The Wichita State Shockers are back in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year. The Shockers have made it every year with the tandem of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker on the roster. Those two players are the leaders in most points scored in the NCAA Tournament among active players. Baker leads with 118 and VanVleet is just behind him with 113. The experience of that duo can and surely will payoff here at the big dance. The Shox have reached the Sweet Sixteen in two of the last three seasons. In 2013, the team made a run to the Final Four as a nine seed before losing 72-68 to the eventual National Champions, the Louisville Cardinals. The Shockers made this run while Baker and VanVleet were both freshmen. With them being seniors now, expect them to elevate their game even more.
The Shockers Season In A Nutshell
The Shockers currently sit at 24-8. The Shox struggled and went 7-5 in non-conference play. However, four of their five opponents they lost to in non-conference play are currently in the NCAA Tournament field. Wichita State then dominated conference play, going 16-2 and winning their third straight Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship. Their two losses came against a solid Illinois State Redbirds club on the road and the Northern Iowa Panthers at home. Then in the conference tournament, the Shockers barely escaped from Loyola (CHI), beating them 66-58 in the quarterfinals. But in the semifinals, the Shockers and the UNI Panthers went to overtime and the eventual tournament champion Panthers edged the Shockers 57-52. The Shockers were projected as about a six or seven seed in the NCAA Tournament assuming that they would've won the conference tournament. But since they lost, they have found themselves as an 11 seed and will be playing in one of the play-in games in the First Four tomorrow night against the fellow 11 seed Vanderbilt Commodores.
Other Key Players
Baker and VanVleet are the stars of the team, but let's not forgot about several other players on the team who contribute. Shaquille Morris is the team's starting center. He scores in the post and plays aggressive defense; which is key to head coach Gregg Marshall's defensive gameplan. Evan Wessel is usually in the starting lineup as well. He will either be at shooting guard or small forward, depending on which on Ron Baker is at. Wessel isn't as of good of a shooter as Baker, but he has the ability to knock down threes at any given moment and defenders can't give him an open shot. Anton Grady is a big man who comes off the bench and can do it all. He can post a defender up, drive to the hoop, and shoot jump shots. He is a utility man on offense and also one of Wichita State's more aggressive defenders, which Gregg Marshall loves. Other key players for the Shox include the three point specialist Connor Frankamp, forwards Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, and Markis McDuffie. Behind a core group of seniors and several talented freshmen, don't be surpised to see Wichita State make a run in the tournament this year.