Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall famously — and effectively — hoards his timeouts. He prefers to let his players work through troubles and fills his roster with players who self-correct.
He is saving those timeouts, in many cases, for a specific situation — a Shocker with the ball is trapped with no good options to pass. Marshall is an expert at seeing a player in distress and signaling for a timeout before a five-second call or bad pass costs his team a game-changing possession. Part of his expertise involves saving enough timeouts to make that call.
On Monday, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will discuss adopting several significant rules changes approved by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee. If, as expected, the changes are approved this month the shot clock will drop five seconds to 30 and officials will again be tasked with limiting physical play by defenders. Video review of flopping is also part of the package.
So is taking away a coach’s ability to call a timeout during action.
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“I don’t like that,” Marshall said. “Loose balls, avoiding a 10-second count … no longer. Occasionally, I saved us a possession.”
Most of the changes are intended to help offenses by freeing players from defenders allowed to use their hands and bodies to impede. Scoring in the men’s game dropped to an average of 67.6 points last season, down from 71 in 2014 when similar rules debuted, and under 68 for the second time since 1983.
Marshall is on board with the change to the shot clock, as long as it stays at 30. The NBA standard of 24 is too quick for his taste. The change, in Marshall’s mind, will put a premium on running his team’s “breakdown” offense, usually a motion or a ball-screen attack. The Shockers generally start their offense with a play. If that doesn’t work, they run their motion or ball screens.
“You’re going to have to rely on your breakdown more,” he said. “Or you’re going to have to be really good in your plays, or what we call quicks, which are transition plays.”
Once the shot clock grows short, WSU goes into a “clock play.” With five fewer ticks, something has to change.
“Now it’s going to be harder to do all that,” Marshall said. “We may have to eliminate something.”
Other proposed changes include expanding the restricted arc in the lane to four feet from three and allowing dunking during warmups, previously not allowed in the 20 minutes before tip.
Get on up — WSU center Shaq Morris earned a spot on the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Freshman team, the first Shocker to do so since Toure Murry in 2009 and the first Shocker big man since J.T. Durley in 2008.
He did that, growing into a part of the rotation in January after an inconsistent November and December, despite playing with a painful knee injury. He had surgery soon after the season to trim torn cartilage in his left knee and realign his kneecap.
“It slowed me down, but I tried to push through because I knew my team needed me,” Morris said.
Morris returned to workouts on Wednesday and a day later liked his experience playing without pain.
“It’s going to take a few months for the swelling to go down,” he said. “But I feel 10 times better. Every time I jump I feel way higher than I used to be.”
Harden’s defensive debut — Former Shocker women’s basketball player Alex Harden knows a rookie in the WNBA needs to play defense and her abilities played a large role in earning a roster spot for the Phoenix Mercury.
Harden played 15 minutes in her WNBA debut, Friday’s 76-71 win over San Antonio in Phoenix. She scored three points and grabbed three rebounds.
She played the final 56 seconds of the game to help preserve the lead and blocked a three-pointer in the final seconds.
“We needed that stop,” Mercurcy coach Sandy Brondello told reporters. “I have a lot of trust in her and her ability. We needed that tough defense and energy, and Alex did a great job.”
The Mercury’s next game is Thursday at New York.
Stay tough — The schedule ran over WSU’s baseball team at times. The Shockers, with 26 newcomers, weren’t ready to play teams such as TCU and Long Beach State on the road and the usual diet of Big 12 opponents in the mid-week added to the problems, at least until late April.
Boydworld.com ranks WSU’s schedule No. 32 nationally and warrennolan.com ranks it No. 45. Despite the struggles, coach Todd Butler isn’t backing down in 2016.
“When we played Texas down there, that was the first game we were probably in an atmosphere where we weren’t very comfortable,” he said. “But we actually played well in the game. We were very comfortable. I thought ‘Here we go, we’re starting to improve and we’re not intimidated.”
WSU will play a series at Cal State Fullerton and play host to TCU. Nebraska, Kansas and Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State make their regular appearances on the schedule.
“We’re going to continue to play the tough schedule,” Butler said. “Those are the teams that you have to play if you want to get to post-season and be successful.”
▪ WSU outfielder/pitcher Sam Hilliard will play for Orleans (Mass.) in the Cape Cod League this summer, a late addition to WSU list of summer placements.
Shockers serving — WSU’s men’s and women’s tennis teams will play in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Kickoff Weekend in January, part of the 60-team field divided into 15 four-team brackets.
The WSU women, seeded second, will play third-seeded Minnesota at Texas A&M on Jan. 23. Top-seeded Texas A&M plays South Alabama, with the winners and losers meeting on Jan. 24. The top 15 schools will advance to the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championships in February in Wisconsin.
The WSU men, seeded fourth, play at top-seeded Ohio State on Jan. 23. Second-seeded South Carolina and third-seeded Denver complete the field and the winners and losers meet on Jan. 24. ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships are held in February in Virginia.
The WSU women finished the 2015 season ranked No. 41 nationally and the men No. 69. The men’s doubles team of Tin Ostojic and Tomislav Gregurovic are ranked No. 39 and Ostojic is No. 49 in singles. Ostojic and Gregurovic qualified for the NCAA Championships and advanced to the round of 16 last month.
▪ Julia Schiller and Nebraska’s Dusty Boyer won the mixed doubles, going 3-0, at the Missouri Valley U.S. Open Playoffs earlier this month. They will play other sectional champions in August in New Haven, Conn., with a wild card entry into the U.S. Open at stake. Schiller also finished runner-up in singles after losing to top-seeded Sophie Chang 4-6, 7-6, 6-1.
Worth noting — Former WSU decathlete Austin Bahner will compete in the Capital Cup in Ottawa, Canada on June 19-21. The event is part of the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge Series … WSU’s athletic department website (goshockers.com) will undergo a remake scheduled to debut on July 1.