WSU's Garrett Stutz dunks in the second half against Texas Tech.Wichita State, and its fans, earned full rights to start dreaming about a meaningful March with Saturday’s 85-83 win at Koch Arena. The Shockers should TCB on Monday against North Dakota State (4-6 with two non-DI wins and two over plus-300 RPI teams). That will make WSU 11-1 heading into MVC play. As we’ve seen as recently as 2006-07, non-conference success isn’t always an indicator of Valley results. Everything changes, so the celebrating needs to stop post-Christmas. The Shockers should get some votes in Monday’s polls, and they earned it with what should be a fantastic non-conference run.
For now, enjoy it.
WSU moved up to No. 89 in Jerry Palm’s CollegeRPI.com ranking. Its strength of schedule is No. 273, so the margin of error remains small if you’re thinking NCAA (and to a lesser extent NIT). Shocker fans need to devote all of their excess energy to hoping Texas Tech finishes 10-6 or better in the Big 12.Missouri State (No. 25), Northern Iowa (No. 42) and Indiana State (No. 73) are the only MVC schools in the RPI top 100.I’m not sure what to think about Texas Tech. In the first half, it looked like a team that hadn’t played since Dec. 8. It played much better (offensively) in the second half. Are the Raiders an upper-half Big 12 team? I don’t see them passing Kansas, Texas or Kansas State. In 2006-7, WSU moved up to No. 8 in the rankings with wins at Syracuse and LSU. Both were ranked. Neither team made the NCAA Tournament.I don’t recall seeing a player commit nine turnovers. Tech’s Mike Singletary looked unstoppable for the early minutes of the first half. Then he drew a whistle every dribble and it took him out of the game. I know I haven’t seen a team score 17 points in 55 seconds. WSU made 11 straight free throws in the final 1:05 with no margin for error.The biggest thing that stands out to me in the past two games against TCU and Tech is WSU’s post play. Neither the Frogs nor Raiders bothered to throw it into the post. They scored plenty without that option, but it’s not easy. WSU has it, with Durley, Stutz and Blair, all of whom can score with their back to the basket. Durley is an automatic double team. Stutz will be, if he isn’t already. So will Blair. That’s a big help to the offense, and a weapon most teams can’t equal.Durley continues to develop into a complete player. He is shooting 40 percent from three-point range (6 of 15). He is averaging 8.3 rebounds in the past three games, correcting what was a real weakness a month ago.Stutz made two plays that I don’t think he makes a year ago – the tip in of a Durley miss and the dunk from Hannah, both in the second half. Both crucial plays. Also – a career-high three assists and no turnovers in 24 minutes. Stutz committed seven turnovers in his first three games. Since, three giveaways in eight games. Before the season, coach Gregg Marshall said Stutz was one of the players (David Kyles the other) who could make the difference between a decent-to-good season and a great one.Toure Murry’s shooting touch is off, an issue of mild concern. After a good start, he has dropped to 42 percent from the field and 34 percent from three-point range. I thought he took some bad shots against TCU. Against Tech, he was just off. He is 3 for 18 on threes in the past five games, with all three makes coming against TCU.
Around the Valley
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Creighton led by 12 at halftime before losing at No. 19 New Mexico. Impossible to get a read on the Bluejays.Rick Majerus installs Missouri State as the MVC champions. He might be right. No team is more impressive. The Bears go to Arkansas on Tuesday as the favorites and could be 11-0 entering MVC play. The Bills played without their starting point guard.There is a feeling Illinois State made a big turn with Saturday’s win at Utah. The Valley leads the Challenge series with the Mountain West 4-3 with two games remaining.SIU continues as the Valley’s biggest mystery. Down 11, the Salukis rally to beat San Diego. San Diego has beaten Oklahoma, Stanford and Houston. San Diego is also losers of six of its past seven games. You tell me what it means for SIU.Bradley faces Iowa State today. It’s been a tough month for Bradley, which is 1-2 since beating Illinois.ESPN’s Andy Katz asks the question every Shocker fan is pondering: Does WSU beat Pitt with Clevin Hannah? I say, no. But it would have been more interesting. The Shockers didn’t look ready for prime-time that night. It’s the last time this season WSU hasn’t been locked in.