The national discourse from college basketball experts on Wichita State’s NCAA Tournament chances moved at a quick pace following the Shockers’ overtime loss to Northern Iowa on Saturday in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinals.
The Shockers’ had one big supporter in their corner. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said he believed Wichita State’s loss made the MVC a two-bid league.
Others weren’t as kind.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tweeted “Gregg Marshall, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker will be sweating out Selection Sunday.”
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Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports’ Seth Davis thought the loss pushed WSU out of the NCAA Tournament: “I really don't see a case for them to be in. They lost 5 games with VanVleet in the lineup, including today.”
Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com’s bracket analyst, was even more cutting in his evaluation of the Shockers’ chances: “UNI likely sends Wichita State to the NIT.”
The selection committee will announce the NCAA Tournament field next Sunday.
Grady as the go-to option — Senior center Anton Grady provided Wichita State its lone consistent scoring threat. He just couldn’t stay on the floor long enough to make it matter more.
Grady scored 14 points in 22 minutes before fouling out. He made 7 of 12 shots by taking advantage of Northern Iowa’s desire to cut off driving lanes for VanVleet and Baker. The Panthers obstructed their path with a big man and tried to keep them away from the middle of the court, leaving Grady open for mid-range jump shots.
“We worked hard not to allow the ball to get back to the middle of the floor with Fred and Ron, to use that ball screen to get to that spot,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “That’s one of the decisions that we had to make: Do we allow Fred to get to the middle and have his options? Or, we know they’re going to put Grady at 15 to 17 feet and he’s going to be open.”
Grady said the Shockers worked on his movements during shootaround on Saturday.
“(Marshall) put in a new play for us, and the play was just for a 15-foot jump shot, or swing it to the opposite wing,” he said. “I was able to knock that shot down today.”
Broken wings — Wichita State’s normally potent pair of underclassmen wing players, 6-foot-6 sophomore Zach Brown and 6-foot-8 freshman Markis McDuffie, fell flat in the loss to Northern Iowa.
With identical scoring averages of 7.3 points, the two shot a combined 2 of 13 from the field for nine points. Brown went 0 for 6, airballed his first shot, a three-point attempt, and missed a point-blank shot during a crucial stretch in the second half. He also miffed a fast-break opportunity with a turnover as he tried to, inexplicably, dribble the ball behind his back.
His only points came on a pair of free throws in the second half, and he missed the front end of a one-and-one with the score tied 47-47 with 50 seconds left in regulation.
“Just not what I expect from myself,” Brown said. “I’m disappointed with how I played.”
McDuffie scored all seven of his points in the first half.
You could see the threes weren’t falling for any of us,” McDuffie said. “That’s when you probably need to try to get some higher-percentage shots.”
Ugly numbers — UNI’s two-game win streak over the Shockers is built on defense and not making mistakes.
In the past two meetings, WSU is 40 of 129 from the field, 31 percent, and 9 of 55 from three-point range, 16.3 percent. The Panthers held the Shockers to 102 points in the two games, outscoring them by eight points.
UNI committed 15 turnovers in the two games, one fewer than the WSU.
What they said
“Gregg Marshall, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker will be sweating out Selection Sunday.” – ESPN’s Jeff Goodman
“I really don't see a case for them to be in. They lost 5 games with VanVleet in the lineup, including today.” – Sports Illustrated/CBS Sports analyst Seth Davis
“UNI likely sends Wichita State to the NIT.” – CBSSports.com bracket analyst Jerry Palm (@jppalmcbs)