NIT semifinal notebook: Hold that tour bus

03/29/2011 12:46 AM

03/29/2011 12:46 AM

Hold that tour bus

Wichita State players want to do some tourist stuff in the Big Apple. They want to wait until Friday _ after winning the NIT _ to sightsee.

"This is a business trip," WSU senior Graham Hatch said. "After the game Thursday, we can go look around."

Hatch is one of the few Shockers with New York experience. He visited as a pre-teen and wants to update his memory with a trip to the Statue of Liberty. J.T. Durley is in New York for the first time. He wants to see the Statue of Liberty and famed basketball playground Rucker Park.

The Shockers are staying at the Marriott Marquis, on Times Square and close to the Broadway theater district. The players walked around on Sunday night for a brief look at the sights. On Monday morning, they practiced at the New York Athletic Club, across the street from Central Park. On Monday night, they went to an NIT dinner at Central Park's Loeb Boathouse.

"We get to see Madison Square Garden, and that's probably the best thing here," Durley said.

Two more wins

At the beginning of this journey, the Shockers met with coach Gregg Marshall and convinced him they would take the NIT seriously.

The trip to New York for the semifinals prompted another chat.

"We sat down before we came here and talked about the goals," Hatch said. "It was good for us to sit down as a team and talk about it and be unified in winning this tournament."

Before the NIT, WSU's latest play date was March 24, 2006 _ a Sweet 16 loss to George Mason in the NCAA Tournament. A win tonight gives the Shockers a school-record 28th victory.

Two more wins earns WSU its first national tournament title.

"We've had the saying that we're going to end with a win," Hatch said. "That's been our motto."

WSU last ended the season with a win in 1982 and 1983. NCAA probation kept those teams out of postseason.

Down the bench

Depth is normally an advantage for Wichita State. Its 10-man rotation can wear down opponents and survive foul trouble.

Washington State might be less susceptible to that factor than previous NIT opponents. The Cougars don't go as deep into their bench as the Shockers, but their reserves are productive.

Guard Faisal Aden averages 12.9 points, second on the team, and scored 19 against Long Beach State in the NIT opener. Forward Brock Motum scored 17 points against Oklahoma State and 13 against Northwestern _ making 12 of 18 shots _ in the NIT.

How the game is played

Colorado leads the field in scoring, averaging 86 points in three NIT games. Alabama leads the field in defense, holding opponents to 58.3 points and 37.4-percent shooting.

You guessed it _ the other semifinal is a contrast in styles.

" (Alabama) tries to lock you up," ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said. "Their players may have the quickest hands in all of college basketball. They get more deflections, more pieces of the ball, more steals than any team I've seen all season."

Colorado, coached by former Wichita State assistant Tad Boyle, is shooting 51.1 percent in the NIT. They are averaging 17.3 assists and 8.7 turnovers.

"We're coming together offensively," Boyle said. "Our guys are playing unselfishly. Our assist numbers are up, and we're playing together."

Like all the teams in New York, Colorado rebounded from the disappointment of not making the NCAA Tournament field. Many analysts considered the Buffaloes a good bet for the 68-team field, largely on the strength of a win over Texas and three wins over Kansas State.

"They want to make a statement, as every team that's in New York can attest to," Boyle said. "That doesn't make us any different, but that's why we're here."

Boyle talked with several members of the Wichita State traveling party during Monday's media session. He helped recruit two Shockers, Hatch and Durley. He did not coach either. Boyle left WSU after the 2005-06 season to coach at Northern Colorado. He set a record with 24 wins in his first season at Colorado.

Worth noting

* Wichita State assistant coach Marty Gross played in the 1974 Jacksonsville team that lost to Purdue in the NIT semifinals and Boston College in the third-place game.

* WSU academic advisor Gretchen Torline is in New York to conduct mandatory study hall for all players each day.

* Wichita State, Colorado and Alabama will see each other again soon. They are in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 17-20.

* Wichita State is 6-11 in 12 NIT appearances. It is 0-4 in New York, losing in the quarterfinals in 1954, 1962, 1963 and 1966.

* Wichita State ranked second in average NIT attendance at 8,921 for two home games. New Mexico drew 9,626 for its lone NIT game. Colorado ranked third, with 7,659 for three games. Wichita State's crowd of 10,506 for the quarterfinal win over College of Charleston is the largest attendance of the tournament.

—Paul Suellentrop

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