Photo credit: Me!
Welcome back to Shock Thoughts, my weekly-ish column to keep you up to date on Wichita State men’s hoops. A quick recap of the format: I’ll discuss the week that was, preview the week that will be, pepper in some random thoughts, grade my last predictions, and make some new ones. Here we go…
The Week That Was: Savannah State & Baylor
-The Shockers started out the week strong against Savannah State. The mystery behind Savannah’s insane possessions per game ratio become evident immediately. The Tigers shoot threes. Without hesitation. Without inside-to-outside action. They simply launch bombs. For the game, they attempted 55 threes (!) and only 25 two-pointers (!!). Luckily for the Shox, and as I mentioned in my preview, Savannah is much better at putting up shots than they are at placing them inside the basket. They only made 13 of those 55 threes, which means a lot of wasted possessions (Jay Bilas would call them turnovers even). Samajae Haynes-Jones especially took advantage of these “turnovers” (finishing with 31 on the night), as his skillset is perfect for scoring in transition. All that being said, the Shockers didn’t actually play great in this one. The offense was sloppy (19 turnovers!) and struggled a bit against the zone (but showed some improvement, albeit against inferior competition). As deep as this team is, the drop off between the first and second groups is noticeable, and Marshall doesn’t seem to feel comfortable sticking with the backups for long stretches quite yet. If they can clean up the turnovers, that might change.
-The Baylor game was a clinic in Shocker basketball. It shouldn’t really surprise opposing teams anymore, but it’s always fun to watch a normally good offensive team struggle to score against the Shox defense. Baylor, to their credit, did what they should’ve against WSU: they zoned. However, the Shox made some significant strides on their zone offense. There are two ways to beat a zone: passing and shooting. In this one, the Shockers simply shot the hell out of the ball: 45% from two and 63% from three. Although you can’t expect this high of shooting percentages every night, there’s no reason why this can’t work in the future because there is a ton of shooting talent on this team. Improving their passing (inside-out passes especially) will help take them to the next level.
Two things I want to emphasize about this game that makes the win especially impressive: First, they played very solid down the stretch and didn’t make the mistakes they made a week ago. They made free throws, played solid defense, and limited to Baylor to one shot on almost all of their final possessions by rebounding well. Second, they beat the exact type of team that would normally present problems. Baylor has size, length, and can play zone. The Shox won anyway.
-Austin Reaves got the start against Savannah State, which is a vote of confidence from Marshall after his missteps at the end there in Maui. How did Austin respond? By taking a three pointer without hesitation in the opening minutes – and it went in. He also sank two free throws towards the end of the Baylor game (which helped back bounce from missing the front end of the 1-and-1 against ND).
-Injury update: Brown tweaked his knee in practice and didn’t play against Savannah, but played 25 minutes in the Baylor game (but didn’t do a whole lot). Landry turned his ankle at the end of the first half against Savannah State and did not return to play in that one, but bounced back and played a solid game against Baylor. Connor went down in a scary fashion against Savannah but returned to the game a little later and appeared fine. Samajae left it all out on the court against Savannah, including a lot of blood from a nosebleed, but came back after a few minutes to polish off his 31 point performance.
-FiveThirtyEight, one of my favorite sites for both sports and politics, wrote about the Shockers being the new Gonzaga. Check it out here.
The Week That Will Be: South Dakota State and Oklahoma State
-South Dakota State comes to town for the first game this week. They are 7-3 on the season, with notable victories against Iowa and Ole Miss, as well as notable losses against KU and old MVC rival Missouri State. They clock in at #119 overall in KenPom rankings, and seem to be much better at offense than defense. For whatever it’s worth, they are 31st in luck (which is an actual stat on KenPom if you don’t believe me). Their best player is easily Mike Daum, a 6-9 forward. He has scored in double digits every game this year except for the Missouri St game. Limiting him will be a key in this one.
-This week, WSU will take on a Big 12 foe on a Saturday on national television. Sound familiar? Well, get used to it… there is one more to come. This week’s foe is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are 7-1 this year, which sounds pretty great until you look at their schedule thus far. Their best win is against Pitt, who are currently #146 in KenPom). They did play Texas A&M, which might be a good comparison to the Shockers… they are 7 and 5 in KenPom respectively, with solid scores on both sides of the ball. And how did OSU fair against A&M? They lost by 17. Jeffrey Carroll is the one to watch for the Cowboys. After being held out of a few games while OSU tried to sort out their part in the FBI’s NCAA investigation, he’s been on a tear-scoring in double figures in 4 out of the 5 games he’s played. The only game he struggled? The loss against A&M.
Last Week’s Predictions:
-WSU wins big against Savannah State and reaches the century mark.
No other way to say it: I nailed it. Shocker W + 112 points = success.
-WSU looks better against Baylor’s zone and wins a close one, redeeming themselves after the finish in Maui.
Nailed it again. Good week for me.
Prediction Score for the Year: 4/7 (57%)
-The Shockers have little trouble with South Dakota State and win by double figures.
-WSU controls the game the whole way and OSU struggles against one of the best defenses they’ll see all season.