Game Day update: Illinois State at Wichita State

Wichita State’s Shaq Morris can give the Shockers an offensive fulcrum against Illinois State, but it won’t be easy against one of the nation’s top defensive teams.
Wichita State’s Shaq Morris can give the Shockers an offensive fulcrum against Illinois State, but it won’t be easy against one of the nation’s top defensive teams. The Wichita Eagle

▪  When you watch the earlier meeting between these teams, Wichita State’s lack of composure stands out.

Markis McDuffie took a bad shot and drove into traffic early. Darral Willis took some bad shots, banking one in. Austin Reaves drove into trouble. There was more. The Shockers made too many mistakes, offensively and defensively, to keep it close against a good team.

That happens on the road.

Usually the Shockers can count on good portions of their rotation to play well on the road. Against the Redbirds, Landry Shamet, Willis and Rauno Nurger produced and the list probably stops soon after.

It was a good reminder that the Shockers don’t have seniors to lean on. If three or four more Shockers play well at home, and if the Redbirds don’t play as deep, that’s good for the Shockers.

Composure and organization often starts with the guards. WSU’s backcourt is different than it was on Jan. 14, when Daishon Smith started.

Shamet and Frankamp are starting, share much of the ball-handling duties, and are playing well (Shamet’s seven turnovers the past two games notwithstanding). They look more like a backcourt that can adjust and play well in different situations.

Smith, Frankamp and Austin Reaves combined to shoot 3 for 14 with one assist and three turnovers in the 76-62 loss.

Tonight’s game is a good test for their progress. Illinois State’s Paris Lee is the Valley’s best point guard and he controlled the first meeting. Frankamp and Shamet have to come closer to matching Lee and his teammates in the backcourt.

“(Lee) really controls that team and he’s a great defender,” Frankamp said. “Wonderful on-ball defender. Watching him defensively is a great thing and I think we all try to pick up a couple things defensively from him.”

▪  The Redbirds are an excellent defensive team. The Shocker guards must handle their pressure and their switching looks.

They also need to get the ball moving upcourt quickly so they don’t speed all night grinding against an organized half-court defense. According to, the Redbirds allow opponents to shoot a mere 26 percent of their shots at the rim, No. 16 nationally.

In MVC play, WSU leads the conference in shortest possession length at 16.7 seconds. The Redbirds are more patient (18 seconds per possession) and their defense keeps teams working on offense for 18.9 seconds, longest in the MVC. Teams spend a lot of time looking, passing, dribbling against the Redbirds and don’t get good shots out of all that time.

Illinois State leads the MVC in blocks, swatting away 14.7 percent of shots in conference play.

▪  That game changed early when WSU’s Shaq Morris scored twice, motivating the Redbirds to try a zone. The zone worked.

Morris’ size gives WSU a position where it enjoys an edge over Illinois State. The Redbirds are are long and bouncy; they’re not wide and the loss of MiKyle McIntosh accentuates that.

Sometimes Morris’ scoring is a luxury, because WSU can go to so many other weapons. In this game, it’s more of a necessity. He can give the Shockers a sense of confidence, draw fouls and get into Illinois State’s bench if he plays well.

▪  D.J. Clayton hurt the Shockers with his cutting and Lee did a great job finding him. It will be interesting to see if WSU defends him more effectively.

▪  The Redbirds are shooting 67.6 percent from the line in MVC games, worst in the conference.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

Illinois State

at Wichita State

  • When: 7 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Koch Arena
  • Records: ISU 19-4, 11-0 MVC, WSU 20-4, 10-1
  • Radio: 103.7-FM
  • TV: ESPN2
  • Online: (blackouts apply)

Illinois State at Wichita State


Illinois St.






Phil Fayne






Deontae Hawkins






Paris Lee






Tony Wills






Keyshawn Evans






Wichita St.






Zach Brown






Markis McDuffie






Shaq Morris






Landry Shamet






Conner Frankamp






Illinois State (19-4, 11-0): The Redbirds are 11-0 in the MVC for the first time. Their six consecutive road wins match a program record. The 12-game win streak is the longest since the 2008-09 team started 14-0. … Illinois State leads the MVC and ranks fourth nationally by holding opponents to 37.1 percent shooting. It leads the MVC and ranks No. 10 nationally by holding opponents to 61.6 points. Its average of 4.8 blocks also leads the MVC and ranks No. 50 nationally.

Wichita State (20-4, 10-1): The Shockers have won five straight since the loss to the Redbirds, four against the bottom teams in the Valley (Evansville, Indiana State, Bradley, Drake). … WSU F Darral Willis played a season-low seven minutes and failed to score in Wednesday’s win at Drake. He scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first meeting with the Redbirds. … Shamet scored 14 points and passed out six assists in the loss to Illinois State. He scored 11 of those points in the second half, making 3 of 5 shots.

RPI rank as of Saturday: ISU 33, WSU 67

MVC bracket racket

Saturday’s Illinois State-Wichita State basketball game may decide the MVC’s regular-season title and its NCAA Tournament outlook.

Both teams are in the picture for an at-large bid. Neither team can feel secure. A loss to any other MVC team should be considered a disqualifying event for both schools.

Wichita State ranks No. 67 in the RPI. That’s bad, although a win Saturday helps. Should the Shockers continue to win into March, the RPI could rise into the 40s, according to

It’s No. 21 in the Pomeroy rankings, which is strong. According to Pomeroy, No. 27 Iowa in 2013 is the highest-ranked team left out of the NCAAs since 2011. Pomeroy considers margin of error, a stat that the Shockers thrive on.

WSU’s biggest negative is a lack of quality wins — 0-4 vs. the RPI top 100. It isn’t saddled with a bad loss.

Illinois State is No. 33 in the RPI rankings, which is strong. A win Saturday likely boosts them well into the top 30.

The Redbirds are No. 39 in the Pomeroy rankings.

Illinois State’s issue is losses to Murray State, Tulsa and San Francisco. Its best non-conference win is over New Mexico, No. 72 in the RPI ranks.

Its best win is over Wichita State, which is a win of limited benefit, because of WSU’s lack of quality wins.

Joe Lunardi slots WSU as one of the last four teams in the field as a No. 11 seed. Illinois State is also a No. 11.

Sports Illustrated

Michael Beller also puts the Shockers as one of the last four in and a No. 12 seed.

Illinois State is a No. 10 seed.

Jerry Palm sees the MVC as a one-bid conference. Illinois State is a No. 12 seed.

Chris Dobbertean lists Illinois State a No. 12 seed. He does include WSU as one of his eight schools close to an at-large spot.

Wichita State is one of six consenus No. 11 seeds and is listed on 55 of 96 bracket surveyed.

Illinois State is a consensus No. 12 seed and appears on 86 brackets.

— Paul Suellentrop