Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State basketball teams make me nervous.
He always has 10 or 11 guys who can really play and we all know that in this day and age that college athletes are selfish. They want the ball. They want to score and rebound and fill up a box score.
But season after season, Marshall pulls it off. He gets the Shockers to share the basketball and none of them get caught up in me, me, me.
Look for more of the same this season, just with players we don’t know a lot about.
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Outside of returning seniors Carl Hall and Demetric Williams, Marshall, beginning his sixth season as Wichita State’s coach, has been handed a fresh batch of Play-Doh.
There is such a thing as too much depth, and there have been a few times during Marshall’s tenure when I thought he was trying to extract too much blood from a turnip.
Most of the time, though, Marshall has been a masterful manipulator of the Shockers’ deep roster. He is a veteran coach who learned long ago what style of play suits his teams best. And with Marshall, it’s all-out, intense defensive pressure that rules the day.
He asks his players to go as long and to play as hard as they can, understanding that he has guys on the bench licking their chops to get in. At WSU, there is a next-man-up mentality and it has served the Shockers well.
This isn’t to imply that there isn’t talent. There are a lot of players who can contribute and it’s a credit to Marshall and his coaching staff that they have been able to figure out which roles suit which players.
This season, it might take a while. Wichita State’s past two teams have been chock-full of experienced seniors, and those veterans have been good at handing down. Now, though, there aren’t many vets. But there are a bunch of talented newcomers from the high school, junior college and transfer ranks.
The Shockers have been picked to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference by coaches, sports information directors and media members who cover the league.
On paper, I suppose, it makes sense. Gone are Toure Murry, Joe Ragland, Garrett Stutz and David Kyles from a team that won 29 teams and made it to the NCAA Tournament. That’s a lot to lose.
Still, I suspect the days of the Shockers finishing fourth or lower in the Valley are gone as long as Marshall isn’t.
He’s too good of a coach and there are too many good players at WSU for a fall to fourth place. Also, I question just how strong the Valley will be in 2012-13. Creighton is a legitimate top 15-20 team, but I’m not ready to anoint Illinois State or Northern Iowa, the teams picked to finish second and third, as stronger than WSU.
More experienced teams, yes. But stronger? I think I’ll take a rain check.
I expect a strong season from the 6-foot-8 Hall, who has looked beastly during preseason practices and scrimmages. Williams will step into more of a leadership role.
Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead and returning sophomore Tekele Cotton add to what should be a loaded backcourt, as does redshirt freshman Ron Baker, who I’ve been touting as a difference-maker since he played at Scott City.
Marshall loves his team, he’s just not sure how it’s all going to fall together.
He has a bunch of guys who can play in the backcourt and a bunch of guys who can play on the wing. There is more depth in the frontcourt than there has been for a couple of seasons, too. Junior college transfers Chadrack Lufile, Cleanthony Early and Nick Wiggins, who go 6-9, 6-8 and 6-6, are in the mix. So is old standby 7-footer Ehimen Orukpe, who has one more season to prove himself. Don’t forget about 6-8 sophomore Jake White, either.
Sophomore Evan Wessel might start at the small forward. And freshman point guard Fred VanVleet is definitely a part of the Shockers’ future. Can he be a part of the present, too?
Even freshman forward Derail Green has caught Marshall’s eye by making a bunch of perimeter shots this fall.
This team is loaded with players who can contribute. And it’s Marshall’s way to fit as many of them in as he can.
There might be Valley teams with five better players than WSU, especially at the start of the season. But there probably are none that can match the Shockers one through 12 or 13.