Wichita State cut down the nets last season...the NIT nets. The Shockers return a solid core from that team and should be one of the favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference.
It helps that Gregg Marshall stayed with the Shockers, despite his name being thrown out there for several major program openings this offseason. Marshall has built the program up in his four years but has still not led the team to the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, Marshall utilized a 10-man rotation that provided great depth and balance for the Shockers. Six of those players return, including five of the their top six scorers.
There should be plenty of experience in the starting lineup with five seniors likely to get the nod. Joe Ragland, Toure' Murry, and David Kyles will make up the backcourt. Ragland is expected to be the maestro of the offense while Murry is at his best when using his size and physicality to the get to the basket. Kyles is the team's top returning three-point shooter and is not at all afraid to pull trigger from deep.
Demetric Williams is the only experienced guard coming off the bench. He was a key reserve last season and should take on an even bigger role this year. A quartet of freshmen will compete for minutes on the wing and should get a chance to see the court, if Marshall again chooses to use a deep bench. The Shockers will also get a boost for the 2012-2013 season with the addition of Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead who must sit out this year.
The frontcourt returns some size with seven-footer Garrett Stutz in line to take over in the middle. He can post up on the block and is also capable of stepping out on the perimeter and knocking down shots. Fellow seven-footer Ehimen Orupke played sparingly a year ago, but provides Marshall with another big man who can take up space in the paint.
Ben Smith (6-5) likely steps into the other starting forward spot. He is another versatile frontcourt player who can stretch defenses with his outside shooting but doesn't offer a whole lot of size. Junior college transfer Carl Hall was a solid get and brings some needed length and athleticism to the frontcourt. He should contribute right away, possibly as a starter if Marshall chooses to go with more size in the starting lineup. Jake White is considered the most talented of the Shockers' 2011 recruiting class and will also push for playing time.
In the end, Wichita State's postseason destiny may ultimately come down to whether or not they can finally win the MVC Tournament and earn the conference's automatic bid. For that to happen, the seniors must make a serious impact since six of the eight bench players are in their first year with the program. If that doesn't happen, the Shockers could be sweating out another Selection Sunday that may end up with their bubbles being burst and a third straight trip to the NIT.
Player to Watch: Toure' Murry, G/F
With a scoring by committee approach, the Shockers don't necessarily have a go-to scorer. But at crunch time, they will likely turn to Murry, who should replace J.T. Durley as the team's leading point producer. Murry is also a very good rebounder for a wing player and must continue to be a factor on the glass.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/17 vs. Colorado (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/18 vs. Alabama/Maryland (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/20 vs. Temple/Western Michigan/Purdue/Iona (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)