▪ Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall expects Fred VanVleet to play, pending pre-game discussions with trainer Todd Fagan and VanVleet. So VanVleet remains a game-time decision, with the needle almost pegged to “play.”
VanVleet, who missed the past four games with a strained left hamstring, went through all the normal shootaround work Saturday afternoon, continuing the positive trend that included increased practices late this week. WSU can’t simulate contact in practice like he will face in a game. WSU can protect him from stretching and twisting during practice, so the game will present new problems.
VanVleet’s return — understanding his rust — will help two players significantly, in my opinion. VanVleet has a great relationship with Shaq Morris and if anybody can get the most out of Morris, it’s VanVleet. Zach Brown should benefit from VanVleet’s ability to get him the ball in spots where he is comfortable.
Add Ron Baker to that list, as well.
Last season, this game produced Rauno Nurger’s best game as a freshman. He scored 15 points and made 2 of 4 threes. He scored 40 points in all other games.
Two seasons ago, WSU won 70-65 at Chaifetz Arena in a game notable for two things.
The Billikens, an NCAA Tournament team, gave the Shockers one of their toughest tests of that 35-1 season.
Doug Gottlieb called that game for TV and was not impressed with VanVleet’s 6-assist, 4-turnover effort against a strong defense. That game started his criticism of the Shockers that blew up later that season and earned him the lead spot among national critics of WSU’s quest for a No. 1 seed that season.
Chadrack Lufile had 12 points and eight rebounds in that game. If he can rub Morris’ head before Saturday’s game, a lot of people would be happy.
▪ Anton Grady is with the team and he looks good. He didn’t practice on Saturday, but he did shoot jump shots and work up a mild sweat. I haven’t talked with Grady, but when you watch him do those things, his goal of returning to basketball seems realistic, and fairly quickly.
Grady, a senior center, suffered a spinal concussion on Nov. 27.
▪ Conner Frankamp takes his exams on Monday, so any decision about when he can play will wait until those exams are recorded and NCAA paperwork is done. Playing on Wednesday against UNLV remains a possibility. If not, he will play Dec. 12 against Utah.
This team could be almost whole (except freshman Landry Shamet) by Seton Hall, maybe before.
▪ Around the Valley:
Loyola defeated Creighton 68-65. It was Creighton’s first game against an MVC member since leaving for the Big East in 2013.
Good win for the Ramblers, who are coached by former Bluejay Porter Moser. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in Omaha. I listened to the final minutes and it was ugly. Loyola blew two possessions. Creighton couldn’t make free throws. Or shots.
Butler defeated Indiana State 85-71.