Highlights of the week ahead:
▪ Wichita State’s volleyball team comes home after a disappointing weekend in Texas. The Shockers play five matches this weekend at Koch Arena in the Shocker Volleyball Classic, starting Thursday against South Dakota State (1-7) and Northern Illinois (3-3).
Coach Chris Lamb assembled a fabulous field, featuring two nationally ranked teams.
Northern Illinois is the preseason favorite in the MAC West Division, owns a win over Iowa and two of its losses are to ranked teams. Then things get tougher with No. 21 Kentucky (4-3) on Friday. On Saturday, WSU plays Texas State (3-4) and No. 7 Illinois (4-1).
There shouldn’t be too many people remaining who haven’t given college volleyball at least a look in the past 10 years. If you remain a holdout, this is a weekend to visit Koch Arena.
▪ I’m expecting Missouri Valley Conference schools to release their men’s basketball schedules on Tuesday.
▪ WSU’s men’s and women’s golf open their fall schedules next weekend, the men in Huntington, W.V., and the women in Iowa City.
▪ WSU’s volleyball weekend started to go bad when it led New Mexico State 24-20 with a chance to close out the match. Instead, the Shockers lost 30-28 and fell 15-13 in the fifth set. A 3-0 loss to Texas A&M ended the weekend.
Setter Emily Hiebert earned a spot on the all-tournament team after averaging 9.73 assists and 2.27 digs in three matches.
WSU (3-3) has two more tournament weekends to cover up the damage and none of the losses are likely to be bad ones. After middle Abbie Lehman hit .476 against Oregon State and .516 against Hawaii in the opening weekend, it figured teams would try to limit Lehman. She wasn’t as efficient against New Mexico State and A&M and it appears WSU’s offense must find other threats.
▪ Other MVC teams produced mixed results, highlighted by Illinois State’s 3-0 weekend that started with a 3-0 win over Long Beach State. Northern Iowa defeated Creighton and lost to Kentucky and No. 8 Southern Cal. The Panthers are 2-4 with three losses to top-10 teams. Missouri State (5-1) defeated Miami (Fla.) and Oral Roberts before losing to Marquette at home.
After two weekends, seven of the 10 MVC schools own winning records and two that don’t (WSU and UNI) are playing strong schedules.
▪ Check out former Shocker Emily Stockman, moving up in the pro beach volleyball world.
▪ If you’re reading on Labor Day, you deserve a reward.
I’ve caught several pickup basketball sessions over the past two weeks. It’s pickup basketball, so it feels silly writing about it, but here goes:
1) When I’ve watched senior Evan Wessel play, he looks like he’s still in Omaha and still playing Kansas. He is shooting with great confidence, making many, and unafraid to rise up several feet behind the three-point line.
2) This roster appears spectacularly deep, more so than the past two seasons. Last season’s rookies are improved and newcomers such as Anton Grady, Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie are talented. Shamet, during a game last week, took a pass on the wing, maneuvered in the air past a defender flying at him with enough lift to dunk easily — one of those plays that caused me to think “He’s even more athletic than I thought.”
I think this depth will be most helpful in the frontcourt, where coach Gregg Marshall can watch several players compete hard for playing time and not worry too much about fatigue, fouls, slump or injury. The rotation of big men should be productive. If somebody isn’t running the floor or diving for a loose ball, he will come out and might not get another chance.
Last week, I watched Fred VanVleet and Bush Wamukota run the pick-and-roll several times for baskets. Wamukota isn’t a dominant finisher, but he moves well, catches the ball and scores enough to make it dangerous. Few guards run the pick and roll better than VanVleet and he can put defenses in impossible situations with shooters such as Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp ready to expose teams who help.
Frankamp, not surprisingly, regularly puts on a shooting show. After a recent drill, a coach from another sport walked out of the arena and said “Frankamp made 17 (threes) in a row.” I said “Is that all?”
When he gets rolling in a drill, it’s a thing of beauty, with smooth shooting form and a net that barely moves when the ball goes through.
3) I’ll be most interested to see how much WSU can play Grady at power forward and pair him with Wamukota or Shaq Morris at center. In that kind of lineup, with Wessel and Zach Brown at small forward, Baker and VanVleet, the Shockers can match up physically with almost anybody.
Monday’s reading recommendation:
Former Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin, now at Cal, celebrates a milestone in his recovery from cancer with a family picture in Australia.