▪ Before Saturday’s shootaround, Devon Smith handed coach Gregg Marshall a printout of a story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch detailing VCU’s exhibition loss to Queens (N.C.) on Friday.
Marshall highlighted the part about VCU’s 25 turnovers. The Shockers will hear about that game before their game today.
▪ It will be interesting to see if and how the Shockers string together good possessions, good four-minute segments, good 10-minute segments. When a team is inconsistent in practices and searching for vocal leaders, that will show up in inconsistent stretches in games.
That’s especially true when a team is learning how to play without two NBA players, two of the most consistently excellent players in program history and two players who did almost all of the ball-handling the past three seasons.
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Can this team build on a 10-point lead? Can it focus in between timeouts to put together a good run? Can the reserves preserve or build a lead?
Judging those abilities will be an issue today, in large part because I would expect Marshall to experiment with lineups.
I’ll be watching for players who can execute over a period of time, perform basic things such as blocking out, hustling back on defense, talking on defense and handling the ball without turnovers. Out of those things come baskets and stops.
▪ What do we expect for this team?
I am concerned about how it will handle the non-conference schedule, which I think is challenging for this group. The Shockers could lose three or four non-conference games without changing their potential to keep improving and turn into an NCAA-quality team by March.
However, WSU can’t count on the MVC to help much in January and February. I think there is potential for Northern Iowa, Illinois State and Missouri State to exceed expectations and perhaps give the Valley some RPI boost. For all three of those teams to hit will be a surprise.
The other six teams appear to be roughly the same as last season or worse. Even if teams such as Loyola or Indiana State bump up, it’s not likely for them to range into the top 50 or 75 of the RPI. Drake, Bradley, Evansville and Southern Illinois? Keeping most of them out of the 250 range will help.
That scenario may put WSU in need of winning the MVC Tournament.
There is an upside to the MVC losing nine of its top 10 players from last season. The Shockers face a conference that won’t punish its inexperience as much as it might in other seasons. WSU will retain a talent and depth edge over most of the nine schools. The key is to play hard enough and smart enough to unlock those edges.
▪ I’m hearing good things about center Rauno Nurger in practices. He is playing hard and smart, scoring more around the basket, and knows the system. He might be a player who gives the Shockers more than is expected. Post depth is always critical.
▪ The Eagle’s basketball preview sections hit your driveway and newstand on Sunday. You can also read the stories at Kansas.com. Bob Lutz’s unbridled optimism about this team was quite the topic at Saturday’s shoot-around.
▪ Watching: Cox 22, Time Warner SportsChannel in Kansas City, ESPN3.com (blackouts apply).
▪ Listening: KEYN, 103.7-FM, goshockers.com
Augusta at Wichita State
- When: 2 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Koch Arena
- Radio: 103.7-FM
- TV: Cox 22