▪ The fatigue factor which presented itself as a Thursday story-line appears insignificant.
The Redbirds didn’t have to stretch too much in their first two games. No starter played 30 or more minutes. Paris Lee played 15 on Saturday; MiKyle McIntosh 14. Illinois State is getting solid minutes from backups such as Madison Williams and Daouda Ndiaye.
WSU, the deeper team, played Landry Shamet 32 minutes on Saturday and Conner Frankamp 35. They may well be pushed again today.
Daishon Smith played six minutes on Saturday, so it’s a question as to how much he will play. He hasn’t been particularly effective against the Redbirds. Smith and Austin Reaves, who also struggled in the regular season against Illinois State, will likely get a few minutes to show if they’re trust-worthy on this stage.
What could change things? If one team falls behind by double-digits early and must expend energy to rally. That’s a scenario that could hurt either team, perhaps the Redbirds more than the Shockers.
▪ We know the Shockers will score if the opponent allows them to run their offense.
Illinois State is the one MVC team that can knock the Shockers off-stride for long stretches. I’ll be interested to see how Shamet and Frankamp handle aggressive defense from Lee and Wills, as well as switches to zone.
Most teams can’t sustain defensive pressure. The Redbirds can.
The Shockers endured one of their worst offensive games of the season in the 76-62 loss at Redbird Arena, scoring .946 points per possession for its third-least efficient game of the season.
WSU, of course, hasn’t lost since and is a different bunch since Shamet and Frankamp settled into the lead back-court roles.
In the rematch, WSU scored 1.31 points per possession, its sixth-best offensive performance. The Shockers made 56.5 percent of their shots, 38.1 percent from three. Frankamp made 4 of 6 threes and scored 18 points.
If the Shockers get to 80 points today, they will have played one of their best games.
▪ The story of WSU’s 86-45 win at Koch Arena was Zach Brown’s defense on Lee. Lee scored a season-low four points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Of course, McIntosh did not play in that game due to knee surgery. He is back and playing well.
After that game, Jim Benson of the Pantagraph asked WSU coach Gregg Marshall if he could have used Brown on Lee with McIntosh in the lineup. Marshall brushed aside the question by pointing out that McIntosh did not play.
We’ll see how WSU matches up today. Shamet may guard Lee early in the game to see how it goes. If Brown guards Lee, that sets off a reaction that perhaps puts Shamet on a bigger player. WSU has plenty of good defensive players, but the issue is keeping Shamet and Frankamp on the floor for shooting and ball-handling without sacrificing defense.
Against most teams, it’s not an issue. It might be today
The Redbirds also cause problems because Deontae Hawkins is a good outside shooter and the Shockers don’t want Shaq Morris chasing him around.
▪ Redbirds coach Dan Muller called off his team during that loss at Koch Arena, so complete was WSU’s effort.
“I could see in their faces not much was going to change,” Muller said. “I wanted them to have the feeling of what it felt like to continue to get dominated.”
▪ On the other end, Morris is the matchup problem for the Redbirds. They possess tall defenders, but not bulky ones. Morris scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the most recent meeting and is 7 of 13 from the field in two games this season.
▪ WSU outscored Illinois State 18-5 at the line in the most recent meeting. The Redbirds won that stat by three points in Redbird Arena. If that reflects WSU’s superior ability to score in the lane with Morris and Darral Willis (who is 9 of 17 from the field vs. Illinois State), that could be a crucial factor.
Wichita State vs. Illinois State
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
Wichita State (29-4): WSU plays in the title game for the seventh time. It is 3-3, winning in 1985, 1987 and 2014. … The Shockers are 15 of 34 from three-point range in two tournament games, despite Shamet shooting 2 of 8. Frankamp is 8 of 16 in the two games. … McDuffie scored 26 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the two games. … Shamet averaged 10.5 points, making 3 of 10 threes, with eight assists and two turnovers, in two games vs. the Redbirds this season. … The Shockers lead the series 42-40, although Illinois State has won three of the past five meetings.
ISU (27-5): The Redbirds are 4-7 in the title game, winning most recently in 1998. They lost in the title game in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2015. … Wills shoots 30.1 percent from three-point range, but has hurt teams who sag off him in recent games. He made 3 of 6 threes against Loyola, 4 of 9 vs. Southern Illinois and 3 of 7 in Saturday’s win over the Salukis.
RPI rank as of Sunday: WSU 37, ISU 26