Wichita State Shockers

Bob Lutz: Wichita State's depth could make them dangerous

Gregg Marshall has a problem. He has, it appears, at least 11 players who can impact a basketball game and can put only five of them on the floor.

OK, maybe it's not a problem. And if it is, there isn't a coach in the country who wouldn't mind having that problem. But it will be a challenge for Marshall to figure out which five guys at which time belong out there.

Depth, such a positive for Wichita State last season, has not left the building. It's a different kind of depth — the Shockers are loaded in the backcourt and knocked Charleston Southern out Sunday afternoon at Koch Arena with a small, quick and ferocious lineup — but depth is depth.

"I think our depth could be good again,'' Marshall said after Wichita State's 85-57 win over a team that led Kansas State by 14 points at halftime on Friday night before falling flat in the second half.

It wasn't that close on Sunday. Wichita State led by as many as 42 points in the second half.

"We could be as deep as we were last season,'' Marshall said. "That would be nice.''

It's a different kind of depth. The Shockers have a bunch of guys 6-foot-5 and under. Four of them started because Marshall saw how Charleston Southern, allowed to relax with the basketball, picked apart K-State in the first half Friday night.

Wichita State played like guard dogs early, confusing the Buccaneers and taking them out of whatever offense they were trying to run. It was 14-2 in a blink and it just got worse for Charleston Southern from there.

This isn't a bad team the Shockers put the lumber to. The Bucs were 16-16 last season and 9-9 in the Big South, a conference Marshall knows a lot about from his days as coach at Winthrop.

"I think they're going to have a good season,'' Marshall said.

Well, I think the Shockers are headed for another good season, too. There's so much to like. Consider that three WSU seniors — Toure Murry, Joe Ragland and Garrett Stutz — combined for 10 points Sunday and that all are capable of averaging double-figure scoring. Even so, Wichita State scored 85 points and had five players in double figures.

"I feel like we can score,'' Marshall said. "We're a pretty potent offensive team, we have a lot of offensive weapons.''

Some that are still developing.

It looks to be an interesting collection of players, heavy on seniors but with a sprinkling of quality underclassmen like freshmen guards Tekele Cotton and Evan Wessel who look like immediate contributors.

Cotton, from Smyrna, Ga., was especially good Sunday with 10 points and a couple of steals in 20 minutes. He's built like a safety at 6-2, 193 pounds.

Wessel's football credentials are well known. He was a key player on Heights' 6A state championship football team last season and he bloodied his nose Sunday by running into Cotton's elbow. That necessitated a change of jerseys, but Wessel went back out and continued diving for loose balls.

With all of those 6-5 and under players wreaking havoc, the Shockers did break out a 6-8 newcomer whom his coach calls "a beast.''

Carl Hall, a transfer from Northwest Florida State Community College, attacked the boards for nine rebounds. He especially loves going after his teammates' missed shots. Hall, Stutz and an improved Ehimen Orukpe are a formidable group up front and 6-8 freshman Jake White, who had six points and five rebounds in 12 minutes, is going to be a nice supplement.

But Marshall has shown he's not scared to use four perimeter players at any given time. And it was that combination that hit Charleston Southern with a potent flurry to start Sunday's game. The Buccaneers could not take the Shockers' best shot. I'm not sure many teams can.

"If their minds are right, that's what they can do,'' Marshall said of his perimeter-oriented lineup. "That's what we talked about today as we left the locker room — defensive tenacity and toughness on the boards.''

What the Shockers gave away in rebounding they made up for with defense, limiting Charleston Southern to 18.5 percent shooting (5 of 27) in the first half.

It was an impressive display and WSU will arrive in Puerto Rico this week with a lot of confidence and a team that should win a lot of games this season.

Expectations are high and Sunday's performance did nothing to quell them. Marshall has another high-quality team, one that should improve day by day, week by week, month by month.

By March these Shockers could really be something.

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