Wichita State’s men’s basketball team starts the season with modest expectations from most Missouri Valley Conference observers. WSU’s women are in a different spot, one they relish.
Voters picked the WSU men fourth in the preseason poll released Monday. The WSU women are second and expected to give favorite Creighton a challenge, according to the vote totals.
WSU, the defending MVC men’s champions, lost five seniors from last season’s team. After being picked first in the 2011 poll and second in 2012, the Shockers dropped toward the middle of the conference in voting by coaches, media members and sports information directors. It is WSU’s lowest preseason slot since being picked fifth before the 2009-10 season.
No. 16 Creighton is the favorite, earning 38 of 40 possible first-place votes. No. 2 Illinois State received two first-place votes, followed by Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Evansville.
The Shockers scrimmaged South Dakota State on Sunday and are closing on their exhibition game against Pittsburg State on Nov. 5. They open the season on Nov. 10 against North Carolina Central. More than polls or predictions, getting healthy is coach Gregg Marshall’s concern. Senior guard Demetric Williams (ankle), junior forward Chadrack Lufile (shoulder), freshman guard Fred VanVleet (ankle) and freshman forward Zach Bush (ankle) are all missing or limited in practices.
Williams, who started 23 games last season, had ankle surgery in August. He has been in and out of practice, but recently is spending more time on the sidelines. As one of WSU’s four seniors — the only one with four seasons as a Shocker — his presence is missed.
“He’s basically been nonexistent in our practices so far,” Marshall said. “It’s hard to be a leader riding a stationary bike. Hopefully, Demetric can get back and give us some of that.”
Creighton is the men’s favorite for the second straight season and the third time in the past five. The Bluejays return four starters from a team that went 29-6 and finished second in the MVC before winning an NCAA Tournament game. The preseason poll predicted the eventual regular-season champion 12 of the past 28 seasons.
Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott is the preseason Player of the Year after earning All-American and MVC Player of the Year honors as a sophomore. Illinois State center Jackie Carmichael, Evansville guard Colt Ryan, Indiana State guard Jake Odum and Drake forward Ben Simons are first-team selections.
Wichita State’s women’s team landed its highest rank since the same spot before the 2006-07 season. The Shockers return three starters from a team that went 20-13, 12-6 in the MVC and played in the WNIT. Senior guard Jessica Diamond was voted to the preseason All-MVC team by coaches, media and sports information directors.
The Shockers aren’t hiding from high expectations. They finished third in the MVC last season after leading the race at the halfway point.
“Our team is working really hard and we want to bring the title back to Wichita State,” forward Michelle Price said.
Creighton topped the women’s poll with 382 points and 26 first-place votes. WSU earned 347 points and 12 votes. No. 3 Illinois State, which got two first-place votes, is followed by Northern Iowa, defending champion Missouri State, Bradley, Indiana State, Southern Illinois, Drake and Evansville.
The Bluejays return four starters, including preseason Player of the Year Carli Tritz, a junior guard. Northern Iowa returns guard Jacqui Kalin, the 2011 MVC Player of the Year who missed last season with a knee injury.
Diamond averaged 13.3 points and 2.5 assists last season to earn All-MVC honors.