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Wichita State Q&A: Creighton, Shaq Morris and a favorite in Bahamas

The play of junior Darral Willis may take some of the pressure off Shaq Morris, or take away playing time.
The play of junior Darral Willis may take some of the pressure off Shaq Morris, or take away playing time. The Wichita Eagle

Three games in, here’s what’s on the minds of the people.

Thanks for reading.

Both sides have said they’re open to the possibility and WSU seems to have an advocate in Creighton AD Bruce Rasmussen. Less than a year ago, he said Creighton is interested.

I haven’t checked in recently, and schools are often loathe to talk about games until contracts are signed. I am optimistic that it will happen within a year or two. It makes too much sense. I think the “rivalry” has a shelf life long enough that it will remain special for several more years.

If you watched No. 22 Creighton’s win over No. 9 Wisconsin, you know the Bluejays are improved and should be very good this season. The Big East is revving up recruiting.

This gives me a chance to plug my idea of a Wichita-Kansas City-Omaha rotation for the series. Fans for both teams will flock to KC for a game and that kind of thing could make it even more special. While WSU needs rivals more than Creighton, there’s an upside for both.

McDuffie will play a lot because he is very talented and versatile. His minutes aren’t in question, for me. But, if he’s not playing well, he’ll find a seat like everybody else.

Morris will play as much as fouls allow. He’s averaging 12 minutes and has 3, 4 and 3 fouls. So, in two of those games he had room to foul had his skills been needed. Lots of players are fouling early in the season, it appears, so that may change as the season progresses for Morris.

However, he might be wise to see Darral Willis in his rear-view mirror. If Willis continues to play well, we might reach a point where we think Morris should play as hard as he can for as long as he can and not worry about fouls because WSU can go to Willis, not to mention a solid third big in Rauno Nurger.

WSU has played two bigs together at some points and there is clearly potential there if Willis can guard on the perimeter.

When you’re winning by 36.7 points a game, there is no reason to change. Marshall’s history is to stick with a lineup, usually experienced players, until there’s a few losses or consistent performance issues.

The five current starters are, largely, the experienced group. They can be counted on to start the game with good defense, good rebounding and few turnovers. Marshall will stick with that until it doesn’t work.

McDuffie’s play would be the first agent of change. He may force his way in. However, it would be difficult right now to tell either Zach Brown or Rashard Kelly to sit down. They’re leading, they’re working hard and they’re consistent. In many games, McDuffie may play more minutes than one or both, regardless of if he starts.

I’ll be interested if, in the Bahamas, WSU’s guards are really pressured and pushed. Before locking in a starting lineup at guard, I’d like to see how all of them respond to physical guards who get after it on defense.

It will help, assuming at least a win or two.

As always, winning that first game is crucial. Old Dominion and St. John’s are the only teams in the field not ranked in the top 90 of the kenpom.com rankings and it is No. 106. Avoid the Monarchs, who aren’t horrible, and a team seemed destined for two more valuable games. I don’t have much faith in St. John’s, which is No. 92 and faces Minnesota on Friday night.

I’m watching the Panthers replay of their win over Arizona State and I’m impressed. We’ll know more after UNI plays Oklahoma on Friday.

UNI has two good big men in Klint Carlson and Bennett Koch. They’re now experienced and both can score. Lots of shooters, including redshirt freshman Spencer Haldeman, who made 5 of 7 three-pointers against Arizona State. Jeremy Morgan is excellent and I like Wyatt Lohaus off the ball more than at point guard.

We know they are coached up. Arizona State took a ton of long shots with a hand in the face. That’s what UNI wants.

UNI may be one of the top developments of the early season in a few days.

I consider No. 12 Louisville the favorite. It seems to own the best combination of talent, depth and experience, although its experience isn’t overwhelming. The Cardinals should be motivated after sitting out last season’s NCAA Tournament.

WSU might not be far away from favorite status. Baylor is certainly in that conversation after beating No. 4 Oregon. No. 13 Michigan State is missing key pieces to injury and traveling all over (Hawaii to New York to Atlantis) to play a brutal schedule. VCU returns seven players with experience.

So I’ll go with Louisville as the pick, with somebody from that group of four a possibility.

Two weeks ago, I would have said eight or nine losses was in play. Now I might drop that number in half.

I’ll take one loss in Atlantis (Louisville), at Oklahoma, at Northern Iowa, one random MVC clinker and maybe one more that’s not obvious right now. Colorado State doesn’t seem like a likely loss, but it’s WSU’s first real road game. Losing two in the Bahamas isn’t out of the question. Three would surprise me.

Why would any team want to do what Long Beach State is doing? The 49ers don’t want to — they have to for money. After Nov. 11, they don’t play a home game until Dec. 7. Does any Shocker fan want that?

WSU’s schedule is fine. If it wins, it will build an NCAA resume.

Tulsa and Saint Louis rising up would help. I can’t complain about Atlantis, two Big 12 opponents and a mandated game in the MVC-MWC series.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

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