Wichita State Shockers

Can you build the perfect WSU basketball starting five of the Gregg Marshall era?

Shocker fans were posed with an intriguing challenge this week by the Eagle: build the best starting five of Wichita State men’s basketball players in the Gregg Marshall era with a catch — there are salaries and you have to stay under budget.

Here are the rules:

  • You have $15 to spend on five players to assemble the best starting lineup that could actually win basketball games.
  • There are 25 former Shockers available with five tiers of descending monetary value (from $5 to $1) and five players on each tier.
  • There are no restrictions for selecting two (or more) players on the same money tier, as long as you don’t exceed $15.
  • No current Shockers or players who transferred away were considered. Also, only players who played the majority of their career for Marshall from 2008-19 were considered, which eliminated P.J. Couisnard, Matt Braeuer and Gal Mekel from consideration.

Now that we have the rules established, here are the tiers the Eagle used:

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$5 players: G Ron Baker (2012-16), F Cleanthony Early (2012-14), G Toure’ Murry (2008-12), G Landry Shamet (2015-18) and G Fred VanVleet (2012-16).

$4 players: G Malcolm Armstead (2012-13), G Tekele Cotton (2011-15), C Carl Hall (2011-13), F Markis McDuffie (2015-19) and C Shaquille Morris (2014-18).

$3 players: F J.T. Durley (2007-11), G Conner Frankamp (2015-18), G Clevin Hannah (2008-10), G Joe Ragland (2010-12) and C Garrett Stutz (2008-12).

$2 players: C Darius Carter (2013-15), F Rashard Kelly (2014-18), G David Kyles (2008-12), F Evan Wessel (2011-16) and F Darral Willis (2016-18).

$1 players: C Gabe Blair (2009-11), F Zach Brown (2014-18), C Ramon Clemente (2007-09), F Graham Hatch (2007-11) and G Samajae Haynes-Jones (2017-19).

While choosing the 25 players and sorting them into tiers, the Eagle weighed individual statistics, impact to team success and accomplishments. Among the notable players who were considered but ultimately left off were F Ben Smith (2010-12), G Demetric Williams (2009-13), C C.J. Lufile (2012-14), F Aaron Ellis (2007-11) and C Rauno Nurger (2014-18).

In less than 24 hours after posting the challenge, 118 Wichita State fans (legally) responded on social media with legal starting lineups.

There was no surprise that VanVleet was by far the most popular player to start a team with, as 75 percent of Shocker fans picked the NBA champion on their team. Here’s how the other $5 players were picked: Shamet (25 percent), Early (22 percent), Baker (10 percent) and Murry (1 percent).

It was also interesting to note that only a little more than a third (36 percent) of fans decided to pick two $5 players in building their teams. The $5 players made up 27 percent of rosters, the highest of any tier. The most popular combination was picking one player from each tier, as the 5-4-3-2-1 strategy was used 36 percent of the time.

Another popular strategy was picking a pair of $1 players to give them the ability to choose more higher-dollar players. The two biggest values that fans identified on the $1 tier was Brown and Clemente. Brown was actually the second-most popular player, registering on 46 percent of teams, while Clemente was picked 33 percent of the time.

But the $2 players were actually more popular as a group, ranking only behind the $5 players in how many were rostered. Kelly (33 percent) was the fourth-most popular player, while Willis (27 percent), Wessel (23 percent) and Carter (22 percent) were all among the 10 most-popular players.

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The path that most Shocker fans seemed to follow was start with VanVleet, pair him with either Early or Shamet, then go bargain hunting and fill out the final three spots with the remaining $5.

An intriguing lineup was submitted by @IamDreTwice, who paired Early and VanVleet with Stutz, Clemente and Hatch. Personally, I viewed Stutz at $3 as one of the better values, so to get him on the same team as Early and VanVleet gives them some serious firepower. Hatch and Clemente would be playing out of position, but that’s a tough team to score on.

If you go the VanVleet-Shamet route, then I like the idea of @passwordistaco2, who teamed that duo up with Brown, Kelly and Willis. That team has heavy shades of 2016-18, as Shamet, Brown, Kelly and Willis all were major players for both of those seasons. But I really like the idea of moving Shamet off the ball with WSU’s best point guard of all-time, having Willis as the third scorer and Brown and Kelly bringing the junkyard dog mentality to round out the lineup.

Another good idea of building a super team was to start with VanVleet, then pick two $4 players (like Cotton and Morris) and fill out your lineup with a pair of $1 players. Brown was a popular pick and would make for a devastating defensive duo with Cotton, then Blair or Clemente could theoretically play power forward alongside Morris. That might unlock the best possible defensive combination.

Do you think you have the perfect combination? Be sure to tweet Taylor Eldridge on Twitter at @tayloreldridge to submit your vote for the best starting five in the Marshall era.

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