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No. 8 Wichita State at No. 25 Utah pregame update

Wichita State freshman Shaq Morris will be called upon to help defend a Utah team with two 7-foot centers.
Wichita State freshman Shaq Morris will be called upon to help defend a Utah team with two 7-foot centers. The Wichita Eagle

▪  It’s a different arena, but Wichita State is returning to the city where, in the eyes of some, this magic run began. The Shockers practiced at the Huntsman Center, site of tonight’s game, during the 2013 NCAA Tournament games in Salt Lake City. The arena seats 15,000 and looks like Koch Arena might with a raised roof that added 5,000 seats.

Five Shockers are still around from that season.

“That was something we’ll remember forever,” junior Fred VanVleet said. “This is a little different, going on the road and trying to get one.”

▪  VanVleet played with Utah senior Delon Wright at the Nike Skills Camp in New Jersey last summer.

“He’s tall, long athletic point guard,” VanVleet said. “He can make plays off the bounce.”

VanVleet also got a good look (at Chris Paul’s camp in North Carolina) at Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes, a player you will probably hear more about as the season progresses.

“He’s a quick guard, super athletic,” VanVleet said. “He’s got like a 45-inch vertical, or something crazy like that. He had the best vert in the whole camp.”

VanVleet and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos became good friends during the summer circuit, where elite players meet under the scrutiny of pro scouts.

“He knows how to play,” VanVleet said. “It’s like Ron (Baker) at the point-guard position. He can really shoot it. Super skilled. He can handle it well. Competes really hard.”

▪  WSU guard Tekele Cotton looks like a boxer after 12 tough rounds. His eyes are puffy as he recovers from pink eye. He is also protecting a jammed finger on his right hand. He avoided full-court activities in Wednesday’s shootaround.

▪  Ken Pomeroy calls this a 54-percent win chance for WSU, the tightest of the season. Along with last season’s trips to Alabama and Saint Louis, it ranks as WSU’s toughest road trips. Pomeroy’s system gives WSU a better than 70-percent chance of winning every game, except at Northern Iowa (56), after tonight. Utah is a little tough to judge because of five blowout victories. I’m most interested to see what WSU needs from its bench and what WSU gets from its bench. While WSU starts a small lineup, no team has been able to pound inside for baskets. Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin got in foul trouble. Tulsa tried and then neglected its inside game. Utah freshman center Jakob Poeltl has made 27 of 36 shots (75 percent) this season. He will be a challenge for WSU’s bigs.

▪  Utah junior Jordan Loveridge may nor may not play due to knee discomfort, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Salt Lake Tribune: Utes have a chance to boost NCAA resume.

Salt Lake Tribune: Delon Wright bothered by his poor play in Utah’s loss.

Deseret News: Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak feels good about his team’s preparation.

The Wichita Eagle: WSU newcomers try out their road legs for the first time.

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