No. 5 Wichita State (13-2) at ECU (7-8)
When: 8 p.m. CT, Thursday
Where: Minges Coliseum, Greenville, N.C. (7,100)
TV: ESPN 2 (Kevin Brown & Chris Spatola)
Series: First meeting
Radio: 103.7-FM and GoShockers.com
Live stats: GoShockers.com
WSU ranking: No. 10
ECU ranking: No. 314
Score prediction: Wichita State 81, ECU 59
WSU’s winning odds: 98%
Coach: Gregg Marshall, 11th season, 271-92
Coach: Michael Perry, first season, 5-4
Perry takes over the program on an interim basis after Jeff Lebo resigned before the start of December. ECU is 5-4 under Perry after a 2-4 start to the season, as the Pirates faced the 349th-rated strength of schedule in the non-conference. ECU is 1-3 in AAC play with a 67-65 victory over South Florida and losses to Tulsa, Central Florida, and Connecticut.
Halfcourt defense: ECU is forcing teams into a lot of contested shots, as opponents have a 46.7 effective field goal percentage against the Pirates — a top-40 mark in the country. Per Synergy Sports Technology, ECU ranks in the 87th percentile in defensive efficiency in the halfcourt.
Three-point defense: ECU does a good job of limiting three-point attempts and opponents are shooting 30.5 percent against the Pirates, which is the 22nd-best defensive rate in the country. No opponent has made more than nine threes in a game this year, while WSU enters the game averaging 9.8 per game.
Offensive rebounding: ECU tracks down a little more than 30 percent of its own misses, which is a top-third rate in college basketball. ECU averages 11.1 offensive rebounds per game, while WSU limits opponents to 23 percent on offensive rebounding — the 11th-best mark in the country.
Three-point shooting: ECU doesn’t take many three-pointers and it hits even less when they do fire from deep. The Pirates rank dead-last in the country at three-point shooting with their team average at 26 percent.
Halfcourt offense: ECU is scoring at 0.77 PPP in the halfcourt, per Synergy, which ranks it in the fourth percentile in college basketball. The Pirates own a 46.5 effective field goal percentage (310th) and are turning the ball over nearly 22 percent of the time (303rd), which are both bottom-50 marks in the country.
Transition defense: ECU is very good in the halfcourt defensively, but teams have had a lot of success when they’re able to run against the Pirates. Per Synergy, opponents are scoring at 1.07 PPP in transition, which ranks in the 25th percentile in college basketball.
3 Players to Watch
6-3 guard Isaac Fleming (No. 0)
Fleming is the team’s point guard and leads ECU with 4.8 assists, while adding 12.7 points per game. Fleming isn’t much of a threat from the outside (he’s shooting under 16 percent from three) or as a jump shooter, but he is a strong driver and is making 57 percent of his shots near the rim. Fleming is also an above-average creator, as his assist rate ranks 37th in the country.
6-3 guard B.J. Tyson (No. 21)
Tyson leads the team in scoring at 15.7 points, and he’s made a team-high 23 three-pointers. Tyson is at his best when he’s running the pick and roll or spotting up from the perimeter. Tyson also averages 4.9 rebounds, the third-highest mark on the team. Tyson isn’t a great jump shooter, but does make 57 percent of his shots near the rim. He’s also an 83-percent foul shooter.
6-5 forward Kentrell Barkley (No. 15)
Barkley averages 12.4 points, the third-most on the team, and 6.4 rebounds, the second-most on the team. He makes 57 percent of his shots near the rim and in an interesting twist, he shoots 50 percent on threes from straight on and 18 percent on threes from the wings and corners. He’s at his best when he’s out in transition, where he is scoring at 1.14 points per possession.
Much like the South Florida game, this is one that could be pretty much decided after 12 minutes. ECU has the 340th-rated offense by KenPom’s standards and ranks No. 315 overall. The Shockers should be in control of this one throughout.
One interesting game-within-the-game should be monitoring if WSU can maintain its torrid three-point shooting pace against one of the better three-point shooting defenses in the country. I suspect that the Shockers will shoot close to their average and make around 10 three-pointers.
WSU will look to extend the nation’s second-longest road winning streak (nine straight). Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Shockers are 44-6 and own the most road wins and the highest road winning percentage in Division I. WSU has won all three of its true road games this season. This will be 4-0.
Wichita State 84, ECU 58