It is not unusual for Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and other Wichita State veterans to take a seat and watch practice. While they don’t particularly enjoy sitting, it is February and preserving their legs for March is more important than another drill.
“I have to try to keep them out of drills,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “They’d be in every drill every day. Let somebody else have a shot.”
This is the time when the Shockers cut back on practices and do more film work and individual drills. With a busy week, WSU took Tuesday off after Monday's game and practiced about 90 minutes on Wednesday before Thursday’s game. The routine is similar around the Missouri Valley Conference. WSU (20-7, 13-2 MVC) plays at Indiana State (13-14, 7-8) on Sunday as the Shockers close in on their third consecutive MVC title.
The Shockers looked rejuvenated in big wins over New Mexico State and Missouri State after a loss to Northern Iowa. Indiana State is on a four-game losing streak.
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“We’ve tried resting them more, we’ve tried switching some things up in practice, doing things away from here as a team to try and get us back to what we need,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said.
WSU is insulated from some of the fatigue issues because of its depth. Baker (31.4 minutes a game) is the only Shocker above 30 minutes and eight others play more than 15 minutes. In conference play, no Shocker ranks among the 10 busiest players.
What I do like is after Arch Madness we get plenty of time to rest before the NCAA Tournament and we definitely take advantage of that.”
Baker and Fred VanVleet, who both average under 30 minutes in MVC games, spent part of the summer in Pan Am Games tryouts. Baker made the team and played in five games in July in Canada. Neither points to the busy summer as particularly taxing on their legs.
“I had most of August to rest from that and (Marshall) did a good job of letting me relax,” Baker said. “This stretch in February is when I start getting kind of fatigued. What I do like is after Arch Madness we get plenty of time to rest before the NCAA Tournament and we definitely take advantage of that.”
VanVleet sat out most practices in November and missed four games with a strained left hamstring. When he tires, he traces it back to that time and conditioning that he missed.
“I got too much rest,” he said. “My body wears down and my hamstring fatigues a lot faster than it should if it wasn’t hurt.”
While Baker and VanVleet are dealing with years of wear, Bradley coach Brian Wardle is trying to nurse 10 freshmen through their first season.
“You’ve got to have a relationship with your players, talk to them one-on-one, get them to open up,” Wardle said. “I’m very cautious, talking to trainers, your doctors. We’ve got a lot of freshmen who have played a ton of minutes.”
Wardle cuts back on scrimmages and contact drills, which he views as the most tiring work, as early as late January.
“What wears kids out … is the contact,” he said. “The hitting, the scrimmaging, the rebounding drills. Even though we’re a young team and we need as many reps as we can, I still think that if I practice too long or scrimmage too long or rep, rep, rep, I’m really not giving us a chance to compete at a high level. We’ll be too physically worn down.”
Wichita State at Indiana State
- When: 3 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Hulman Center, Terre Haute, Ind.
- Records: WSU 20-7, 13-2 MVC; ISU 13-14, 7-8
- Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM
- TV: ESPNU
Matt Van Scyoc
WSU: The Shockers own a seven-game win streak over Indiana State, and have won 16 of 18.… WSU held its first seven MVC road opponents under 40 percent shooting, a total of 32.3 percent. Those performances helped WSU rise to No. 2 in kenpom.com’s national ranking for defensive efficiency, holding opponents to .901 points per possession. Louisville leads the nation at .900. The Shockers force turnovers on 23.9 percent of their opponent’s possessions, ranking fourth behind West Virginia (25.9), Stephen F. Austin (25.7) and Mount St. Mary’s (25).… VanVleet needs seven assists to reach 600 and become the third MVC player with 600 assists and 200 steals.… VanVleet scored 29 points, then a career-high, in an 82-62 win over Indiana State on Jan. 17. WSU held the Sycamores to 35.2-percent shooting, 28.6-percent from three-point range. It committed five turnovers and forced 16.
ISU: Indiana State is the MVC’s fastest-pace team, with an average possession length of 16.6 seconds, according to kenpom.com, and it allows 72.1 points in MVC games… Its past four opponents are 27 of 73 from three-point range (36.9 percent), although it holds MVC opponents to 32.2 percent .… Indiana State’s 262 made foul shots rank second in the MVC. It outscored WSU 28-18 at the line in the first meeting.…Indiana State leads the MVC in offensive rebounds at 11.6 in 15 conference games.… G Everett Clemons (6-1) is third in the MVC in conference play with an average of 7.3 rebounds. He also averages 3.1 assists.… Brown’s 134 free throw attempts in 15 Valley games are the most of any player in the top 10. He has made 108.
RPIs as of Saturday: WSU 49, ISU 168