Our second edition of the Shocker reader panel takes on WSU’s 4-0 start, new faces and traveling with the Shockers.
1. To what degree has Wichita State’s early games changed your expectations for this season?
Sasha Bouska: I had high hopes going into the season, but I think the success in these first four games have turned those hopes more into expectations. We knew there was talent on this team, but they appear to be playing really well together and executing the system as expected by the coaches.
Mike Burrus: The results of the Shockers’ early games haven’t changed my expectations for this season at all. Even though they lost a trio of irreplaceable players, my thoughts were always that this year’s team would be better than last year’s – mainly due to (hopefully) fewer injuries, greater depth and more overall team athleticism.
Joe Stroud: The early games has changed my opinion tremendously, the Shockers have shown maturity and the fact that Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet is no longer on the team does not seem to affect them. The Long Beach State game also really opened my eyes, to the fact that even though they were a larger team and had more length, they trusted each other and had remarkable defense and chemistry.
L.T. Honse: I never thought the team would have this much cohesion. My expectations are always high because I want to see them succeed but this team has far passed my expectations for shear talent and ability.
Bryan Steele: I don’t think my expectations have really changed. I expect Wichita State to compete for a Valley title and make the NCAA Tournament. Beyond that I feel like it’s unfair to have predictions, because crazy things happen. These early games more or less confirmed my expectations.
Sara Orr Jones: I’ve gone from initially having a hopeful, wait-and-see attitude to feeling 100 percent positive that Wichita State has the tools, the talent, and the motivation to take on the best of them. The total team effort has been nothing less than impressive.
2. Which of Wichita State’s newcomers will play the most significant role this season?
Bryan Steele: This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with (Darral) Willis. He has shown an array of explosive post moves around the basket and range out to 18 feet. Teams will have to remain focused on him, which will allow other newcomers (Smith, Reaves) to shine.
Russell Lowden: Heading into the season I would have said Willis and (Daishon) Smith. I would probably stick with those two, but Austin Reaves has certainly impressed me and looks to play a huge role this season.
Patty Beamer: Darral Willis. With the amount of time Shaq (Morris) spends on the bench in foul trouble, it will be up to Darral to rebound, box out, score inside and stay out of foul trouble.
Because there will not be much film on Darral, especially his work going right being left-handed, I think he will be a significant secret weapon.
Mike Burrus: I think Darral Willis will have the most significant role this season. He is long, athletic and skilled; I can’t see many power forwards being able to guard him effectively with his ability to take the ball to the hole and to take medium-range jump shots.
To the extent that Willis’ development will allow McDuffie to play more minutes at the small forward position, I think that presents another huge matchup problem for the Shockers’ opponents.
David Gonzalez: Austin Reaves and Daishon Smith. Their level of play has exceeded my expectations. Both have shown a high level of court vision, sharp shooting, and confidence that will play a huge role in the success of the Shocker’s this season.
We may be looking at this season’s Ron/Fred combination. It will be interesting to see if both are given starter roles in the near future and how they react to an upgraded level of completion.
3. How often do you travel to tournaments, in-season and postseason, and how does your family budget to account for trips?
Bryan Steele: Before kids, traveling to the early season tournaments required several years of planning to save up enough money (Maui 2010). Now with young kids, it needs to be either a close tourney game or traveling on the cheap to see the biggest moments (i.e. carpooling with four others in a Toyota Prius to the Atlanta Final Four).
Sasha Bouska: The main trip I’ve attended over the years is the annual Arch Madness trip to St. Louis. It’s relatively inexpensive because I go with friends and we carpool and split a hotel room. In 2013, I also went to Los Angeles and Atlanta during the NCAA Tournament. Those two trips were not budgeted for as much, but I felt like that run was a once in a lifetime experience and I had to make it happen.
Mike Burrus: My wife and I travel to St. Louis for Arch Madness every year. The cost and proximity to Wichita are reasonable, and we really enjoy the tradition of the tournament.
We do not travel to the in-season tournaments, but we have attended the NCAA Tournament games frequently; you can’t budget for those, but they’re too exciting to pass up especially if they’re being held within a day’s drive of Wichita.
Ty Houseman: The only tournament I have been to is the Valley tournament in St. Louis. My brother in-law and I have been going several years in a row now. We budget for our trip buy umpiring baseball in the spring and summer.
L.T. Honse: My family and I have been to St. Louis for the past four years and we are planning on going to Hawaii next year as well. We just make it happen it is a very special team and a very unique experience to see them play.
Sara Orr Jones: I have yet to travel to see the Shockers in a tournament. It’s not because of budget constraints, but more of a personal preference to be one of the best, most rowdy armchair fans possible from my own private Jones Arena, complete with a cushy floor seat in Row 1, Seat 1, watching the live broadcasts, pre- and post-game analysis, and coach and player interviews.
Joe Stroud: I am attending the Battle 4 Atlantis this year, which was also more expensive than last year, but I have saved for this trip for quite awhile, with graduation money from high school and saved finances from work paychecks that I have received over the last year-and-a-half.
Patty Beamer: I have traveled on the charters or travel set up through (travel agency) whenever possible. The cost may look more expensive, but this travel includes direct flights on chartered planes (less chance of missed flights and cancellations), transportation to and from airport and games, hotel accommodations where the team stays (most times) and a meal with the team. The cost is most for single (rooms), then costs come down for doubles, three to a hotel room and least expensive for four.
I may pay almost twice as much for a single room than for a double. I would like to see a “single or double” traveler site set up for fans who are willing to share a room cost when traveling for tournaments, either in season or post season.
How do I pay? These are my vacations and I save for them.