Welcome to the first posting by The Wichita Eagle’s Shockers basketball readers panel.
We’ve drafted fans to share their thoughts on the Shockers throughout the season. In this edition, we get our panel’s thoughts on the exhibition thriller, rising Shockers and must-see non-conference games.
1. What encouraged you most about Saturday’s 73-67 exhibition win over Augusta (Ga.)?
Ty Houseman: I was encouraged by the diversity in scoring. We are able to go to several different options to get baskets in a variety of ways. Multiple guys showed the ability to make shots from three, and drive to the basket and finish around the rim.
Patty Beamer: The team didn't fold when the score got close. Considering there were no seniors on the floor most of the time and the atmosphere was unlike what most players have experienced before, the team worked together, stayed focused, and won.
Mike Burrus: First, (Conner) Frankamp obviously handled the intense end-of-game situation very effectively with his ball-handling, decision-making and even rebounding. Second, it was encouraging for Shaq (Morris) to play 21 minutes while avoiding foul trouble.
Joe Stroud: Saturday's game was very encouraging when it came to defense and watching our bench players get the time that they needed to prepare. I was most impressed with Eric Hamilton and the way he took command of his minutes with his defensive rebounding and the points he scored in the paint.
Sasha Bouska: Although Saturday's exhibition game left some to be desired, the ball movement was steady and the Shockers seemed to get good shots on the possessions that did not end in turnovers. Eighteen assists is a solid number for a team trying to replace the passing production of Fred VanVleet.
L.T. Honse: The right leaders, in the right place, and when they needed to be there. When Keshun Sherrill started shooting the lights out of Koch Arena, Coach (Gregg) Marshall put the right people in to take control of the game to steady the emotions of players and fans alike.
Sara Orr Jones: The unexpected number of players who contributed to the win was especially encouraging. Being the first game at Charles Koch Arena this season, the talent, depth and effort of those who played against Augusta were surprisingly refreshing.
Russell Lowden: I was most encouraged by our mental toughness down the stretch. Once the lead evaporated, Conner was able to settle the team down and hold on for a victory. Also, the thought of our three freshman guards being around for the next four years could be something special.
2. Who are players who you see as crucial to this season?
David Gonzalez: Conner Frankamp and Shaq Morris. While Conner is not Fred (VanVleet), he’s the best option at point guard. He has shown that he can handle the ball well and is a threat from the three point line. If his three-ball improves, and if Shaq can stay on the court, this team will have a strong inside-out presence that will generate an explosive offense. Both will also have to step up and provide the leadership Coach Marshall is looking for.
Patty Beamer: Eric Hamilton — he is so strong and can be muscle inside. He has no fear. Conner Frankamp — he is a savvy ball handler who will not have turnovers. Stamina for ball handling, shooting and defending will be crucial to Conner and team success.
Ty Houseman: Shaq Morris being able to play extended minutes and be a threat to score as well as defend will be the most crucial. Also Daishon Smith’s ability to effectively run the offense aggressively, while limiting turnovers will be key.
Bryan Steele: Shaq Morris and Conner Frankamp have to contribute on a regular basis for this team to get where they want to go. Shaq can be one of the dominant big men in the country, if he can stay on the floor and maintain his focus (which has been improving). Conner is the one who can make back-breaking shots and get the offense flowing.
Russell Lowden: SHAQ MORRIS. If he can play close to 25 minutes a game we will be in great shape on the inside. He is capable of being an All-Missouri Valley Conference big man.
3. Which non-conference game is most interesting?
Sara Orr Jones: Believe it or not, it's coming up Friday. The Nov. 11 game against South Carolina State will, hopefully, give the Shockers another win under their belt and an added boost to their confidence going forward. South Carolina State, with four returning top scorers, should prove a formidable foe. A good challenge to cut our teeth on and get our mojo going, collectively and individually.
David Gonzalez: LSU in the Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 23) is the non-conference game I look forward to, because of the potential matchup it presents in the next round. Chances are high that a win will have the Shockers square off against Louisville in the tournament’s semifinals, a rematch from the 2013 Final Four that almost (and should have) happened in 2014.
Sasha Bouska: The OU game at Chesapeake Energy Arena (Dec. 10) should be interesting. It will be one of the first opportunities for this group to go into a hostile environment against quality competition and see what they are made of. Fans have been spoiled over the last four to five years with extremely good road winning percentages, largely because of the toughness and grit of the teams.
Bryan Steele: My most anticipated matchup is against the Oklahoma Sooners. I want to see how this team performs on the road against a quality opponent, even though it won't be a true hostile environment. This might end up being a marquee victory for a team that could need those if inexperience causes a few more head-scratching losses.
Mike Burrus: I’m greatly looking forward to the games against both of the Big 12 Oklahoma schools. Since it is a home game, and the games at Intrust Bank Arena are all played in a big-time atmosphere, I suppose I am looking most forward to the Oklahoma State game (Dec. 17).