In Wichita State’s place in the college basketball ecosystem, it’s common for programs like the Shockers’ to load up their November nonconference schedule with “buy” games.
The Shockers allot a certain amount of money every season to essentially write a check to a small school in exchange for them to come to Koch Arena for an assumed WSU victory. Last season alone, WSU paid out just over $564,000 in buy games.
And at the opposite end of the ecosystem is a program like Texas Southern, which depends on these buy games to fund its athletic department.
Texas Southern (0-1) hasn’t played a home nonconference game in five years, a streak of 44 straight nonconference road trips that will continue Saturday when WSU (1-0) cuts Texas Southern a check to play in a 2 p.m. game at Koch Arena.
But don’t think Texas Southern is coming to Wichita to take a pounding, collect its check and go home. Last season alone, Texas Southern took the money and won at Baylor, Oregon and Texas A&M.
“They have a reputation, that’s for sure,” said WSU assistant coach Isaac Brown, who is preparing the scouting report. “They just got beat by 35 by San Diego State, but do you know what? San Diego State beat them by 39 last year and right after that they beat Oregon. So don’t let that fool you.”
Texas Southern is coming off a 77-42 loss at San Diego State where it shot 22.6% from the field and allowed San Diego State to grab 26 offensive rebounds.
To be fair, Texas Southern lost its top three scorers and around 60% of its production from last season. But the Tigers are still dangerous with Purdue transfer Eden Ewing, a 6-foot-8 senior who averaged 9.3 points and 7.0 rebounds last season, and Texas A&M transfer John Walker, a 6-foot-9 sophomore.
But the player Brown has warned the Shockers, at least freshmen ball handlers Grant Sherfield and Tyson Etienne, the most about is senior Tyrik Armstrong, who plays the same style of pesky defense as the NBA’s Patrick Beverley. Armstrong averaged 1.4 steals in 20 minutes last season, a steal rate that ranked him in the top 40 nationally, per KenPom.com.
“This will be a different kind of challenge for our guards because Omaha didn’t really pick them up full court,” Brown said. “(Armstrong) will pick you up 94 feet and will be constantly trying to steal the ball. You cannot get loose with him. He’ll try to wear you down. So it’s going to be a little different, for sure.”
WSU’s depth at point guard is in question after sophomore Jamarius Burton, last season’s starter, left Tuesday’s season-opening win because of a right ankle sprain. While Sherfield played well, scoring 12 points with six assists and one turnover in 31 minutes, Burton, who is considered day-to-day and a game-time decision Saturday, gives the Shockers an experienced ball handler.
Freshman guard Noah Fernandes, who has missed the last two months because of a foot injury, has started practicing again, but his status is unknown for Saturday’s game. With freshman forward Josaphat Bilau planning to redshirt and senior center Jaime Echenique (broken hand) still out, the Shockers could be down to nine scholarship players for Saturday’s game.
Texas Southern at Wichita State
When: 2:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: Koch Arena (10,506), Wichita
TV: YurView Kansas (CoxHD 2022 in Kansas)
Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM