Southern California 72, No. 20 Wichita State 69
Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60
Iowa 84, No. 20 Wichita State 61
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Key stats: The Shockers shot 35.1 percent, 31.1 percent and 35.6 percent in the three games. Its best effort from three-point range was 10 of 30 (33.3 percent) against Alabama.
WSU out-rebounded USC 19-12 on the offensive boards and Alabama 19-6, partially a reflection of good effort and partially because of a wealth of missed shots. Turnovers hurt the Shockers because every mistake hurts a team that can’t shoot. WSU totaled 15, 10 and 11, solid totals for a team missing two of its top ball-handlers.
WSU guard Ron Baker took a beating from constant defensive attention and looked worn down by Sunday. He played 39, 39 and 36 minutes in Orlando.
▪ My biggest regret in 10 years covering Wichita State basketball is that we didn’t get to see the 2013-14 Shockers play more high-level opponents on their way to a 35-1 record.
Kentucky pushed the Shockers to play a great game (and vice versa) in the NCAA Tournament, an all-too-rare moment in a season of blowouts. BYU, Saint Louis, Tennessee and Alabama tested WSU, to varying degrees, in November and December. It then won 19 of its 21 games against Missouri Valley Conference teams by 10 or more points.
That team deserved a few more games to show off.
Last week’s AdvoCare Invitational wakes up similar feelings. Injuries kept the Shockers from playing close to their potential, robbing us (and them) of great matchups. Of course, the Shockers brought some of that on themselves with uneven play in the first two games. Given an opportunity to show what they could do without guard Fred VanVleet, most of the Shockers whiffed.
Too bad. Matchups with Xavier, Notre Dame or Iowa could have provided the kind of drama often lacking.
▪ Of more immediate concern is the fact WSU zeroed out on chances for NCAA-quality victories in Florida. The path to be a top-four seed and lock in a trip to Oklahoma City, St. Louis or Des Moines seems a dream now, although the fact there are so many sites within driving distance may help the Shockers alleviate the geographic sting.
I don’t think WSU’s at-large chances are sunk. Too much basketball remains. WSU’s margin of error, obviously, is thin. Anything more than eight losses this season would make me nervous on Selection Sunday, depending on who the losses are against. There are not many resume games remaining (Utah, maybe UNLV, maybe Seton Hall, Northern Iowa, maybe Evansville).
UNLV plays Oregon on Friday. Seton Hall plays George Washington on Wednesday. Those are games those teams need to win to help the Shockers.
National writers are not so optimistic, although I did hear ESPN’s Andy Katz say the Shockers remain in the at-large picture.
NBC’s Rod Dauster calls it a nightmare scenario for Wichita State.
CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish compares WSU to the 2009 Davidson team that played in the NIT after losing in the Southern Conference Tournament. Two important differences strike me — 1) the Southern Conference finished that season No. 23 in the RPI and 2) Steph Curry played in 34 of Davidson’s 35 games.
Where that comparison gets scary for WSU is the fact Davidson defeated North Carolina State and West Virginia and lost Oklahoma, Purdue and Duke.
Wichita State’s NCAA Tournament may begin in Dayton this season.
▪ Shockers freshman Markis McDuffie averaged 12.3 points and 3.3 in the three games. He made 13 of 28 shots, 6 of 11 from three-point range and contributed three assists (three turnovers) and six steals.
That is WSU’s best takeaway from the tournament. McDuffie, who didn’t play at Tulsa, should contribute significantly this season. We saw some freshmen play well in last season’s Diamond Head Classic and then fade out and in of the rotation. McDuffie will have his ups and downs, but he also seems well-equipped to contribute because of his shooting, length on defense and driving ability.
▪ Alabama’s fifth-place win over No. 17 Notre Dame makes the Shockers look a little better. The Tide appeared to be one of the weaker teams in the field. They won two games over ranked opponents.
Xavier looked like the field’s deepest and best team from the start. The Musketeers proved it with a 90-61 win over Dayton in the title game. It was a good week for the Big East, with Marquette (Legends Classic), Creighton (Men Who Speak Up Main Event), Villanova (NIT Tip-Off) and Xavier winning tournaments. Providence finished second in the Wooden Legacy with a 77-64 loss to No. 3 Michigan State.
Up next: at Saint Louis, 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)