The Wichita State men’s basketball team that finished last season in February and March must have been the version coaches around the American Athletic Conference remembered when turning in their ballots for the preseason poll.
The Shockers were picked to finish fourth in the AAC by the other 11 head coaches in the conference on Monday morning at the AAC media day in Philadelphia, a vote of confidence for such a young team. WSU finished with 88 points, just six behind Cincinnati in third and nine above South Florida in fifth.
Despite coaches voting WSU fourth, they did not select a Shocker for any of the 11 spots available on the preseason all-conference teams.
Houston and Memphis finished tied atop the preseason poll with 113 points, although Houston took seven of the 12 first-place votes. Cincinnati senior wing Jarron Cumberland was voted the preseason Player of the Year, while Memphis freshman center James Wiseman was voted the preseason Rookie of the Year.
The Shockers return three starters and seven in the rotation from a total rebuild last season that saw WSU finish 22-15, sixth in the AAC and play its best basketball the final two months of the season. After a 1-6 start in conference play, WSU won nine of its last 11 AAC games and took Cincinnati down to the final minute in the AAC tournament semifinals. In total, WSU won 14 of its final 18 games to reach New York City and the NIT semifinals.
After missing the NCAA Tournament for the final time in eight years, WSU will attempt to return behind a core featuring senior Jaime Echenique and a trio of sophomores in Dexter Dennis, Jamarius Burton and Erik Stevenson. After being extremely inexperienced last season, WSU will again be young with 10 of 13 scholarship players either freshmen or sophomores.
“The objective is to get old and stay old and we were able to do that for a handful of years and hopefully we’re headed to that again,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall told the NCAA’s Andy Katz at a round table Monday. “We have five freshmen and five sophomores and all of them can play. There may not be any (NBA) lottery picks, but there could be if they keep developing and working.
“What we need to do is keep this core together and hopefully we’re good this year and can continue that for the foreseeable future.”
AAC preseason coaches’ poll
1. Houston (7) 113
1. Memphis (4) 113
3. Cincinnati (1) 94
4. Wichita State 88
5. South Florida 79
6. Connecticut 75
7. Temple 72
8. SMU 47
9. Central Florida 40
10. Tulsa 36
11. East Carolina 20
12. Tulane 15
Player of the Year — Jarron Cumberland, sr., G, Cincinnati
Rookie of the Year — James Wiseman, fr., C, Memphis
Jarron Cumberland, sr., G, Cincinnati
Quinton Rose, sr., G, Temple
DeJon Jarreau, jr., G, Houston
James Wiseman, fr., C, Memphis
Laquincy Rideau, sr., G, South Florida
Alexis Yetna, jr., F, South Florida
Jayden Gardner, so., F, East Carolina
Nate Pierre-Louis, jr., G, Temple
Alterique Gilbert, jr., G, Connecticut
David Collins, jr., G, South Florida
Christian Vital, sr., G, Connecticut