WSU sophomore Demetric WilliamsThese kind of preseasons stand out at Wichita State. Everybody is heaping love on the Shockers and it must feel good for the part of the fan-base that remembers the 1990s. WSU is the MVC favorite in every publications and a top-25 pick in some.
Enjoy it. Coach Gregg Marshall and his staff did a masterful job assembling a roster with good answers at every position. The Shockers are at least two-deep at every position, and I will include point guard in that assessment. WSU will miss Clevin Hannah’s smarts and shooting touch, no doubt. Sophomore Demetric Williams showed enough over his last 10 games to earn confidence that he can do the job. Junior transfer Joe Ragland looks at least adequate, and he may be more than that. There will be an adjustment period, but by MVC season I think point guard will be solid.
The only damper is, as Marshall will point out, that this team hasn’t won much. WSU is 0-2 in post-season games at home the past two seasons. It finished three games behind Northern Iowa in the MVC race last season, fading when it couldn’t win on the road. A nice run in St. Louis ended with a second-half collapse in the title game. While the Shockers made good progress and won a lot of games, there are some big steps remaining.
1. The Shockers should dominate at home. Can they do the same on the road?
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That will be the big question. WSU improved last season, going 3-6 in MVC road games. That’s up from 1-8 the previous year. To win an MVC title, a team probably needs to go a minimum of 5-4 in MVC road games. That should be in reach for WSU. Its experience and depth should pull it through tough road situations that baffled the Shockers in the past. This team won’t lack in preparation with games in the Maui Invitational and at San Diego State. The Shockers should be well-prepared to play without the crowd on their side.
2. Who plays point guard?
I’m not sure, but I think fans will like the answer. In his final 10 games as a freshman, Williams averaged 7.0 points and shot 53.3 percent from the field. His playing increased as he cut down on turnovers (18 assists and 12 turnovers in the final 10 games) and improved his defense. He made 11 of 22 three-pointers in his final 10 games and scored 12 points in the MVC Tournament semifinal win over Illinois State. That’s not a complete resume, but it’s a good start. We haven’t seen Ragland in a game, but every player I talked to loves playing with him. He is quick, which should allow him to get into the lane and push the basketball. I expect some rough moments at point. Ultimately, I think WSU is in good shape.
3. What is a successful season?
That is a tough question for an MVC team. The Shockers could win the MVC and not earn an NCAA Tournament spot. It’s happened to good MVC team over the years, most recently Creighton in 2009. Surviving the 18-game MVC grind to finish first is the best indicator of a good team. It should be more celebrated than getting hot in St. Louis for three days. However, an MVC title combined with an NIT bid will be a letdown for fans and players. The Shockers need to get to the NCAA Tournament. Their play in November and December will determine the importance of the MVC Tournament.