Are the Shockers ready for the Maui Invitational?
“You never know until you get there,” guard David Kyles said. “Every team in the tournament is a capable tournament team, NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, we do a good job paying attention to details in the scouting report and coming down with a W every game.”
That’s a good, safe answer. The Shockers should feel confident after Tuesday’s 79-67 win. The margin won’t impress anyone. I don’t think coach Gregg Marshall pays any attention to the margin in these games. In fact, I think he is is more than willing to ease off the gas against overmatched teams. He usually starts his post-game news conferences by saying “I’ve been in their shoes.” The starters, as well as some other combinations, played well enough on Tuesday to believe the Shockers can compete in Maui. The competition will, of course, take a big step up. I haven’t seen anything that makes me question WSU’s readiness. Things will be more difficult for the point guard, but Tuesday’s performance should give WSU confidence in Toure Murry as at least a short-term answer. He can run the offense efficiently and that’s a good place to be in November.
Toure Murry gave the Shockers a C on defense. I think the potential is there for WSU to put a smothering group of defenders on the court, with a lot of length and quickness. I expect the defense to improve with more playing time and tighter rotations. “We weren’t helping on screens like we should, and on the weak side,” Murry said. “They beat us on the rebounds (although only in the first half), and we’ve got to tighten that up before we go to Maui.” It’s easier to envision Murry at point guard if David Kyles is playing well. Joe Ragland made 3 of 6 threes, so playing him off the ball is another possibility if the Shockers are looking for scoring. Demetric Williams’ five turnovers is a concern. He will get better, but the Shockers can’t afford those mistakes in Maui. Ehimen Orukpe led WSU with seven rebounds in 12 minutes. His shot-block skills are going to be a nice weapon. WSU’s non-conference schedule enjoyed a good day on Tuesday. Tulsa, after opening with a loss to Appalachian State, defeated Oral Roberts. San Diego State won at Gonzaga. Nicholls State won at LSU, and it appears the Colonels are a team WSU must take seriously, especially because of their style of play. Of course, that doesn’t bode well for LSU giving WSU’s RPI a big boost. If you panicked about the home games, take a breath, because Nicholls State might be an OK opponent.
Around the Valley
Bradley relies on three-pointers to rally past Northern Illinois. Center Will Egolf sat the first half at coach Jim Les’ decision. Twenty-three turnovers ruined SIU’s morning game against Northeastern, not the controversial technical foul. Missouri State only needs to handle Tennessee to earn a trip to New York.