For a second straight season, Wichita State's men's basketball will field a roster with five seniors.
It worked out great in 2010-11, when that experience helped the Shockers go 29-8 and win the National Invitation Tournament.
Sounds greedy, but experience could be an even bigger aid next season. WSU will be loaded with experienced guards, including seniors Toure Murry, David Kyles and Joe Ragland and junior Demetric Williams.
That's a switch from this season, when four scholarship seniors played in the front-court. It's better to let experienced guards guide the big men, instead of the other way around. Many of WSU's growing pains this season came from guards getting comfortable with their roles.
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If late March is an indication, that shouldn't be a problem next season. All four played well in the NIT, either showing more consistency or pulling out of slumps. Their chemistry will get more time to develop if, as expected, WSU takes a foreign trip this summer.
The play of Murry, Kyles, Ragland and Williams might turn out to be one of the top benefits of the five NIT games. Murry rebounded from a late-season collapse. Kyles shot 38.9 percent from three-point range and tied his season-high with four assists against Virginia Tech. Ragland and Williams ran the team efficiently.
"They seem to be understanding what we're trying to do, and there's a very nice flow to our offense," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said during the NIT. "They're all doing a good job with that.'
The hope is those four take that momentum and run with it this summer. Then next season, they are adept at controlling the game. They can help the big men — only senior center Garrett Stutz can be considered experienced — through the early season.
Much of that will be on Ragland as the point guard. He became more of a leader late in the season, as evidenced by a play in the NIT championship game against Alabama. WSU called for a lob to Kyles, which Alabama defended. Marshall prepared another play, but Ragland called for the lob again. It worked, and Kyles came through with an ESPN Sportscenter highlight dunk.
"He's quarterbacking us now," Marshall said. "I told them, even if it's different from what I call — as long as it's five guys on the same page — that's better than what I call, if only three guys are doing it right."
Ragland wanted to get Kyles a feel-good moment — a bit of leadership in and of itself.
"I just think that's my job — get the ball where it needs to be and help everybody out," Ragland said. "In the beginning of the season, I was not comfortable at all. I was new to the system, and basically 'Who am I to say something if I'm new.' I understand now, that's why I think my voice is a lot stronger than it was in the beginning."
Free and easy — Complaints about the death of basketball fundamentals hit a roadblock when it comes to WSU's free throws.
The Shockers finished the season 522 of 700, 74.571 percent. That mark falls just short of last season's program best percentage of 74.573 (525 of 704).
That accuracy continues a golden era at the foul line for WSU. Eight of the top 12 marks were compiled since the 2001-02 season.
On the hunt — A recruiting contact period started Thursday, sending WSU coaches out to try to leverage the NIT success.
One recruit who knows all about the Shockers is Midland Community College forward Guy Landry, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Paris, France. He has long been a target for WSU, and former Shocker Matt Braeuer is an assistant at Midland.
Landry is scheduled to visit WSU on Friday. Schools such as Texas-El Paso, Michigan State and Tennessee are also in the picture.
Landry helped Midland to a runner-up finish in the NJCAA Tournament and earned a spot on the all-tournament team. He averaged 16.2 points and seven rebounds in Hutchinson. He could help the Shockers as a forward who is big and athletic enough to play in the lane. He is mobile enough to guard forwards who shoot from three-point range, such as Missouri State's Kyle Weems and Northern Iowa's Jake Koch.
Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College guard Tyler Brown, a second-team All-American, is considering WSU and Illinois State and may look at other options. Brown, a sophomore, averaged 21.3 points and 4.6 rebounds. He shot 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.
"He's a scorer," Marshalltown coach Brynjar Brynjarsson said. "On a given night, he can explode for 35."
Brown, from Owensboro, Ky., redshirted at Morehead State before playing two seasons at Marshalltown.
The Shockers benefited from five ESPN or ESPN2 appearances during the NIT, and you can be sure recruits got the alert.
"Any kind of exposure at the national level can help," Brynjarsson said.
Link up with the golfers — WSU's women's golf team prepares for the MVC championship with the Wichita State Spring Invitational at Terradyne Country Club on Monday and Tuesday.
The Shockers are coming off their best finish of the spring, 10th in a 19-team field at the UALR Women's Golf Classic in Hot Springs, Ark., in late March.
The MVC tournament is April 22-23 in Normal, Ill.