▪ You could feel the national media perched on the edge of a rush to love the Shockers again.
Had Wichita State defeated No. 10 Louisville, the Shockers would have turned into one of the season’s top early stories. Gregg Marshall’s list of interview requests would grow, especially if they went 3-0 in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Now the Shockers are just another team people are trying to get a handle on. They looked great in a 5-0 start. Louisville knocked them down a peg with Thursday’s 62-52 win.
That puts a lot on Friday’s game vs. No. 24 Michigan State. A win banks something the NCAA selection committee will want to see on a resume in March. A loss means the Shockers accomplished less than what they hoped for on the trip, especially after Wednesday’s rout of LSU.
▪ The Spartans are struggling because of injuries and a crazy travel schedule.
Michigan State played Arizona in Hawaii on Nov. 11 and Kentucky in New York on Nov. 15. Then it played two home games before coming to the Bahamas.
“I did a terrible job of scheduling and think it caught up with us a bit,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said after Thursday’s loss to No. 20 Baylor. “We need more time to prepare than we have and this turnaround was almost insane. And we just don’t have a team that we can change enough things now to accommodate that.”
The Spartans appear to be a tired team and one that needs a week of practice to fight off game slippage. They led Baylor by 10 in the first half and three at halftime. Things turned quickly in the second half and Baylor led by double figures most of the way.
The Bears shot 55 percent in the second half.
“We have to practice some,” Izzo said. “The schedule is brutal in terms of travel and who we have played. But the schedule has been brutal because we never have a practice day.”
▪ The Spartans will present kind of a Northern Iowa-style defense. They’re not interested in steals and tremendous ball pressure. They will work to keep WSU out of the lane and make the Shockers shoot outside shots that are guarded.
Teams are making 35.8 percent of their threes against the Spartans, so good ball movement and good shots will work.
While the Spartans are big, they’re not as intimidating as Louisville or Baylor. The Shockers should enjoy more success in the lane.
▪ The Spartans are the hometown favorite because of guard Tum Tum Nairn, who is from the Bahamas.
The locals are turning out to cheer for him. Wednesday night’s game against St. John’s attracted a near-sellout crowd and after the game around 50 fans and media members surrounded him in the hallway.
Nairn, who played at Sunrise Christian Academy for WSU assistant Kyle Lindsted, scored a career-high 13 points vs. St. John’s. He has his first two dunks in college this week.
“It is a blessing (to be home),” he said. “My great grandmother who is 80 years old was there, my grandfather, and father were all there. It is something I don’t take for granted.”
As it usually the case with Big 10 schools, Michigan State fans appear to lead the attendance standings. Louisville and Wichita State appear roughly even after the Spartans.
WSU vs. No. 24 Michigan State
- When: noon Friday
- Where: Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas
- Records: WSU 5-1, MSU 3-3
- Radio: 103.7-FM
- TV: ESPN2
No. 24 Michigan State vs. Wichita State
Tum Tum Nairn
Michigan State (3-3): Bridges has three games of 20-plus points and is shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range. He has 16 assists and 22 turnovers. … The Spartans are shooting 58.7 percent from the line and are being outscored 73-54 at the line. … Harris is 15 of 34 from three (44.1 percent). … G Matt McQuaid started one game and averages 6.5 points. … The Spartans have held four of six opponents under 40-percent shooting.
Wichita State (5-1): The Shockers hit season-lows in shooting (31.6 percent), points (52), made free throws (10 of 18) and rebound margin (minus-13) in Thursday’s 62-52 loss to No. 10 Louisville. … F Markis McDuffie averages 12.5 points in the tournament’s two games. Frankamp is 5 of 9 from three with eight assists and no turnovers. … The Shockers will wear their black jerseys for the first time this season. … WSU plays ranked teams in consecutive games for the first time since it lost to No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 18 Utah in 1991. … Michigan State leads the series 5-3. In 2008, the fifth-ranked Spartans defeated WSU 65-57 in Orlando.