This week, the readers take over. The readers asked the questions and the readers answered.
1. Assuming the Shockers remain a part of the MVC, what ideas would you pitch to the commissioner to make the MVC a better basketball conference?
David Gonzalez: Scheduling. While it’s hard to force teams to schedule better, I would suggest teams that don’t schedule well be penalized. The MVC/Mountain West Challenge has benefited the league to some extent. Unfortunately, the MWC is in similar shape as the MVC. Bringing back something similar to bracket busters might help as well.
Bryan Steele: I would actually try to find a couple of high-quality historical mid-major programs to expand the conference to 12 teams, then shorten the conference season to 16 games and set it up like a soccer relegation system (top six teams play each other home and home, the other six once home or away). Top two from the lower division move up the next year, and vice versa. This prevents upper tier teams from having as many risks for a bad loss, while also freeing up two games on the schedule to try and get additional high quality non-conference opponents.
Mike Burrus: Though I don’t remember precisely how payouts from post-season tournaments are allocated among the Valley’s members, I would change it to much more heavily benefit the team that has earned the payouts. I think the potential benefits could be several. First, it might help motivate the individual member institutions to invest more heavily in their athletic programs, as Wichita State has done. Second, it might be less discouraging for an institution like WSU, who has made significant commitments to its athletic programs, to have to share so significantly the payback on those investments; in fact, perhaps it would be among the factors considered by the conference’s high achievers in choosing to remain in the conference rather than pursuing other alternatives.
Russell Lowden: Move the MVC tourney to Kansas City. There is no reason the team that brings by far the most fans to the Valley tournament should have to travel the farthest. If it were in KC, attendance numbers would be through the roof which means more money for the conference coffers.
2. Which player or players are most critical for a successful March?
Sasha Bouska: I think our inside presence will be very important in March. At this point, our guards have been pretty consistent. On the other hand, we will need someone like Darral Willis to step up come tournament time to compete with bigger front lines. He along with the continued production of Shaq Morris and Rashard Kelly should give us a chance to compete favorably in the tournament.
Bryan Steele: Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp. If the backcourt continues to put stress on defenses the way it has, then the interior will be a lot more open for Darral Willis, Shaq Morris, Rauno Nurger, and Markis McDuffie to go to work.
3. Who are your Wichita State picks for All-MVC honors?
Sasha Bouska: I think Markis McDuffie and Landry Shamet are most deserving of being on either the first- or second-team all-conference teams because of their consistent play throughout the season. Other Shockers that will get some votes include Conner Frankamp, Shaquille Morris, Zach Brown, and Rashard Kelly based on their increased production as of late.
Bryan Steele: Markis McDuffie and Landry Shamet should both be on the first team, and I would put Shaq Morris and Conner Frankamp on the second team. Shamet should get Freshman of the Year, and Zach Brown should get Defensive Player of the Year (with Markis joining him on the defensive team). Darral Willis should be on the all-newcomer team, with Austin Reaves joining Shamet on the all-freshman team. Rashard Kelly should be on the all-Bench team.
Russell Lowden: Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie for first team. Shaq Morris and Conner Frankamp on second team. Zach Brown defensive player of the year. Shamet for freshman of the year.
Sara Orr Jones: This is a tough one because there are so many favorites to choose from. It seems Landry and Markis have had the most consistent play and good stats throughout the season.
4. What has been your most fun experience this year with Shocker basketball?
David Gonzalez: Winning. A Top 25 ranking, 25-plus wins, and a chance at another MVC title in a “rebuilding” year has exceeded my expectations. Let’s not forget about the NCAA tournament discussion. Sure there were painful moments at the beginning of the season (Battle 4 Atlantis and the Oklahoma State game at IBA), but this team has fought through those losses and has emerged as another dangerous team.
Sara Orr Jones: Without a doubt, this season's highlight was celebrating Senior Night with 10,500 of my closest friends. So bittersweet to watch our two long-term favorites, John Robert Simon and Zach Bush, be recognized and honored for their dedication and contribution to the Shocker men's basketball program. The arena could not have been more electric when J.R. and Zach stepped onto the hardwood — and then to watch JR hit a career high of three threes and for Zach to score in their last home game. What better way to go out than with such an over-the-top experience for them, their team and coaches, their families, and all fans.
Bryan Steele: My best experience would be taking my 4-year-old son down by the tunnel so he could give all the players a high-five as they exited the floor after beating Indiana State. Those small engagements between the players and young fans is just a remarkable thing to watch. My son also enjoyed giving a high five to the coaches, managers, security guards, and staff.
Mike Burrus: After the end of last season, I truly believed we would be a better team this year, and I think we are. To have lost Fred (VanVleet), Ron (Baker), Evan (Wessel) and Anton (Grady) from last year’s team, and accomplish what this year’s team has so far, reinforces the fact that Coach (Gregg) Marshall has built a program at WSU – not just a team that relies from one year to the next on a small group of individuals. Witnessing the growth and evolution of this year’s team has been the most fun thing for me this year. And, I have no doubt we will be even better next year.
Patty Beamer: Watching Daishon (Smith) dunk in the OU game. That dunk announced him to Shocker fans and brought the house down.