole game. Throw percentages out the window here, the number of attempts tells the story: the Shockers need to be more aggressive.
- They struggled mightily against the zone in the second half, which allowed the Irish to inch closer and closer.
- A cascade of unfortunate plays in the closing moments: Two rough ones by Reeves right in a row (ball stolen on inbounds pass when securing it would likely have ended the game, then immediately missing front end of a 1-and-1), ND making their two throws on their end, and Landry losing the ball on the final possession without putting up a shot.
Overall, the Shockers played well enough to win this game and in many ways were the superior team, but they didn’t put them away. And good teams will make you pay for that.
Even MORE overall, a rational person would have to say the tournament was a success for the Shockers. They finished a respectable 2nd place and learned several things about themselves. They learned they can come from behind with their press. They learned solid defense is going to win them a lot of games this year. And they learned that they still have a long way to go to get where they ultimately want to be.
The Week That Will Be: Savannah State & Baylor
-The Shockers return home to face the Savannah State Tigers on Tuesday. Let’s tackle the highs and lows of Savannah St’s modern basketball history a bit. The high was in 2012, where they won their conference but failed to win the conference tournament and were therefore banished to a first-round loss in the NIT. The low? Definitely the 2004-2005 squad, who had exactly zero wins on the season. They do appear in the NCAA record books for fewest points in a half (4) and worst field goal percentage in a half (4.3%), so that’s… something. What can I say about this season? They’ve… struggled. Their losses include Cincinnati (no shame), East Tennessee State (some shame), Louisiana at Lafayette (more shame), and Jacksonville State (ALL THE SHAME). They’ve collected victories over Middle Georgia State and Alabama State. Whew. Some of those schools have some serious names. One thing I can definitely say is that they like to play fast, averaging over 80 possessions per 40 minutes of game time. Luckily, that shouldn’t phase the Shockers, as Savannah’s 307th ranked offense isn’t all that great at turning those possessions into, you know, points.
-Their next match-up couldn’t be any more different: Baylor clocks in on my favorite site at 18th overall and are one of the slowest paced teams in the land. So far on this young season, Baylor is undefeated (although will face Xavier before getting to the Shockers) and just wrapped up the Hall of Fame Classic Championship in KC this past week. They’ve beaten both Wisconsin and our old conference foe Creighton. As per usual with Baylor, they’re athletic, long, and create matchup nightmares for defenses. Over half of their roster is 6-7 or taller. What will they probably do with all of that length and athleticism? Zone. A LOT. Which is perfect really, because the Shocks need to make some headway on correcting this weakness. Baylor is coached by Scott Drew, who really deserves some kudos here for being willing to play this game. What’s even better is that it’s home and home, meaning the Bears will play in Wichita next season. Let’s hope this encourages some other coaches from big conferences that playing WSU is worth it *cough* Bill Self *cough*.
Last Week’s Predictions:
The two teams will play at a high level for this early in the year, but the Shockers will edge out Notre Dame in a well-played, entertaining game.
Well, I do believe we saw some high level basketball at times, but since the result went the other way I can’t give myself any credit on this one.
Prediction Score for the Year: 2/5 (40%)
-WSU wins big against Savannah State and reaches the century mark.
-WSU looks better against Baylor’s zone and wins a close one, redeeming themselves after the tough finish in Maui.