BracketBusters games are a change of pace from the conference race. That will certainly be true for Wichita State in Saturday’s game against Detroit.
After almost two months playing a lot of half-court basketball, the Shockers face a team that won’t mind running.
“We like to get up and down the floor,” Detroit coach Ray McCallum said.
The Titans (18-9) lead the Horizon League in scoring (79 points) and steals (8.4), and are tied for first in causing turnovers (16.5). They rank second in three-pointers made (7.4) and attempted (21.3).
While discussion of most Missouri Valley Conference teams starts with defense, the Titans are a score-first bunch. They play defense to cause turnovers and score.
“They play really hard on both ends,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “There’s talent at every spot, and I’m talking about talent, athleticism, skill, basketball ability. They’ve got playmakers.”
Guard Ray McCallum (son of the coach) played in the 2010 McDonald’s All-American game and pondered offers from Arizona, UCLA and Florida before playing for his father. A junior, he is projected as a second-round NBA draft pick in 2013 or 2014.
“He’s (Indiana State’s) Jake Odum, but probably stronger and maybe a little better shooter,” Marshall said. “He could play at a lot of places and do well.”
Both teams are involved in conference races. WSU can clinch at least a share of the MVC title with a win over Evansville on Wednesday. Detroit is one game behind Horizon League leader Valparaiso with two games remaining.
The Titans are winners in six of their past seven games, scoring 80 or more points in five of those wins. A week ago, they won at Valparaiso 84-74 by ending the game on a 36-11 run. Coach Ray McCallum said losses to St. John’s, Syracuse, Miami (Fla.) and Pittsburgh toughened his team for moments like that.
“Our non-conference really, really tested us,” he said. “In all those contests, we were in position, a play here or there. Down 15 at Valpo, we’d been there before. We found a way to win.”
The break from conference play can be seen as a positive or negative. WSU, with a solid NCAA Tournament at-large resume, has more to lose. Detroit, which knows it must win the automatic bid, has nothing to lose. Marshall looks at the game as an opportunity to add to that NCAA resume.
“Their RPI is good, so if we can win it will be a quality win,” Marshall said.
In past seasons, BracketBusters has served WSU as a preview of tournament quality. George Mason (2006), Cleveland State (2009) Utah State (2010), VCU (2011) and Davidson (2012) played in the NCAAs after meeting the Shockers in late February.
“It’s always good to play somebody different,” WSU guard Malcolm Armstead said. “It gets us ready for post-season play.”
The Titans depend heavily on their starters, all of whom average nine or more points and 25 or more minutes. Point guard Ray McCallum averages 18.7 points and 5.1 rebounds. Guard Jason Calliste and forward Nick Minnerath both scored 21 points in the win at Valparaiso.
“Our balanced attack is our strength,” coach Ray McCallum said.